The traditional Mediterranean diet is well known for making people live longer, but a new study by British researchers claims some of its food groups are more important than others in promoting good health.
It is well known that a Mediterranean diet of vegetables, fruits, nuts, olive oil and pulses, washed down with a glass of red wine, helps boost longevity.
But the new British Medical Journal study claims, that following a Mediterranean diet high in fish, seafood and cereals and low in dairy products are not indicators of a long life.
While explaining the study, which included a survey of 23,000 men and women who were participants in the Greek segment of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC), lead researcher Professor Dimitrios Trichopoulos at the Harvard School of Public Health concluded that the main reasons why the Mediterranean diet can lead to living longer are moderate consumption of ethanol, low consumption of meat and meat products, and high consumption of vegetables, fruits and nuts, olive oil and legumes.
In the study, volunteers were given dietary and lifestyle questionnaires and they were subsequently followed up for around 8.5 years with interviews.
Their diets were rated from 0 to 10 based on the level of conformity to a traditional Mediterranean diet.
As part of the interview process, participants were also asked about their smoking status, levels of physical activity and whether they had ever been diagnosed with cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
The authors maintain that when high intake of vegetables, low intake of meat or moderate alcohol intake were excluded from the rating system, the benefits of following a Mediterranean diet were substantially reduced.