Large analysis of existing studies shows big health gains by adhering to a Mediterranean diet

September 25, 2008

     Researchers from the University of Florence reviewed the results of 12 international studies that included almost 1,600,000 subjects who were followed anywhere from 3 to 18 years depending on the study. The studies looked at the Mediterranean diets effects on health and the studies rated a person’s level of adherence to the diet from 0 adherence to a top level of either 7 or 9 (full adherence).
     The results of the analysis shows that strict adherence to the diet decreased the death rate caused by heart disease, decreased the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease; an eventually potentially fatal movement disorder, decreased the risk of Alzheimer’s dementia, and decreased the risk of developing or dying from cancer. For the 8 studies that included mortality data, the team found that for every 2 point increase in adherence to the Mediterranean diet there was a 9 percent decline in deaths. Cardiovascular disease mortality was similarly reduced by 9% and cancer deaths were 6 percent lower with each 2 point increase in adherence. Adherence to the diet also reduced the risk of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease by 13 percent for every 2 points.
     The diet includes plentiful servings of vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains, fish, and olive oil, and low amounts of meat, dairy products and alcohol, and it has consistently been linked to improved health status in a number of studies. The results of the analysis are published online ahead of print September 11, 2008 in the British Medical Journal.