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Mediterranean Diet: What Accounts for the Health Benefit?

Posted by medconsumers on July 1, 2009

The Mediterranean diet is not only wildly popular around the world but also considered to be one of the most healthful diets of all that have received in-depth research attention. Yet it is unclear whether it is the wine, olive oil or some other component of the diet that largely accounts for the health benefits, chief among them is longevity.

An international team of researchers led by Dr. Antonia Trichopoulous produced the first study to assess the relative importance of the individual components of the Mediterranean diet. It was published last month in the online version of the British Medical Journal.

The 23,349 participants in the study were Greek adults who were free of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes at the start of the study. After 8 ½ years of follow-up, those who reported the strictest adherence to a Mediterranean diet showed a lower mortality rate than those who did not.

The researchers teased out the contribution of the nine dominant components of the traditional Mediterranean diet that account for the lower mortality. In descending order of importance, the components are: moderate consumption of alcohol (primarily wine), low consumption of meat and meat products, high consumption of vegetables, high consumption of fruits and nuts, high consumption of oil (mostly olive oil) and high consumption of legumes (e.g., beans, lentils).

There were some surprises in this study. The researchers found that high consumption of fish and seafood, cereals, and low consumption of dairy products had no effect on reduced mortality. The study was funded by the Europe against Cancer Program of the European Commission and the Greek Ministries of Health and Education.

An international team of researchers led by Dr. Antonia Trichopoulous produced the first study to assess the relative importance of the individual components of the Mediterranean diet. It was published last month in the online version of the British Medical Journal.

The 23,349 participants in the study were Greek adults who were free of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes at the start of the study. After 8 ½ years of follow-up, those who reported the strictest adherence to a Mediterranean diet showed a lower mortality rate than those who did not.

The researchers teased out the contribution of the nine dominant components of the traditional Mediterranean diet that account for the lower mortality. In descending order of importance, the components are: moderate consumption of alcohol (primarily wine), low consumption of meat and meat products, high consumption of vegetables, high consumption of fruits and nuts, high consumption of oil (mostly olive oil) and high consumption of legumes (e.g., beans, lentils).

There were some surprises in this study. The researchers found that high consumption of fish and seafood, cereals, and low consumption of dairy products had no effect on reduced mortality. The study was funded by the Europe against Cancer Program of the European Commission and the Greek Ministries of Health and Education.

Maryann Napoli, Center for Medical Consumers(c)

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