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Key Mediterranean Diet Items Linked to Longer Lives

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It is well established that traditional Mediterranean diet patterns are linked to better cardiovascular (CV) health and lower rates of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Harvard researchers seeking to determine what, if any, specific items in the Mediterranean diet correlate with longevity have found several key ingredients to a longer life.

The researchers examined data on more than 23,000 healthy Greek men and women aged 20 to 86 from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) trial. The researchers calculated a Mediterranean diet score based on participant responses to a questionnaire on nine components of the Mediterranean diet: alcohol consumption, cereal, dairy products, fruit and nuts, fish and seafood, legumes, meat and meat products, monounsaturated-to-saturated fat ratio, and vegetables.

According to these findings, an abundance of fresh produce, nuts, legumes, minimal red meat consumption and dairy, including rich sources of monounsaturated fat such as olive oil, and drinking moderate amounts of alcohol seem to grant the greatest health benefits.

Researchers also found that a moderate consumption of alcohol had the greatest effect on lowering mortality, pointing out that the subjects studied consumed anywhere from one to five glasses of wine per day – almost always during meals. The study also indicated eating lots of cereal, fish and a few dairy products showed only a small and insignificant increase in mortality.

The authors also concluded that it is not one single dietary practice that directly correlates to better overall health, rather a combination of practices in the Mediterranean diet, and lifestyle.

During the study, the contribution of each diet component in relation to a lower mortality rate were as follows:

Moderate consumption of alcohol (23.5% of the effect)

Low consumption of meat (16.6% of the effect)

High consumption of vegetables (16.2% of the effect)

High consumption of fruit and nuts (11.2% of the effect)

High monounsaturated-to-saturated fat ratio (10. 6% of the effect)

High consumption of legumes (9.7% of the effect)

This article was taken from the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. For more health information visit the Cleveland Clinic at: http://my.clevelandclinic.org 

Resource: Trichopoulou A, Barnia C, Trichopoulos D.  Anatomy of health effects of Mediterranean diet: Greek EPIC prospective cohort study. British Medical Journal (BMJ). 2009;338:b2337.

Written by Melissa Ohlson, MS, RD, LD, Preventive Cardiology and Rehabilitation

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