Experts say that women who follow a Mediterranean diet are more likely to have a healthier heart–but now there may be another incentive to stick with this diet.
A new study published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine shows that women who followed a Mediterranean diet were 40 percent more likely to live longer than 70 years.
This has led some experts to believe this diet could be the next fountain of youth.
“We found that greater quality of diet at midlife was strongly associated with increased odds of good health and well-being among individuals surviving to older ages,” says researcher Ceceilia Samieri of the Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “Women with healthier dietary patterns at midlife were 40 per cent more likely to survive to age 70 or over.”
Digging through medical records of over 10,000 women between the ages of 50 and 60 dating back to the 1980s, Samieri and her colleagues followed up with these women to find out about their current state of health. And for those who ate foods consistent with Mediterranean diet patterns, they didn’t just live past 70–they were also more likely to live healthier, more active lives.
“The Mediterranean diet is characterized by greater intake of [fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains] and fish; lower intake of red and processed meats; moderate intake of alcohol; higher amounts of [monounsaturated fats, mostly provided by olive oil from Mediterranean countries]; and lower amounts of [saturated fats],” says Samieri. “Maintaining physical, cognitive, and mental health with aging may provide a more powerful incentive for dietary change than simply prolonging life or avoiding any single chronic disease.”
Limitations of the Study
While Samieri believes that these findings reveal real benefits about the Mediterranean diet, not everyone is convinced–including Connie Diekman, a director of university nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis.
Citing research posted by Samieri in the Annals of Internal Medicine, Diekman says this study does not show a cause and effect response.
“Other studies also have found that healthy diets such as the Mediterranean diet are linked to better long-term health, but this new study is only observational,” says Diekman, who first spoke to Health.com. “That means cause and effect cannot be conclusively linked.”
In addition, Diekman says that the study was limited by the number of questionnaires used to quiz women about their eating habits. During the entirety of the study, they were only questioned twice–during the start of the study and during the conclusion of the study nearly 30 years later.
That, Diekman believes, leaves a lot of room of error.
“Among the other limitations of the study is that the researchers looked at only two food questionnaires during the study period, providing a far from thorough look at actual eating habits,” says Diekman. However, she also says that “we know that healthier behaviors in women, and men, become a pattern, and thus a lifestyle that promotes health.”
Overall though, it wouldn’t hurt to eat this plan, as other health benefits have also been linked to it.
Readers: Have you tried this diet before?
Study: Mediterranean Diet May Help Women Live Longer – Health.com
Women Live Longer Following This Diet – DailyMail.co.uk