The higher consumption of monounsaturated fat and the lower consumption of saturated fat is one of the main factors behind the longevity benefit of the Mediterranean diet.
A study from Italy found the key to a longer life might lie in following the Mediterranean diet (MedDiet). Senior participants whose eating plan most closely adhered to the diet had a 25 percent less likelihood of death from any cause compared to those who adhered to the diet a little or not at all.
Among the food items included in a MedDiet, a higher consumption of monounsaturated fatty acids mainly drives the global health benefit.
In the research conducted by the Department of Epidemiology and Prevention of the IRCCS Neuromed in Molise, Italy, scientists explored the link between the MedDiet and mortality rates. They examined data on 5,000 people over the age of 65 who were participants in the Moli-sani Study and followed them up to eight years. In addition, they reviewed epidemiological studies from several countries, which brought the total of subjects in the research to 12,000.
Analysis of the results clearly showed that the MedDiet significantly reduces the risk of death in the elderly. According to the researchers, the link between the eating plan and mortality was dependent on the degree of adherence. The more closely the participants followed the diet, the greater the mortality reduction they experienced.
“The novelty of our research is to have focused our attention on a population over 65 years old,” said first author Marialaura Bonaccio in a press release. “We already knew that the Mediterranean diet is able to reduce the risk of mortality in the general population, but we did not know whether it would be the same specifically for elderly people.
“Now data from Moli-sani Study clearly show that a traditional Mediterranean-like diet, (rich in fruit, vegetables, fish, pulses, olive oil and cereals, low in meat and dairy products, with moderate wine consumption during meals), is associated with 25% reduction of all-cause mortality. This effect remains also if we consider specifically cardiovascular or cerebrovascular mortality.”
The first author explained that extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is one of the primary factors responsible for the longevity advantage.
“In our study, we found that among the food items included in a MedDiet, a higher consumption of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) over saturated fatty acids mainly drives the global health benefit. Of course, EVOO is one of the major food sources of MUFA in the diet,” Bonaccio told Olive Oil Times.
“Previous studies have discussed the mechanisms through which EVOO may prolong survival. They have proposed different potential pathways that could be favorably modulated by higher intakes of EVOO. Among them, we acknowledge that the evidence supports the pathway of inflammation, which has been proven to be lowered by numerous compounds largely present in EVOO,” added Bonaccio.
Despite the encouraging results, the study shows a link rather than a cause-effect relationship. In addition, the participants who followed the diet closely were more likely to exercise. Nonetheless, because of the strength of the association found in the current study together with that of previous research, it’s apparent that consuming the MedDiet is one of the best practices people can adopt to protect their health.
The study was published in the British Journal of Nutrition.