Mediter Ranean Magic Can Keep You Young; in Association with the NHS According to a New Study, Following a Strict Mediterranean Diet Offers Substantial Protection against Heart Disease, Cancer, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. Health Reporter HELEN RAE Investigates
Byline: HELEN RAE
THEY say a Mediterranean lifestyle makes you live longer.
Researchers analysed existing studies on the health gains of eating a diet rich in olive oil, grains, fruits, nuts, vegetables and fish, but low in meat, dairy products and alcohol.
The results suggests a score based on adherence to the Mediterranean diet could be used as a tool for helping cut the chance of dying early from a range of diseases.
Experts looked at 12 studies on more than 1.5 million people whose health was followed for between three and 18 years.
All the studies included detail on a numerical score to estimate how much people stuck to the diet, called an "adherence score".
The combined results showed that strictly following a Mediterranean diet reduced the overall risk of dying early by 9%.
The chance of dying from cancer fell 6% and the chance of dying from cardiovascular disease, including heart disease, by 9%.
The diet also resulted in a 13% reduction in the incidence of Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease.
Writing in the British Medical Journal, the authors of the report said: "Greater adherence to a Mediterranean diet is associated with a significant improvement in health status.
"These results seem to be clinically relevant for public health, in particular for encouraging a Mediterranean-like dietary pattern for the primary prevention of major chronic diseases."
One of the North East's most recognisable chefs, Mark Earnden, who runs Expo Chef and regularly visits Tyneside to share his healthy eating message, described the Mediterranean diet as "fabulous" and one we "could all learn from".
He said: "The Mediterranean diet is great because it consists mostly of fresh produce and fish.
"Local produce is available in the North East and we could also follow this diet if we could learn from the Mediterranean model.
"A balanced meal is key and those classed as Mediterranean generally eat the right fats.
"Dairy plays a part, but they know it is all about everything in moderation. They eat smaller meals out there."
Kieran Breen, director of research and development at the Parkinson's Disease Society, added: "Studies such as this are interesting as they show some foods are better than others in terms of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. …