A recent study conducted by the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that UK residents who strictly adhere to a Mediterranean lifestyle have a reduced risk of death from all causes and specific diseases. The study, published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings, examines the adaptability of the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle outside of the traditional region and provides insight into the potential benefits of the Mediterranean lifestyle for non-Mediterranean populations.
What is a Mediterranean lifestyle?
The Mediterranean lifestyle involves more than just diet. It encompasses a range of habits and practices traditionally associated with people living in countries along the Mediterranean coast. Key components of this lifestyle include a diet high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, low in salt and sugar, adequate rest, regular physical activity and social interactions.
This study stands out because it evaluates the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle for non-Mediterranean people. It demonstrates that people can follow a Mediterranean diet and lifestyle within their cultural context by utilizing local products. Lead author of the study Mercedes Sotos Prieto states, “We see the transferability of this lifestyle and its positive health effects.”
How was the study conducted?
The research team analyzed data from 110,799 participants between the ages of 40 and 75 from the UK Biobank cohort. Participants were assessed using the Mediterranean Lifestyle Index (MEDLIFE), which evaluates three categories: consumption of Mediterranean food, Mediterranean dietary habits, and physical activity, recreation and social habits. Each category was scored, with higher scores indicating greater adherence to the Mediterranean lifestyle.
What did the experts find?
After nine years, the researchers analyzed the health of the participants. It turned out that those who were more committed to the Mediterranean lifestyle had a 29% lower risk of all-cause mortality and a 28% lower risk of cancer mortality. The category “physical activity, recreation and social habits” had a particular impact, which not only reduced the previously mentioned risks, but also reduced the risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
Implications of the study
This study highlights the potential universal health benefits of the Mediterranean lifestyle, indicating that its positive effects are not limited to its place of origin. This suggests that people in different cultural backgrounds can adopt this lifestyle and experience its positive health effects.
Dr. Miguel Ángel Martínez-González, a researcher at the Autonomous University of Madrid, stresses the importance of the study’s findings, “This study is strong evidence that the Mediterranean lifestyle has significant health benefits beyond the traditional region.” He further adds: “It shows that people in the UK can adopt this lifestyle and reduce their risk of death from a variety of causes.”
Dr. Walter Willett, a professor at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, agrees with the study’s findings and states, “The results of this study confirm the importance of adopting a Mediterranean lifestyle for overall health and longevity.”
The Mediterranean diet has long been recognized for its health benefits. It is based on the traditional diets of countries such as Greece, Italy and Spain, where historically people have lived longer and suffered from chronic diseases. This diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and olive oil while limiting red meat and processed foods.