The Lamen

A quick guide to the Mediterranean diet and living longer

A bar graph for the breast cancer rates among women of different ethnicities.

The benefits of the Mediterranean diet are not made up: eating fruits, veggies, and fish with some red wine can supposedly make you a “super-ager.”

Photo: Galina Afanaseva/Pixabay

Published on Sep 19, 2023

The Mediterranean diet is widely considered to be the best eating regimen, especially for your heart. Its origins are tied to the unique ecology of the Mediterranean region — observed in countries like Italy, Greece, and Spain.

  • The Mediterranean diet primarily consists of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, fish, and olive oil. Also including some amounts of lean meats and red wine, it leans toward local and fresh produce.
  • Originally gaining widespread attention due to the work of Ancel Keys and the “Seven Countries Study,” the Mediterranean diet has become a cornerstone of healthy eating — reported to have benefits for cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cognitive decline, and cancer.

It works by emphasizing the consumption of plant-based foods, with the following guidelines:

  • eat more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, and legumes
  • some amounts of low-fat or fat-free dairy, fish, poultry, olive oil, monounsaturated fats, nuts, and red wine
  • limit consumption of added sugars, sodium, processed foods, refined carbs, saturated fats, and fatty or processed meats

The most notable benefit of the Mediterranean diet is a reduced risk of heart disease — reducing all-cause mortality, cardiovascular mortality, the incidence of heart attack, as well as stroke in patients at high risk of a cardiovascular event.

  • A study from 2018 found that of 26,000 US women, those who followed the Mediterranean diet more closely had up to a 28 percent risk reduction of cardiovascular events.
  • The data is supported by the fact that Mediterranean countries have historically been the healthiest — recording lower rates of cardiovascular events and greater longevity.

Other benefits include:

  • reduced risk of neurological disease
  • improved brain function in older adults
  • reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and other metabolic disorders
  • reduced risk of pregnancy-related complications
  • cancer-protective effect

While the tenets of the Mediterranean diet largely revolve around a longer, healthier life, it is not as effective in weight loss. However, a study reported that people who follow the diet more closely are less likely to become overweight or obese.

A common problem with the Mediterranean diet is its lack of flexibility due to its Eurocentricity — based upon traditional eating patterns inaccessible to many. For those who can’t procure these foods, falling upon Greek bowls remains the only viable option.