Sept. 11, 2008 -- More accolades are being heaped on the Mediterranean diet. This time, researchers say the diet may actually help prevent certain chronic diseases.
A review of studies, led by the University of Florence's Francesco Sofi, looks at what role a Mediterranean diet played in the primary prevention of diseases.
Researchers cobbled together 12 studies representing more than 1.5 million people who were followed from three to 18 years.
They gave people a score of 0 points for a low adherence to the Mediterranean diet and 7 to 9 points maximum for those who followed it religiously.
Mediterranean Diet and Disease
The researchers found that people who followed a strict Mediterranean diet were:
- 9% less likely to die from heart disease or other cardiovascular problems
- 6% less likely to develop cancer or die from it
- 13% less likely to have Parkinson's or Alzheimer's disease
The Mediterranean diet was first popularized in the U.S. in the 1990s. It is low in saturated fat and high in fiber and monounsaturated fat.
The Mediterranean diet includes vegetables, whole grains, fish, legumes, fruit, and moderate red wine. The main cooking fat is olive oil.
Study authors write that they "encourage the Mediterranean diet as a primary prevention of major chronic diseases."
The findings are published on BMJ.com.