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Study: Mediterranean Diet May Increase Life Expectancy

It's no secret that a good diet, especially one high in fiber and low in saturated fats, has myriad health benefits. Conversely, numerous studies have reported the consequences of a poor diet, including obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, all of which can lead to early mortality.

In a recently published study, researchers examined the effects of a modified Mediterranean diet on elderly residents of nine European countries. The goal of the study was to determine the impact of the diet on longevity. Key nutritional elements of the Mediterranean diet include high intake of fruits, vegetables and unrefined whole grains; moderate to high intake of fish; low intake of saturated lipids, and high intake of unsaturated lipids, namely olive oil; a low intake of meat; low to modest intake of dairy products; and modest intake of wine.

Participants included 74,600 men and women, ages 60 or older, with no prior history of heart disease, stroke or cancer. Dietary intake was assessed at baseline, as were additional data on lifestyle and health. Adherence to the Mediterranean diet was measured using a 10-point scale, 0 being no adherence; 10 being maximum adherence. Study participants were followed for approximately seven years.

Mortality rates dropped 8 percent for each two-point increase on the adherence scale. A stronger rate of survival was found among participants in Greece and Spain, which the authors attributed to the fact that people in those countries already adhere to the Mediterranean diet as a part of their regular lifestyle. When the diet score was calibrated across the countries, the reduction in mortality was 7 percent.

Conclusion: "Adherence to a diet relying on plant foods and unsaturated lipids and that resembles the Mediterranean diet, may be particularly appropriate for elderly people, who represent a rapidly increasing group in Europe," the researchers wrote. In other words, eat better, live longer!


  1. Trichopoulou A, Orfanos P, Norat T, et al. Modified Mediterranean diet and survival: EPIC-elderly prospective cohort study. BMJ (online), April 8, 2005.

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