Understanding local Mediterranean diets: A multidisciplinary pharmacological and ethnobotanical approach

Sebastian Schaffer, Michael Heinrich, Marco Leonti, Sabine Nebel, Wieland Peschel, Andrea Pieroni, Felicity Smith, Diego Rivera, Concepción Obón, Cristina Inocencio, Alonso Verde, José Fajardo, Rafael Llorach, Walter E. Müller, Gunter P. Eckert, Stephanie Schmitt-Schillig, Smaragda Antonopoulou, Zacharias Kypriotakis, Yannis Manios, Tzortzis NomikosAndriana Kaliora, Labros Sidossis, Claudio Galli, Francesco Visioli, Simona Grande, Paola Bogani, Antoine de Saizieu, Beat Flühmann, Daniel D'Orazio, Ann Fowler, Aleksander Koj, Joanna Bereta, Józef Dulak, Amalia Guzdek, Maria Kapiszewska

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

153 Scopus citations


Epidemiological data indicate a beneficial effect of Mediterranean diets on human health, especially on the prevalence of cardiovascular disease. These observations are supported by recent intervention studies. However, very little is known about the current role of local Mediterranean food products, which are consumed on a less regular basis and their contribution to a healthy diet. The European consortium "Local Food-Nutraceuticals" collected 127 locally consumed wild or semi-wild plants in three Mediterranean countries, i.e. Greece, Italy, and Spain, in order to assess their ethnobotanical features as well as their biological activities. The project also includes a second line of research, the study of local conceptions about these food resources. All pharmacological assays were conducted with ethanolic extracts prepared from the dried plant material. The biological activities of the extracts were assessed with the following 12 different assays covering a broad range of mechanisms considered crucial in the pathology of chronic, aging-related diseases. Four antioxidant tests: DPPH scavenging, prevention of oxyhaemoglobin bleaching, prevention of lipid peroxidation (malondialdehyde formation), and protection from DNA damage (Comet assay); three enzyme inhibition tests: inhibition of xanthine oxidase, inhibition of myeloperoxidase-catalysed guaiacol oxidation as well as the inhibition of acetylcholine esterase; one test investigating the inhibition of cytokine-induced cell activation (including the extracts' potential cytotoxicity); one assay measuring the anti-proliferation potential; one test assessing the anti-diabetic activity (PPARγ) as well as one assay investigating the extracts' effect on mood disorder-related biochemical parameters (hSERT). Furthermore, the polyphenol content of all extracts was determined using the Folin-Ciocalteaus method. The assays revealed diverse biological effects for the tested extracts ranging from no activity to almost complete inhibition/activation. Moreover, the experimental matrix led to the identification of a sub-set of extracts, i.e. Berberis vulgaris, Reichardia picroides, Scandix australis, Satureja montana, Thymus piperella, Lythrum salicaria and Vitis vinifera, showing high activity in a broad range of assays. In summary, the in vitro observed modulations and effects exerted by extracts derived from local food plants suggest that these plants may contribute to the observed better aging of rural Mediterranean populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)353-366
Number of pages14
JournalPharmacological Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Antioxidants
  • Ethnopharmacology
  • Food plants
  • Local food
  • Mediterranean diet(s)
  • Nutraceuticals
  • Polyphenols

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology


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