Results of the Greek segment of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and nutrition (EPIC) suggest that cereals and dairy products didn’t make a major contribution, while moderate alcohol consumption and low meat consumption were linked to longer life.
“An analysis of this type cannot provide universally applicable results, because diet varies across populations and also between sections of the same population,” wrote the researchers in the British Medical Journal.
“Nevertheless, our results indicate that the Mediterranean diet score that has been widely used is an effective predictor of mortality,” they added.
The study adds to a large body of science supporting a Mediterranean-style diet. The dietary pattern has been linked to longer life, less heart disease, and protection against some cancers. The diet's main nutritional components include beta-carotene, vitamin C, tocopherols, polyphenols, and essential minerals.
Antonia Trichopoulou and her co-workers from the University of Athens and Harvard School of Public Health followed 23,349 healthy Greek men and women aged between 20 and 86 for an average of 8.5 years.
Over the course of the study, 652 deaths were observed in people with the lowest Med diet scores, while 423 deaths were recorded in people with the highest Med diet scores.
“Controlling for potential confounders, higher adherence to a Mediterranean diet was associated with a statistically significant reduction in total mortality,” wrote the researchers.
“Increased adherence to the Mediterranean diet score by two units, a realistic change, was associated with a statistically significant 14 per cent lower overall mortality,” they added.
When they looked at the individual components they elucidated that nine components contributed to the benefits, including moderate alcohol consumption, low meat and meat product consumption, high consumption of vegetables, fruit, legume, olive oil, and nuts, and a high monounsaturated to saturated lipid ratio.
However, cereal and dairy consumption had only minimal effects, while increased fish and seafood consumption was linked to a non-significant increase in mortality.
“The contribution of the nine components to the Mediterranean diet score was approximately additive,” wrote the researchers.
Source: British Medical Journal
Published online ahead of print, Online First, 2009; 338: b2337 doi:10.1136/bmj.b2337
"Anatomy of health effects of Mediterranean diet: Greek EPIC prospective cohort study"
Authors: A. Trichopoulou, C. Bamia, D. Trichopoulos