Living a long and fulfilling life is a universal aim. It is well understood that diet plays an essential role in determining longevity. Increasing evidence makes the case for following a mediterranean diet to ward off health risks. But what are the healthiest components of a Mediterranean diet?
Mounting evidence suggests eating these three foods:
Heart attacks and strokes are the two most common causes of premature death in the world.
Fish is considered one of the most heart-healthy foods a person can eat.
According to a study published on the British Medical Journal website, eating at least two servings of oily fish a week is moderately but significantly associated with a reduced risk of stroke.
An international team of researchers, led by Dr. Rajiv Chowdhury at Cambridge University and Professor Oscar H. Franco at Erasmus MC Rotterdam, analysed the results of 38 studies to help clarify the association between fish consumption and risk of stroke or mini-stroke (transient ischaemic attack or TIA). Collectively, these conditions are known as cerebrovascular disease.
The 38 studies involved nearly 800,000 individuals in 15 countries and included patients with established cardiovascular disease (secondary prevention studies) as well as lower risk people without the disease (primary prevention studies).
After adjusting for several risk factors, participants eating two to four servings a week had a moderate but significant dix per cent lower risk of cerebrovascular disease compared with those eating one or fewer servings of fish a week, while participants eating five or more servings a week had a 12 per cent lower risk.
In another study in more than 40,000 men in the United States, those who regularly ate one or more servings of fish per week had a 15 per cent lower risk of heart disease.
Researchers believe that fatty types of fish are even more beneficial for heart health due to their high omega-3 fatty acid content.
Nut eaters had a 39 per cent lower mortality risk
Fruit and vegetables
It is well understood that eating fruit and vegetables can help to stave off the risk of developing a host of life-threatening complications. One study challenges the five-a-day mantra.
According to a comprehensive study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, the risk of dying prematurely from all causes was reduced by almost a third, and the risk of cardiovascular disease by about a quarter in people who ate 800 grams of fruit and vegetables every day, compared with those who ate very little or no fruits and vegetables.
The meta-analysis looked at a total of 142 publications from 95 different population studies that studied the relationship between consumption of fruits and vegetables and the subsequent risk of chronic diseases. Each analysis included information on several hundred thousand people.
The analysis revealed that apples and pears, citrus fruit, fruit juice, green leafy vegetables and fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C were among the types of fruit and vegetables that were linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and premature death.
Regular consumption of nuts, another key component of a mediterranean diet, is also linked to a host of health benefits.
Research published in the open access journal BMC Medicine found that people who eat nuts, particularly walnuts, are more likely to live longer.
In the longitudinal study, researchers suggest that those who eat nuts more than three times a week have a reduced risk of dying from cancer or cardiovascular disease than non-nut eaters.
The study based in Spain looked at the effect on the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease of over 7000 older people (aged 55 to 90) randomised to a Mediterranean Diet supplemented with extra virgin olive oil or nuts, compared to a control group following a low fat diet.
Overall, nut eaters had a 39 per cent lower mortality risk and walnut eaters 45 per cent lower – meaning that they were less likely to die than the non-nut eaters.
People eating more than three servings (one serving – 28 g) a week of nuts reduced risk of death due to cardiovascular disease by 55 per cent and cancer by 40 per cent. A similar effect was demonstrated for walnuts.
Fibre is another key component of a Mediterranean diet. Observational studies and clinical trials conducted over nearly 40 years reveal the health benefits of eating at least 25g to 29g or more of dietary fibre a day, according to a series of systematic reviews and meta-analyses published in The Lancet.
The results suggest a 15-30 per cent decrease in all-cause and cardiovascular related mortality when comparing people who eat the highest amount of fibre to those who eat the least.
Eating fibre-rich foods also reduced incidence of coronary heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and colorectal cancer by 16-24 per cent.
Per 1,000 participants, the impact translates into 13 fewer deaths and six fewer cases of coronary heart disease.
This diet may also boost longevity.
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