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Focus on Foods in Mediterranean Diet Extends Life

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

A new study published in the British Medical Journal shows that eating a Mediterranean diet focused on fruits, nuts, vegetables, seeds, and olive oil can extend life. Combining a Mediterranean diet with reduced meat intake, and consuming moderate amounts of alcohol can also contribute to longevity.

The study is the first to examine individual elements that promote good health from eating a Mediterranean diet. Researchers have known for some time that eating a typical Mediterranean diet is associated with a longer life, but focusing on key components of the diet has even more health benefits. Some food groups are healthier than others.

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Over 23,000 men and women participating in the Greek segment of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) were surveyed about lifestyle and diet. The participants were followed for over eight years and interviews were conducted to determine smoking status, physical activity level, and diagnosis of heart disease, cancer or diabetes. Exclusion of high intake of vegetables, low intake of meat or moderate alcohol intake from the rating system used in the study was found to substantially lower the benefits of consuming a Mediterranean diet.

Professor Dimitrios Trichopoulos at the Harvard School of Public Health led the Mediterranean diet study which also showed that consuming more fish had no effect on longevity, and eating less dairy did not promote a longer life.

The researchers say the benefits discovered from consuming certain foods in a Mediterranean diet come from eating less meat, and consuming moderate amounts of alcohol, especially wine. The study suggests that a Mediterranean diet, focused on eating less meat and, high consumption of fruits, nuts, seeds and olive oil can extend life – with a glass of wine included.