BACKGROUND AND AIM: The Mediterranean diet is considered a model for healthy eating. However, prospective evidence in Mediterranean countries evaluating the relationship between this dietary pattern and non-fatal cardiovascular events is scarce. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the association between the adherence to the Mediterranean diet and the incidence of fatal and non-fatal cardiovascular events among initially healthy middle-aged adults from the Mediterranean area. METHODS AND RESULTS: We followed-up 13,609 participants (60 percent women, mean age: 38 years) initially free of cardiovascular disease (CVD) during 4.9 years. Participants were part of a prospective cohort study of university graduates from all regions of Spain. Baseline diet was assessed using a validated 136-item food-frequency questionnaire. A 9-point score was used to appraise adherence to the Mediterranean diet. Incident clinical events were confirmed by a review of medical records. We observed 100 incident cases of CVD. In multivariate analyses, participants with the highest adherence to the Mediterranean diet (score>6) exhibited a lower cardiovascular risk (hazard ratio=0.41, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.18-0.95) compared to those with the lowest score (<3). For each 2-point increment in the score, the adjusted hazard ratios were 0.80 (95% CI: 0.62-1.02) for total CVD and 0.74 (0.55-0.99) for coronary heart disease. CONCLUSIONS: There is an inverse association between adherence to the Mediterranean diet and the incidence of fatal and non-fatal CVD in initially healthy middle-aged adults.