Strict adherence to the Mediterranean pattern of eating offers substantial protection against cancer, heart disease and other major chronic illnesses, say Italian researchers.
The Mediterranean way of eating emphasizes vegetables, fish and healthy monounsaturated fats such as olive oil. Unlike the typical Western diet, it's low in sweets, red meat, dairy products and alcohol.
In this new report, 12 international studies were reviewed to determine the effect of the Mediterranean diet on mortality rates from heart disease, cancer, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases.
These studies involved more than 1.5 million people who tracked their eating habits and health for up to 18 years.
Overall, in comparison to those who were less diligent, people who followed the Mediterranean diet pattern closely had a nine percent drop in death from heart disease.
Cancer risk was six percent lower in people who followed the Mediterranean diet versus the typical Western diet.
Risk of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease dropped by 13 percent in those who ate more foods that are included in the Meditteranean diet - such as fish, olive oil, vegetables and fruits.
Previous studies have linked the Mediterranean diet to lower rates of heart disease and increased longevity. This study was published in the September 11, 2008 issue of the British Medical Journal.
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