According to Greek researchers, the components of the Mediterranean diet that contribute to longer lifespan are:
- moderate alcohol consumption
- low consumption of meat
- high consumption of vegetables, fruits, nuts, olive oil, and legumes
The following didn’t seem to contribute much, if any:
- cereals (the grain of a grass such as wheat, corn, oats)
- dairy products
- fish and seafood
Investigators at the University of Athens examined the Greek portion of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer (EPIC) and Nutrition, which included 23,349 men and women free of diabetes, cancer, and coronary heart disease at the outset. Food habits were documented by questionnaire.
The focus of this particular study was death rates over an average follow-up of 8.5 years. Adherence to the traditional Mediterranean diet ranged from minimal to high, as would be expected.
As with numerous other studies of the Mediterranean diet, higher adherence to the Mediterranean diet was associated with lower chance of death.
The lack of benefit from fish is unexpected. I have no explanation. A preponderance of evidence elsewhere suggests fish consumption helps prolong life via lowered rates of heart disease.
Alcohol can be dangerous, of course. Some people should not partake, ever.
For people with diabetes who wish to avoid the carbohydrate load in cereals and dairy products, you don’t need to worry much about cutting those out of an otherwise Mediterranean-style diet.
Reference: Trichopoulou, Antonia, et al. Anatomy of health effects of the Mediterranean diet: Greek EPIC prospective cohort study. British Medical Journal, 338 (2009): b2337. DOI: 10.1136/bmj.b2337.