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Study shows the Mediterranean diet does the body good

New research shows that a number of food groups in the Mediterranean diet play a much more significant role than others in improving people's well-being and helping them live longer. According to the study, the recipe for success is to eat more fruits, vegetables, legumes, nut...

New research shows that a number of food groups in the Mediterranean diet play a much more significant role than others in improving people's well-being and helping them live longer. According to the study, the recipe for success is to eat more fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and olive oil. The prospective cohort study, published in the British Medical Journal, was funded in part by the EU's 'Europe against Cancer' programme. Many studies have focused on the advantages of following and maintaining the Mediterranean diet, but this latest study is the first to spotlight the importance of its individual components. 'We have evaluated the contribution of the nine widely accepted components of the Mediterranean diet (high intake of vegetables, fruits and nuts, legumes, fish and seafood, and cereals; low intake of meat and meat products and dairy products; high ratio of monounsaturated to saturated lipids; and moderate intake of ethanol) in the inverse association of this diet with all-cause mortality,' the study reads. The researchers looked at each component of the classic Mediterranean diet, which is high in fish, seafood and cereals and low in dairy products, to see whether any one ingredient was an indicator of longevity. To do this, explained co-author Professor Dimitrios Trichopoulos of the Harvard School of Public Health in the US, the team assessed 23,349 men and women, not previously diagnosed with disorders such as cancer or diabetes, who participated in the Greek segment of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC). EPIC is run in 23 research centres across 10 European nations. Its objective is to investigate the role of biological, dietary, lifestyle and environmental factors in causing cancer and other chronic diseases. Each subject was asked to complete dietary and lifestyle questionnaires when they enrolled in the study. The participants were asked about their levels of physical activity, their history of illnesses and about their smoking status. The researchers said they evaluated the subjects' conformity to the traditional Mediterranean diet on a rating scale of 0 to 10. The participants were subsequently followed up with interviews over the course of 8.5 years on average, during which 1,075 of the participants died (652 deaths from any cause had occurred among the 12,694 subjects with Mediterranean diet scores of 0 to 4, and 423 among the 10,655 subjects with scores of 5 or more). 'We found that people with closer adherence to the traditional Mediterranean diet, as indicated by the Mediterranean diet score, had lower overall mortality. Specifically, increased adherence to the Mediterranean diet score by two units, a realistic change, was associated with a statistically significant 14% lower overall mortality,' the research showed. 'In many studies assessing the health effects of the Mediterranean diet, the authors have speculated about the biological processes that mediate its apparent effects, focusing on possible anti-oncogenic [i.e. tumour suppressing] actions of the oleic acid in olive oil, resveratrol and piceid mostly in wine, and several other antioxidants in olive oil and plant foods, as well as the widely accepted favourable effects of olive oil on blood lipids.' In a nutshell, despite the fact that this research cannot provide applicable results across the board, due to the fact that diet varies for people whether they live in the same country or not, the study's results showed that the Mediterranean diet score 'is an effective predictor of mortality because it integrates associations with mortality of many individual components in an single unidimensional score.'

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