Mediterranean Diet Inversely Associated With All-Cause Mortality, Study Says

The Key Takeaways

  • Higher levels of Mediterranean diet compliance were associated with lower mortality rates in older adults.
  • The study measured dietary biomarkers, rather than relying on food frequency questionnaires.
  • Experts agree that the Mediterranean diet is beneficial for all ages, but it is more inclusive of many different foods than the study might suggest.

Multiple news outlets rank the Mediterranean diet as the best overall diet. However, very few studies have used biomarkers to assess the longevity impact of the Mediterranean diet.

However, the InCHIANTI study which followed over 600 participants over a period of 20 years has shown that older adults may have a lower chance of dying if they adhere to the diet.Here’s what you need to know.

About the Study

The InCHIANTI Study followed 642 participants—56% of whom identified as female—age 65 or older for 20 years. Researchers measured serum biomarkers that were associated with vegetable, legume, fruit and nuts intake. Also, serum resveratrol (also measured) was also taken.

The statistically significant correlation found between Mediterranean diets and lower all-cause mortality was evident in the study. It also revealed a correlation between Mediterranean food consumption and overall mortality.

Where the Mediterranean Diet originated

While Spain, Italy and Greece may be the first countries to come to your mind when you mention the Mediterranean Diet, it is important that you also consider the diverse range of countries bordering the body of water. Abbie Gellman, MS, RD, CDN,A chef and author of “The Mediterranean DASH Diet Cookbook”, he notes the similarities in their cuisine.

Abbie Gellman MS, RD and CDN, Chef

The Mediterranean diet focuses on a region made up of 21 countries—all of which border the Mediterranean sea.

— Abbie Gellman, MS, RD, CDN and Chef

“The Mediterranean diet focuses on a region made up of 21 countries—all of which border the Mediterranean sea,” says Gellman. While the exact flavors and cuisines of each country may vary, they all emphasize fruits, vegetables and whole grains as well as beans and legumes. 

What’s more, when you adopt the Mediterranean diet, you have the opportunity for exposure to a wider variety of flavors and eating experiences says Michelle Dudash, RDN, Cordon Bleu-certified chef, author of “The Low-Carb Mediterranean Cookbook,” Creator of Spicekick meal spice kits notes

Dudash says, “If you look at a map, you’ll see that there are more Mediterranean regions than just the Middle East and North Africa.” “This is wonderful because you can discover new foods and enjoy even more food options while expanding your palate.”

Patterns are better than perfection

Experts agree that the Mediterranean diet relies heavily upon produce, legumes olive oil, seafood and whole grains. However, this does not mean that you have to eliminate any of these foods from your diet. These are the categories you can add to your diet, and you don’t have to wait until your “golden years” to start.

Michelle Dudash, RDN, Cordon Bleu-Certified Chef,

For maintaining low health risks and keeping biomarkers under control, it is important to start healthy habits earlier in your life.

— Michelle Dudash, RDN, Cordon Bleu-Certified Chef,

Dudash states that it is important to start healthy habits early in your life to reduce health risks and keep biomarkers in control. “For example, arteries don’t get clogged overnight and blood sugars don’t fluctuate over a long time. This is due to a long-term lifestyle.

She says that a Mediterranean lifestyle that is disease-preventive and focuses on high-fiber fruits, vegetables, grains, healthy oils (from olive oil, seafood and nuts), and lean meats is possible by prioritizing high-fiber foods. 

Amy Myrdal Miller MS, RDN, is a culinary nutrition expert and president Farmer’s Daughter ConsultingCarmichael in California, emphasizes the importance to prioritize patterns over specific food groups.

“It’s important to look at dietary patterns over time versus the impact of single foods or individual nutrients,” Mydral Miller says.

She recommends patterns that include plenty of fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts along with animal-based food like lean beef or low-fat dairy to promote good health.Both enjoyment and productivity.

Myrdal says that enjoyment is key to a long-lasting eating pattern, rather than a short-term one.

How to Get Started on the Mediterranean Way of Eating

Reaping the potential longevity benefits of the Mediterranean diet doesn’t have to mean you’re eating like a Greek fisherman—although, wouldn’t that be nice if it were that easy. Dudash points out that small, long-term changes to your overall food plan are the best.

She suggests making small changes, such as adding beans and stirring them into soups or stews. You also can try to have a vegetable on your plate at most meals—even a handful of greens on your sandwich helps. You can fill the majority of your plate with your favorite vegetables, even a small portion of steak.

Another option is easy-to eat fruit, nuts and seeds for snacks. Also, try using extra-virgin oil more often instead of butter and margarine. You can also make dessert the Italian way and use fresh fruit instead of butter or margarine.

Dudash suggests that you make it easier to get food on the table by keeping your kitchen stocked up with essentials for the Mediterranean diet. Remember that canned, frozen, and dry fruits, vegetables and seafood count as well.

What Does This Mean for You?

It’s never too early to incorporate the Mediterranean diet in your current eating habits. In fact, research suggests that it could add years to your life. You should start with small changes to your diet and not eliminate any. Also, keep in mind your flavor preferences. You will be able to expand your taste buds by including many other flavors in this region. Before making any changes to your diet, you should consult a registered dietitian or healthcare provider. They can help you decide what is best for you.


Source: Very Well Fit

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