I have always been a big fan of everything that has a Mediterranean style like food, wine and mid-afternoon siesta. I enjoy olive oil on my salad, grilled fish and raw fruits but I have never thought that there was much more to this Mediterranean style. The Mediterranean way of eating basically includes a lot of fish, raw fruits and vegetables, nuts, olive oil, feta cheese and red wine. It turns out that not only is the diet rich in antioxidants but it can REALLY prolong one's life. I found the results of some recent studies fascinating and very encouraging.
Dr. Panagiota N. Mitrou, from the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland used data based on surveys returned between 1995 and 1996, and a follow-up period of 5 years from over 200,000 men and 180,000 women between the ages of 50 to 71 (as part of the National Institutes of Health's AARP Diet and Health Study). Here is what he found.
Both men and women whose eating habits were more like Mediterranean style were 21 percent less likely to die from any cause over five years. Not only did they live longer but their risk for death from cancer or cardiovascular disease was lower. One surprising finding was that smokers, who were not overweight, had cut their risk of death in nearly half.
The outcome of this study is not isolated. Another study conducted in Europe between 1988 and 2000 (The Healthy Aging HALE study) among 1507 apparently healthy men and 832 women, age 70 to 90 years showed similar results. Participants who adhered to a Mediterranean diet, moderate alcohol use, physical activity and were non-smokers, had a lower risk of all-cause mortality including cardiovascular diseases and cancer. The results were independent of age, sex, education, and body weight.
The conclusion is that there is a strong evidence for the beneficial effect of going Mediterranean. If you want to live longer pick the right diet that reduces the overall causes of death by 21%. Now that is impressive!
By Neli Stoyanova MD
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