Las Palmas: Middle-aged people living on a Mediterranean-style diet are healthier and likely to live longer, confirm Spanish scientists.
In an article published online (July 18) in the Journal of Nutrition, Spanish researchers report a significantly reduced risk of dying over a 6.8 year average follow-up period by those who follow a Mediterranean diet in middle-age.
Dr Almunena Sanchez-Velegas of the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria said: “To our knowledge, our study is the first to report a strong inverse association between adherence to the Mediterranean diet and mortality among Mediterranean middle aged adults at low risk of mortality.
Dr Sanchez-Villegas’ team evaluated data from 15,535 Spanish university graduates who participated in the Seguimiento Universidad de Navarra (SUN) Project, which began enrollment in 1999. Subjects in the current study had an average age of 38 and were free of cardiovascular disease, diabetes or cancer upon enrollment.
Dietary questionnaires completed at the beginning of the study and during follow-up were graded according to adherence to the Mediterranean diet, which is characterized by a high intake of vegetables, cereals, legumes, olive oil, fish, fruit and nuts; moderate wine consumption, low to moderate intake of dairy products and decreased meat consumption.
One hundred twenty-five deaths occurred between 1999 and 2010. Compared with participants who had low adherence to the diet, moderate adherence was associated with a 42 percent lower adjusted risk of dying and high adherence with a 62 percent lower risk.
When each dietary component was separately assessed, fruit and nuts emerged as significantly protective foods. The diet’s protective benefit was strongest against death from cardiovascular disease and causes other than cancer. The authors suggest that the diet has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects as well as prevention of endothelial (artery) damage as disease protective mechanisms associated with high Mediterranean diet adherence.
“Our results provide evidence supporting that closer adherence to the traditional Mediterranean diet can considerably reduce mortality even among young and low-risk adults.
“This link provides further evidence on the importance of promoting the adherence to the Mediterranean diet among the general population.”