A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that elderly people who follow a Mediterranean-style diet, drink in moderation, are physically active and don’t smoke, can live significantly longer than those who don’t.
The study was carried out by research teams from the Netherlands, France, Spain and Italy who collected data from 11 European countries from 1988 to 2000. The study participants, 1507 men and 832 women between the age of 70 and 90, were followed for at least 11 years. Details of their diet and lifestyle were recorded at the beginning, and they were then followed up at intervals over the course of the study.
The results of the study found that following a Mediterranean diet reduced risk of death by 23%; moderate alcohol intake reduced risk by 22%; physical activity reduced risk by 37% and non-smoking reduced risk of death by 35%. Combining all these factors lowered the risk of death by 65%.
The study did not measure if the participants had adhered to these habits all of their lives but since diet and lifestyle habits are generally well established before the age of 70, it can be assumed that the participants had developed these beneficial habits over their lifetime.
60% of all the deaths recorded among the participants were associated with lack of adherence to the low-risk pattern of diet and lifestyle habits.
A Mediterranean diet is high in fruit, veg, nuts, seeds and grains as well as olive oil, which is rich in monounsaturated fats. Fish is often eaten instead of red meat and alcohol intake is moderate rather than binge-style drinking. In the study, exercise was defined as 30 minutes of activity per day so it’s really not that difficult to introduce these practices into your own diet and lifestyle!
In another study published in the same journal last week, Italian researchers found that following a Mediterranean diet is beneficial for people with metabolic syndrome, which is an early indicator of Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease risk.