A Mediterranean menu and a healthy lifestyle can prolong life expectancy. This emerges from two new studies in Europe. The findings from both studies are added to existing knowledge that indicates the contribution of the Mediterranean diet to health.
Improves fat profile.
The Mediterranean diet is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and olive oil but low in meat and dairy products .
Previous studies have found that the Mediterranean diet lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease, improves lipid profile and can lower the risk of heart attacks and death in people already suffering from heart disease. It also has a beneficial effect on memory and can relieve symptoms of arthritis.
The first study examined the effect of Mediterranean diet alone and in combination with physical activity, moderate alcohol consumption and non-smoking, overall mortality rates, and mortality rates from coronary heart disease, cardiovascular disease , and cancer .
The study involved 1,507 men and 832 healthy women aged 70 to 90 years from 11 European countries. During 10 years of follow-up, participants were asked about their dietary habits and were ranked according to their suitability to the Mediterranean diet.
The researchers found that people who adopted a Mediterranean diet reduced the risk of all-cause mortality by 23 percent, coronary heart disease by 39 percent, cardiovascular disease by 29 percent, and cancer by 10 percent. Moderate alcohol intake, regular exercise, and abstinence were also associated with a similar decline in mortality rates, and the combination of the four risk factors combined reduced overall mortality by 65 percent.
The researchers conclude that a Mediterranean diet, rich in plant-derived foods, combined with moderate alcohol consumption, non-smoking, and at least 30 minutes of exercise per day are associated with a significantly reduced risk of death in older adults.
The connection to the metabolic syndrome.
In the second study conducted in Italy, the researchers sought to examine the extent to which the Mediterranean diet has been treated for the treatment of metabolic syndrome.
Metabolic syndrome is a collection of several risk factors that appear together. The syndrome is characterized by high blood pressure, obesity especially abdominal obesity, insulin resistance, lipid profile which promotes atherosclerosis and is manifested in high blood levels of triglycerides, low levels of HDL (good) cholesterol and small, dense particles of LDL cholesterol.
Metabolic syndrome is associated with an increased risk of diabetes and mortality from cardiovascular disease. The study involved 180 people with metabolic syndrome who were randomly assigned to two groups.
One group is fed by a Mediterranean diet. The second group feeds on a diet of 50 to 60 percent carbohydrates, 15 to 20 percent protein and up to 30 percent fat. After two years of follow-up, the group that maintained the Mediterranean diet was significantly reduced in weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, insulin, cholesterol and triglycerides and increased HDL (good) cholesterol compared to the group that kept the regular diet.
Moreover, participants who maintained the Mediterranean diet had a decrease in the level of inflammation in the body with a significant decrease in CRP (protein indicating inflammation) and interleukins.
The mechanism employed by the Mediterranean diet is still unknown. It can be affected by the activity of vitamins or antioxidants which improve endothelial function, high fiber intake that has an anti-inflammatory effect, and omega-3 fatty acids found in fish.
The results show for the first time that a Mediterranean diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and olive oil is effective in lowering the prevalence of metabolic syndrome and the risk of cardiovascular disease. One of the possible mechanisms is to reduce the condition of inflammation associated with the syndrome. Although weight loss remains the cornerstone in treating metabolic syndrome, the adoption of the Mediterranean diet seems to have other benefits especially for people who do not lose weight on the regular diet.
There is no doubt that maintaining a healthy lifestyle which also includes strict adherence to a healthy diet, plays an important role in the initial prevention of morbidity and mortality at all ages, and it is never too late to adopt it.