Mediterranean Diet Linked to Longer Life
Researchers Recommend Diet Low in Meat and Dairy, High in Fruits and Veggies
April 7, 2005 -- There is more evidence that eating like a villager on the
Isle of Crete can help you live longer.
A study examining eating patterns in nine European countries found that
than those who
Researchers say a healthy man of 60 who follows the diet, which is rich in
fruits and vegetables and low in meat and dairy, can expect to live a year
longer than a man of the same age who doesn't follow the diet.
"A year may not sound like much to some people," study researcher
Dimitrios Trichopoulos, MD, PhD, tells WebMD. "But I'm in my mid 60s, and
it sounds pretty good to me."
Living to 100
Physiologist Ancel Keys was both the world's best-known champion of the
Mediterranean diet and its best advertisement.
Keys was the first to notice, more than half a century ago, that heart
disease was rare in Mediterranean areas like Greece and southern Italy, where
and were dietary staples
and people ate plenty of fruits and vegetables.
Keys died late last year at the age of 100, still active and doing nutrition
research until the last few years of his life.
In an interview with WebMD in 2000, he lamented the fact that the typical
meat, cheese, and pasta-heavy dishes Americans encounter in Italian restaurants
have little in common with traditional Mediterranean fare.
"The Mediterranean diet was nearly vegetarian, with fish and very little
meat, and was rich in green vegetables," he said, adding that something got
lost in the translation from Italy to the U.S. "They may call it Italian,
but it's very different from the food we studied."
The newly published study involved more than 74,000 healthy men and women
aged 60 and older living in Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the
Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.
Study participants were asked about their diets, medical and smoking
histories, exercise patterns, and other relevant health information.
Researchers measured how closely they stuck to a Mediterranean-style diet using
a special scale developed by the researchers. The findings are reported in the
April 8 issue of the British Medical Journal.
Eating a Mediterranean diet was linked to a longer life. The largest
association was seen in Greece and southern Italy, where people stuck more
closely to the diet.
Mediterranean Diet: More Than Olive Oil
Trichopoulos says there is no single component of the Mediterranean diet
that holds the key to longer life. Though the mantra of Mediterranean eating
could be "olive oil good, saturated fats bad,"
"In this case, the total is better than the sum of the parts," he
says. "You can't point to one thing and say that is what does it."