June 15, 2024

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More than a diet: Mediterranean lifestyle linked to lower risk of death

BOSTON — Not only can a Mediterranean diet help people lose weight, but a team of international researchers says this type of lifestyle can significantly lower the risk of death from all causes, including cancer. Those who prioritized rest, exercise, and socializing were found to have a decreased risk of dying from cardiovascular diseases.

The Mediterranean lifestyle is characterized by a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, healthy eating habits, adequate rest, physical activity, and frequent social interactions. Although the health advantages of this diet are well-established, its adoption and effects outside the Mediterranean region haven’t been extensively studied.

“This study suggests that it’s possible for non-Mediterranean populations to adopt the Mediterranean diet using locally available products and to adopt the overall Mediterranean lifestyle within their own cultural contexts,” says study lead author Mercedes Sotos Prieto, Ramon y Cajal research fellow at La Universidad Autónoma de Madrid and adjunct assistant professor of environmental health at Harvard Chan School, in a university release. “We’re seeing the transferability of the lifestyle and its positive effects on health.”

Mediterranean diet
Substituting Western-type diet products with Mediterranean could also decrease the risk of other chronic diseases.
(© fascinadora – stock.adobe.com)

The study drew on data from the United Kingdom Biobank cohort, assessing the lifestyles of 110,799 individuals spanning England, Wales, and Scotland. Participants between the ages of 40 and 75 provided insights on their diets and habits based on the Mediterranean Lifestyle (MEDLIFE) index, which evaluates “Mediterranean food consumption,” “Mediterranean dietary habits,” and “physical activity, rest, and social habits and conviviality.”

Nine years following the initial assessment, the researchers revisited the health outcomes of the participants. From the study population, 4,247 died, with cancer accounting for 2,401 of these deaths and cardiovascular disease for 731.

The results indicated a clear inverse relationship between adherence to a Mediterranean lifestyle and risk of mortality. Participants with higher MEDLIFE scores had a 29-percent reduced risk of all-cause mortality and a 28-percent lesser risk of cancer mortality compared to their counterparts with lower scores. The “physical activity, rest, and social habits and conviviality” segment was most profoundly linked to reduced mortality risks, including that from cardiovascular diseases.

The study is published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

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