ATHENS, GREECE. A large European study has concluded that the 'Mediterranean diet' can reduce mortality among the elderly. A total of 74,607 healthy participants aged 60 or over were assessed by researchers at the University of Athens Medical School. The participants came from nine European countries, and were taking part in the ongoing European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study. They were assessed for lifestyle, medical history, smoking, physical activity levels, and other relevant factors. Adherence to the Mediterranean diet was rated on a ten-point scale.
After an average 89 months of follow-up 4047 of the participants had died with most deaths occurring in the Danish, Swedish and UK cohorts. The researchers found that a higher intake of vegetables, legumes, fruits, cereals, fish, olive oil, and a moderate intake of wine, together with a lower intake of saturated fats, dairy products and meat were linked with longer life expectancy. Specifically, a two-point increase on the Mediterranean diet scale was linked to an 8 per cent reduction in risk of death, and four points were associated with a 14 per cent reduction.
In countries with a low intake of olive oil, total unsaturated fat intake was measured instead, which may
explain why the links were stronger in Greece and Spain where olive oil use is more common. The
Mediterranean diet has been the focus of many studies, as many of its components have been linked to
improvements in chronic diseases, including heart disease. The new study adds to the evidence of a health
benefit by showing an effect in a large and varied population. The researchers conclude that adherence to a
Mediterranean type diet may be particularly appropriate for elderly people, who represent a rapidly growing
group in Europe.