Mediterranean Diet May Help Women Live Longer, Healthier Lives
Middle-aged women who follow a heart-healthy Mediterranean diet may live a healthier, longer life, a new study suggests.
"Women with healthier dietary patterns at midlife were 40 percent more likely to survive to age 70 or over," said lead researcher Cecilia Samieri, a postdoctoral fellow who conducted the study while at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. She is now a researcher at INSERM and Universite de Bordeaux, in France. INSERM is the French equivalent of the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
The women who ate healthier not only lived longer, but they also thrived. They were less likely to have any major chronic diseases and more likely to have no impairment in physical functioning, mental health or thinking skills. The research did not, however, prove a cause-and-effect link between better eating and longer life.
Samieri said she considers the 40 percent boost substantial. Those who closely followed the Mediterranean diet were more likely to live past age 70 without heart disease, diabetes or other chronic diseases. They also were more likely to be classified as "healthy agers" than those who didn't follow the diets closely or at all. However, Samieri said, "only 11 percent of our participants were classified as healthy agers overall."
The study was published Nov. 5, 2013 in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine. It was funded by the U.S. National Cancer Institute and the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
For the study, Samieri and her colleagues evaluated the diet and medical records of more than 10,000 women who participated in the much larger Nurses' Health Study. The women were in their late 50s or early 60s between 1984 and 1986, and were free of major chronic diseases. About 15 years later, they again provided information on their diet and their health.
The Mediterranean diet is characterized by greater intake of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains and fish; lower intake of red and processed meats; moderate intake of alcohol; higher amounts of monounsaturated fats, mostly provided by olive oil from Mediterranean countries; and lower amounts ofsaturated fats. Saturated fats are found in baked goods, fatty meats and other foods.
Although the study did not look at men, Samieri said, previous studies on diet and healthy aging have found no gender differences, "so it seems reasonable to believe that the benefit would be similar." She added, however, that the assumption remains to be proven.
Although Samieri did not study the effect of how long someone was on a diet, she said adopting it earlier rather than later is probably better.
What's the key to the diet seeming to give more years? Samieri said the analysis suggests that the overall healthy diet patterns had a greater impact rather than any individual food.
Other studies also have found that healthy diets such as the Mediterranean diet are linked to better long-term health, but this new study is only observational, said Connie Diekman, director of university nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis. That means "cause and effect cannot be conclusively linked," said Diekman, former president of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Eating more vegetables, fruits, nuts, pulses and olive oil, = people live longer
Some food groups in the Mediterranean diet are more important than others in promoting health and longer life according to new research published on bmj.com.
Eating more vegetables, fruits, nuts, pulses and olive oil, and drinking moderate amounts of alcohol, while not consuming a lot of meat or excessive amounts of alcohol is linked to people living longer.
However, the study also claims, that following a Mediterranean diet high in fish, seafood and cereals and low in dairy products were not indicators of longevity.
While several studies have concluded that the Mediterranean diet improves chances of living longer, most recently the study described here, this is the first to investigate the importance of individual components of the diet.
Professor Dimitrios Trichopoulos at the Harvard School of Public Health explains that they have surveyed over 23,000 men and women who were participants in the Greek segment of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC).
Participants were given dietary and lifestyle questionnaires when they enrolled onto the study and they were subsequently followed up for around 8.5 years with interviews. Their diets were rated from 0 to 10 based on the level of conformity to a traditional Mediterranean diet.
As part of the interview process, participants were also asked about their smoking status, levels of physical activity and whether they had ever been diagnosed with cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
The authors maintain that when high intake of vegetables, low intake of meat or moderate alcohol intake were excluded from the rating system, the benefits of following a Mediterranean diet were substantially reduced. They also note that there are clear benefits in combining several of the key components, for example high consumption of vegetables and olive oil.
Professor Trichopoulou, lead author of the study, concludes that the main reasons why the Mediterranean diet can lead to living longer are moderate consumption of ethanol (mostly in the form of wine during meals, as traditionally done in the Mediterranean countries), low consumption of meat and meat products, and high consumption of vegetables, fruits and nuts, olive oil and legumes.
Mediterranean diet gives longer life
A Mediterranean diet with large amounts of vegetables and fish gives a longer life. This is the unanimous result of four studies to be published by the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg. Research studies ever since the 1950s have shown that a Mediterranean diet, based on a high consumption of fish and vegetables and a low consumption of animal-based products such as meat and milk, leads to better health.
Scientists at the Sahlgrenska Academy have now studied the effects of a Mediterranean diet on older people in Sweden. They have used a unique study known as the "H70 study" to compare 70-year-olds who eat a Mediterranean diet with others who have eaten more meat and animal products. The H70 study has studied thousands of 70-year-olds in the Gothenburg region for more than 40 years.
The results show that those who eat a Mediterranean diet have a 20% higher chance of living longer. "This means in practice that older people who eat a Mediterranean diet live an estimated 2 3 years longer than those who don't", says Gianluca Tognon, scientist at the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg.
These results are supported by three further as yet unpublished studies into Mediterranean diets and their health effects: one carried out on people in Denmark, the second on people in northern Sweden, and the third on children.
"The conclusion we can draw from these studies is that there is no doubt that a Mediterranean diet is linked to better health, not only for the elderly but also for youngsters", says Gianluca Tognon.
Mediterranean diet associated with lower death rate over 5 years
Eating a Mediterranean diet and following national recommendations for physical activity are each associated with a reduced risk of death over a five-year period, according to two reports in the of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals. Both studies use data from the National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health Study, which began when questionnaires were returned from 566,407 AARP members age 50 to 71 in six states between 1995 and 1996.
In one study, Panagiota N. Mitrou, Ph.D., then of the National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Md., and now of the University of Cambridge, England, and colleagues used a nine-point scale to assess conformity with the Mediterranean diet in 380,296 of the participants (214,284 men and 166,012 women) with no history of chronic disease. Components of the diet included vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts, whole grains, fish, ratio of monounsaturated fats, alcohol and meat. During five years of follow-up, 12,105 participants died, including 5,985 from cancer and 3,451 from cardiovascular disease. Those with higher Mediterranean diet scores were less likely to die of any cause or of cancer or heart disease.
Greater adherence to a Mediterranean diet is associated with a significant reduction in overall mortality
A review published in BMJ 11 September 2008 of 12 studies, with a total of 1,574,299 subjects followed for a time ranging from three to 18 years analyzed the association between adherence to a Mediterranean diet, mortality, and incidence of diseases.
The cumulative analysis among eight cohorts (514,816 subjects and 33,576 deaths) evaluating overall mortality in relation to adherence to a Mediterranean diet showed that a two point increase in the adherence score was significantly associated with a reduced risk of mortality. Likewise, the analyzes showed a beneficial role for greater adherence to a Mediterranean diet on cardiovascular mortality, incidence of or mortality from cancer , and incidence of Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
Greater adherence to a Mediterranean diet is associated with a significant improvement in health status, as seen by a significant reduction in overall mortality (9%), mortality from cardiovascular diseases (9%), incidence of or mortality from cancer (6%), and incidence of Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease (13%). These results seem to be clinically relevant for public health, in particular for encouraging a Mediterranean-like dietary pattern for primary prevention of major chronic diseases.
An updated meta-analysis of seven more studies, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition Sep 1, 2010, confirms, in a larger number of subjects and studies, the significant and consistent protection provided by adherence to the Mediterranean diet in relation to the occurrence of major chronic degenerative diseases.