(NaturalNews) Sticking more closely to a Mediterranean diet may lead to a longer life, according to a new study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. The researchers say that the study is the first to examine a connection between the diet and mortality in a U.S. population.
Researchers examined data on more than 160,000 women and 200,000 men who had filled out detailed questionnaires about their eating habits, weight, age, smoking status and other factors known to affect health. The researchers then ranked participants based on how closely they held to either a traditional Mediterranean diet or an alternate Mediterranean diet.
Participants scored higher for adherence to a traditional Mediterranean diet if they ate more fruits and nuts, grains, beans, fish and vegetables (excluding potatoes), and if they ate less dairy, meat or saturated fat. Those who drank a moderate amount of alcohol, defined as five to 25 grams per day for women and 10 to 50 grams per day for men, also scored higher.
The alternative Mediterranean diet was scored similarly, but included only whole (not refined) grains, did not include dairy products, counted fruits and nuts separately, used the same alcohol standard for men and women, and deducted points for meat only if it was red or processed.
The people who stuck most closely to either Mediterranean diet were significantly less likely to die during the first five years after the surveys were taken.
Among women who followed the alternate Mediterranean diet most closely, mortality was reduced by 22 percent, with mortality form heart disease 21 percent lower and deaths from cancer lowered by 14 percent. The numbers for men were similar.
The association between the Mediterranean diet and decreased mortality seemed strongest among smokers, particularly smokers who were of healthy body weight.
Among both smokers and non-smokers, those who were obese did not appear to have their lives lengthened by the Mediterranean diet.