As a result of the Seven Countries Study, the Mediterranean diet has been popularized as a healthy diet. Nevertheless, it has not replaced the prudent diet commonly prescribed to coronary patients. Recently, we completed a secondary, randomized, prospective prevention trial in 605 patients recovering from myocardial infarction in which we compared an adaptation of the Cretan Mediterranean diet with the usual prescribed diet. After a mean follow-up period of 27 mo, recurrent myocardial infarction, all cardiovascular events, and cardiac and total death were significantly decreased by > 70% in the group consuming the Mediterranean diet. These protective effects were not related to serum concentrations of total, low-density-lipoprotein (LDL), or high-density-lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. In contrast, protective effects were related to changes observed in plasma fatty acids: an increase in n-3 fatty acids and oleic acid and a decrease in linoleic acid that resulted from higher intakes of linolenic and oleic acids, but lower intakes of saturated fatty acids and linoleic acid. In addition, higher plasma concentrations of antioxidant vitamins C and E were observed. We conclude that a Cretan Mediterranean diet adapted to a Western population protected against coronary heart disease much more efficiently than did the prudent diet. Thus, it appears that the favorable life expectancy of the Cretans could be largely due to their diet.