Evidence on the merits of eating the Mediterranean way continues to mount. It seems that a diet low in meat and dairy and rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and olive oil really may add years to your life, as well as health to your years. Or, as noted in a recent study published in the British Medical Journal, a healthy man of 60 who follows a Mediterranean diet can expect to live a year longer than a man of the same age who doesn’t follow the diet.
The study involved more than 74,000 healthy men and women aged 60 and older living in Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
Another study published last September in The Journal of the American Medical Association observed the effect of a Mediterranean diet on 2,239 healthy adults aged 70 to 90 for a period of 10 years—measuring the diet’s influence on death rates relating to cancer, heart disease and other causes. The researchers also considered other lifestyle factors such as physical activity, alcohol use and smoking.
Overall, adherence to a Mediterranean diet alone reduced risk of death from all causes by 23 percent. The nonsmoking seniors who followed the diet, exercised at least 30 minutes per day and drank only moderately reduced their risk of death by a whopping 65 percent.
Other studies—including a 2003 trial that is one of the largest ever completed on the Mediterranean diet—have concluded that the “magic bullet” of the diet isn’t simply olive oil, as once believed, but a combination of all food in the diet with its emphasis on fresh vegetables and minimal saturated fat, along with the healthy monounsaturated fat found in olive oil.