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Cretan Diet, Olive Oil and Health

The diet of the people of Crete, from the Minoan era to the present day, has many unique and highly desirable culinary and health characteristics. Olive oil and olives are central to the Cretan diet.

Humans require a certain amount of energy intake for survival and in order to undertake their daily physical activities. This energy can come from a variety of sources. While many people rely on animal fat, the people of Crete have for millennia used Olive Oil as their primary energy source. The plentiful use of Olive Oil in the Cretan diet along with the consumption of legumes, fruits, bread and small portions of meat has yielded many health benefits to the people of Crete. These health benefits have long been recognized and the Cretan folklore is full of references relating the consumption of Olive Oil to good health and long life:

Olive Oil is the main component of the Cretan diet.

Recent scientific and clinical studies have shown explicitly the relation between olive oil consumption and health. The most famous study was conducted by Dr. Ancel Benjamin Keys and it is known as the Seven Country Study. This work showed for the first time the importance of the Mediterranean diet on the cardiovascular and the overall health. In the study the researchers followed groups of populations from seven countries (USA, Finland, Holland, Italy, Yugoslavia, Japan and Greece). The representative Greek populations lived on the island of Crete and Corfu. Dr. keys set out to prove that one's eating habits and way of life were important factors in the incidence of cardiovascular disease.

The reports finding were nothing short of incredible.

The common thread: A diet rich in olive oil has many health benefits.

The conclusions of the Seven Country study were revolutionary and have since been verified by additional research. The Cretan dietary paradigm has been further investigated and the results of a study conducted by Professor S. Renaud which was published in 1995 are instructive.

Never too late to follow a Cretan diet.

Professor S. Renaud compared an adaptation of the Cretan-Mediterranean diet with the usually prescribed prudent diet on a group of people recovering from myocardial infraction. It was found that recurrent infraction, other cardiovascular events and total death were decreased by more than 70% in the group consuming the Cretan diet. By considering all factors in this study the superiority of the Cretan diet can be attributed among other factors to the plentiful use of Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Click here to read the original article published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

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