People who adhere to a Mediterranean lifestyle—which includes a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains; healthy eating habits like limiting added salts and sugars; and habits promoting adequate rest, physical activity, and socialization—have a lower risk of all-cause and cancer mortality. That’s according to a new study led by researchers from La Universidad Autónoma de Madrid and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
People who adhered to the lifestyle’s emphasis on rest, exercise and socializing with friends had a lower risk of cardiovascular disease mortality.
While many studies have established the health benefits of a Mediterranean diet and lifestyle, little research has been conducted on the diet outside of its region of origin.
These new findings suggest that it’s possible for non-Mediterranean populations to adopt the Mediterranean diet using locally available products and to adopt the overall Mediterranean lifestyle within their own cultural contexts.
“We’re seeing the transferability of the lifestyle and its positive effects on health,” said the lead author.
About the study – a look at three lifestyle categories
The researchers analyzed the habits of 110,799 members of the UK Biobank cohort, a population-based study across England, Wales and Scotland using the Mediterranean Lifestyle (MEDLIFE) index, which is derived from a lifestyle questionnaire and diet assessments. Participants, who were between the ages of 40 and 75, provided information about their lifestyle according to the three categories the index measures: “Mediterranean food consumption” (intake of foods part of the Mediterranean diet such as fruits and whole grains); “Mediterranean dietary habits” (adherence to habits and practices around meals, including limiting salt and drinking healthy beverages); and “physical activity, rest, and social habits and conviviality” (adherence to lifestyle habits including taking regular naps, exercising, and spending time with friends).
Each item within the three categories was then scored, with higher total scores indicating higher adherence to the Mediterranean lifestyle.
Mediterranean lifestyle associated with longevity
The researchers followed up nine years later to examine participants’ health outcomes. Among the study population, 4,247 died from all causes; 2,401 from cancer; and 731 from cardiovascular disease.
The researchers observed a protective effect of adherence to the Mediterranean lifestyle and risk of mortality.
Participants with higher MEDLIFE scores were found to have a 29% lower risk of all-cause mortality and a 28% lower risk of cancer mortality compared to those with lower MEDLIFE scores.
Adherence to each MEDLIFE category was independently associated with lower all-cause and cancer mortality risk.
The “physical activity, rest, and social habits and conviviality” category was most strongly associated with these lowered risks, and additionally was associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease mortality.
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