The Mediterranean Diet - I
If you are wondering why we asked you to complete the questionnaire, it is because of the study described in the New England Journal of Medicine titled "Adherence to a Mediterranean Diet and Survival in a Greek Population" (v 348, p2599, 2003).
In this study, 22,043 adults (aged 20 to 86) in Greece completed an extensive food questionnaire, and were evaluated on their adherence to the salient features of the "Mediterranean Diet". A typical Mediterranean diet involves lots of fruit, vegetables, olive oil, some fish, some alcohol, and limited amounts of meat and dairy products. There are a vast number of references on the web describing various aspects of it. During 44 months of followup, there were 275 deaths. The study finds that for each two points (two more "yes" answers on the questionnaire), the death rate from any cause is reduced by 0.75 (0.64 to 0.87 in the Margin of Error). The individual numbers for Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) and for cancer are similar to the overall risk reduction factor, but with slightly less statistical significance. The risk reduction was slightly more pronounced for participants above the age of 55, compared with those with age below 55. Interestingly, there was no correlation between any of the individual components of the diet and mortality.
The fact that the people on this diet had a lower mortality does not necessarily mean that the diet itself is responsible for their well-being. Maybe those who adhere more closely to the diet have some other factor in their lifestyle that enhances their longevity.
There is an additional study that indicates that indeed the diet itself has a protective effect.