Adherence to the Mediterranean diet is associated with lower platelet and leukocyte counts: results from the Moli-sani study

Marialaura Bonaccio, Augusto Di Castelnuovo, Amalia De Curtis, Simona Costanzo, Mariarosaria Persichillo, Maria Benedetta Donati, Chiara Cerletti, Licia Iacoviello and Giovanni de Gaetano

Key points

  • Adherence to a Mediterranean diet is associated with reduced platelet and leukocyte counts.

  • The observed associations are partially explained by the high dietary fiber and antioxidant content of the Mediterranean diet.


Platelet (PLT) and white blood cell (WBC) counts are two markers of inflammation and have been linked to the risk for cerebrovascular and coronary heart disease, while a Mediterranean diet (MD) has been associated with reduced inflammation and mortality for major chronic diseases. We aimed at evaluating the association of a MD with PLT and WBC count. Cross-sectional analysis in a population-based cohort study including 14,586 healthy Italian citizens enrolled within the Moli-sani study. Adherence to MD was appraised by either the Mediterranean diet score (MDS) or the Italian Mediterranean Index (IMI). PLT and WBC counts were both inversely related to the adherence to MD (MDS: p<0.0001 and p=0.008, respectively). As compared to those with poorer adherence to MD, subjects with greater adherence had both reduced odds of being in the highest PLT count (MDS: OR=0.50; 95% CI:0.31-0.80) and increased odds to be in the lowest WBC count (IMI: OR=1.41; 95%CI:1.07-1.86). The association of WBC with MDS disappeared when further adjusted for PLT counts, whereas the associations of PLT counts with MD was not affected by adjustment for WBC. Food antioxidant and dietary fiber content modified the inverse associations of MDS with WBC and partially accounted for the association with PLT.

  • Submitted December 2, 2013.
  • Accepted March 5, 2014.