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News

Mediterranean diet leads to longer life in elderly study

The Mediterranean diet is associated with longer life expectancy among elderly Europeans, finds a study published online by the British Medical Journal today.

News image

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The Mediterranean diet is characterized by a high intake of vegetables, legumes, fruits, and cereals; a moderate to high intake of fish and a low intake of saturated fats.

The Mediterranean diet also includes a high intake of unsaturated fats, particularly olive oil, a low intake of dairy products and meat and a modest intake of alcohol, mostly as wine.

Current evidence suggests that such a diet may be beneficial to health.

Professor Trichopoulou and colleagues from Greece conducted a study involving over 74,000 healthy men and women, aged 60 or more, living in 9 European countries.

The researchers recorded information on diet, lifestyle, medical history, smoking, physical activity levels, and other relevant factors.

The research team measured adherence to a modified Mediterranean diet using a recognized scoring scale.

A healthy man aged 60 adhering to the diet with a dietary score of 6-9, can live about 1 year longer
British Medical Journal

The team noted that a higher dietary score was associated with a lower overall death rate.

A 2 point increase corresponded to an 8% reduction in mortality, while a 3 or 4 point increase was associated with a reduction of total mortality by 11% or 14% respectively.

The investigators give an example of a healthy man aged 60 who adheres well to the diet with a dietary score of 6-9, can expect to live about 1 year longer than a man of the same age who does not adhere to the diet.

The association was strongest in Greece and Spain, probably because people in these countries follow a genuinely Mediterranean diet, say the researchers.

Professor Trichopoulou concludes, “Adherence to a Mediterranean type diet, which relies on plant foods and unsaturated fats, is associated with a significantly longer life expectancy.”

“This diet may be particularly appropriate for elderly people, who represent a rapidly increasing group in Europe.”

BMJ Online First, April 2005
08 April 2005

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