Endothelial Function

A group of researchers conducted a randomized control trial to determine whether adherence to Mediterranean diet improved endothelial function and lowered blood pressure levels.


The Mediterranean diet is a type of diet which is characterized by generous portions of vegetables, fruits, olive oil, legumes, nuts, red wine, and seafood, while low on red meat and sugar.  Adherence to this diet is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular events. However, the mechanism by which this diet reduces cardiovascular risks and its effect on blood pressure and endothelial function has not been well-studied.

A randomized, controlled trial exploring the effects of Mediterranean diet on blood pressure and endothelial function was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The study included 152 Australians, aged 64 years and above, without any co-morbid conditions. They were randomly allocated into 2 diet programs which they had to adhere for 6 months. One group was asked to adhere to a habitual diet, which is composed of a regular diet without any restrictions. The other group had to adhere to a Mediterranean diet, which is composed primarily of meals with abundant servings of extra-virgin olive oil, vegetables, fresh fruits, whole grain cereals, nuts, legumes, and fish. Both groups had to maintain their physical activities and continue the use of any medication or supplements they take throughout the study.  Blood pressure was measured for 5 consecutive days during the start of the study, at 3 months, and at 6 months.  Endothelial function was assessed by measuring the flow-mediated dilation (FMD) rate, which is designed to determine the degree of relaxation of the right brachial artery in response to shear stress. FMD rates were measured at the start of the study and after 6 months.

The results show that adherence to the Mediterranean diet significantly caused a reduction in systolic blood pressure and heart rate. Adherence to the diet also increased flow-mediated dilation (FMD) rate at 6 months, which reflects a better endothelial function. No significant difference was observed with diastolic blood pressure levels. In conclusion, adhering to the Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of cardiovascular events by lowering the systolic blood pressure and improving the endothelial function.


Written By: Karla Sevilla

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