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Which Components of the Mediterranean Diet Prolong Life?

We're pro-life

We're pro-life

Researchers at Harvard and the University of Athens (Greece) report that the following specific components of the Mediterranean diet are associated with lower rates of death:

  • moderate ethanol (alcohol) consumption
  • low meat and meat product intake
  • high vegetable consumption
  • high fruit and nut consumption
  • high ratio of monounsaturated fat to saturated fat
  • high legume intake

Minimal, if any, contribution to mortality was noted with high cereal, low dairy, or high fish and seafood consumption. 

The researchers examined diet and mortality data from over 23,000 adult participants in the Greek portion of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and nutrition.  You’ll be hearing more about the EPIC study for many years.  Over an average follow-up of 8.5 years, 1,075 of participants died.  652 of these deaths were of participants in the lower half of Mediterranean diet adherence; 423 were in the upper half.

Alcohol intake in Greece is usually in the form of wine at mealtimes. 

The beneficial “high ratio of monounsaturated fat to saturated fat” stems from high consumption of olive oil and low intake of meat. 

It’s not clear if these findings apply to other nationalities or ethnic groups.  Other research papers have documented the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet in at least eight other countries over three continents. 

The researchers don’t reveal in this report the specific causes of death.  I expect those data, along with numbers on diabetes, stroke, and dementia, to be published in future articles, if not published already.  Prior Mediterranean diet studies indicate lower death rates from cardiovascular disease and cancer.   

Steve Parker, M.D.

Reference:  Trichopoulou, Antonia, et al.  Anatomy of health effects of the Mediterranean diet: Greek EPIC prospective cohort studyBritish Medical Journal, 338 (2009): b2337.  DOI: 10.1136/bmj.b2337.

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Filed under Alcohol, Health Benefits, Mediterranean Diet

Health Benefits of Nuts

You just don't see sickly squirrels.  Hmmm . . .

You just don't see sickly squirrels. Hmmm . . .

I frequently check in at CalorieLab for up-to-date nutrition news.

Karen Collins, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., was a guest contributor there March 14, 2009, writing about the potential health benefits of nuts.  I was aware of the cardiovascular benefits; she taught me about possible salutary effects on cancer and diabetes.

From my own literature review, the cardiac benefits are associated with a nut “dose” of three to five 1-ounce servings a week.

Last December, I blogged about reversal of metabolic syndrome with a Mediterranean Diet supplemented with nuts.

I recommend Ms. Collins’ article to you. 

Steve Parker, M.D.

Reference:  Albert, Christine, et al.  Nut consumption and decreased risk of sudden cardiac death in the Physicians’ Health StudyArchives of Internal Medicine, 162, (2002): 1,382-1,387.

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Filed under Health Benefits, Mediterranean Diet