People who consume diets that are rich in whole grains, olive oil, nuts, fruits and vegetables, fish, cheese and moderate amounts of wine (aka the Mediterranean diet) seem to live longer, healthier lives.
Lower risk of heart disease, certain cancers, and Alzheimer's disease are among the many health benefits linked to the Mediterranean diet. For years, scientists have been wondering if there's a part of the diet that's really key.
In the first study to dissect the Mediterranean diet, Harvard School of Public Health researchers analyzed data collected from over 23,000 men and women who participated in the Greek faction of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC study).
Participants answered detailed questionnaires about their diets and lifestyles and were followed for more than eight years. Information about how much physical activity they got, whether they smoked and whether they were diagnosed with cancer, type 2 diabetes or heart disease, and death rates were recorded.
As in previous studies, people who improved their adherence to the Mediterranean diet were about 14 percent less likely to die from any disease during the study period.
But the main benefits in terms of a reduced mortality appeared to be from consuming moderate amounts of alcohol, little meat, and lots of vegetables, fruits and nuts, olive oil and legumes (beans).
Eating a lot of cereal and fish and other seafood did not appear to play as significant role as the above diet components, report researchers the the June 29, 2009 issue of the British Medical Journal.
Specifically, moderate alcohol consumption (wine only during meals) accounted for 24 percent of the health benefits of the Meditteranean Diet. Seventeen percent of the benefits were attributed to low intake of meat and processed meat products, closely followed by eating high amounts of vegetables, fruits and nuts.
High monounsaturated fat intake (from olive oil) reportedly caused 11 percent of the health benefits and lastly, high legume consumption accounted for about 10 percent of the many positive changes linked to eating like the Mediterraneans.
Looking for ways to eat like the people from the Island of Crete? Check out our April 2009 cookbook review, The New Meditteranean Diet, which includes many delicious, authentic recipes from Morocco to Turkey.
All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.