Longevity and The Mediterranean Diet
Six Reasons Why the Mediterranean Diet Contributes to a Longer, Healthier Life
Over the course of many generations, observers have been able to discern that the people who populate the region around the Mediterranean Sea live longer lives than do men and women in some other parts of the world. Historically, the reason most often attributed to the longevity of the people of the Mediterranean region was climate. However, as researchers became more adept and as scientific methods became more sophisticated, it became clear that while the weather patterns of the Mediterranean area generally were pleasant and inviting, it was the diet of the people in the region that accounted for their longer lives.
There are a number of specific factors related to the Mediterranean diet that nutritionists and medical experts believe contribute to longevity. The more important of these elements are discussed within the confines of this article for your information and guidance.
1. Restorative Effects of the Mediterranean Diet
Many of the specific food items that are part of a Mediterranean diet regimen are high in anti-oxidants. Scientifically speaking, anti-oxidants are important compounds found in certain foods and beverages that work to neutralize the destructive nature of oxidants or free radicals that are found in the human body. Oxidants or free radicals are produced when the body burns oxygen to produce energy. In other words, oxidants really can be considered waste that pollutes the human body.
Over time, the accumulation of oxidants in the body accelerates the aging process. Cells wear and lose their elasticity. Organs end up functioning less efficiently and effectively. Indeed, recent scientific research has demonstrated that oxidants clog arteries raising the threat of stroke. Oxidants are found to contribute to cancer, heart disease and diabetes — the major diseases most responsible for causing people to have premature deaths.
The types of fruits and vegetables that form the foundation of the Mediterranean diet — including richly colored and leafy green vegetables — which are high in anti-oxidants, have a restorative and life prolonging effect on the typical human body.
2. Reducing Cancer Risks
In most parts of the world, cancer of various types is the leading cause of premature death. Studies undertaken by researchers in Europe, Japan and the United States in the past thirty years have demonstrated that the Mediterranean diet effectively reduces the risks of certain types of cancers.
A diet that is high in fresh fruits and vegetables has been shown to be effective in reducing the risks of a wide array of different types of cancers. As has been noted previously, the Mediterranean diet includes the generous consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables.
The Mediterranean diet includes very little animal fat. There is a direct link between the consumption of animal fat and colorectal cancer, one of the deadliest forms of the disease that oftentimes takes the lives of people in their forties and fifties.
Olive oil (truly the foundation of the Mediterranean diet) had been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer.
By reducing the risks poised by cancer, the lifespan of men and women has been shown to increase appreciably in studies that have followed groups of people over time.
3. Reducing Coronary Heart Disease Risks
Coronary heart disease is one of the top three causes of premature death throughout the world — except in the Mediterranean region. Researchers have concluded that diet has played a large and important role in reducing the risk of coronary heart disease amongst the people who populate the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea.
An important study in seven countries (Italy, Greece, Yugoslavia, Finland, United States, Netherlands and Japan) demonstrated that those people who followed a Mediterranean diet regimen were less likely to have coronary heart disease and were less likely to have their lives cut short because of serious and ultimately fatal heart conditions.
4. Reducing Hypertension
On some level, the jury is still out on the direct effects between diet and hypertension or high blood pressure. With that said, it clearly has been demonstrated that hypertension and high blood pressure is responsible for premature deaths the world over. In addition, there is strong evidence to suggest that eliminating certain items from a diet — like processed salts — can work to reduce the risk of hypertension.
Additionally, there is evidence to support the proposition that a diet high in fiber and low in animal fats (like that of the Mediterranean region) works to reduce the threat of hypertension and premature death from this disease.
5. Diabetes Prevention and Control
The Mediterranean diet is well suited to staving off the serious effects of diabetes. The incidence of premature death because of diabetes is lower in those regions in which the Mediterranean diet is practiced. Because diabetes is a disease that can be controlled through diet, electing to utilize the Mediterranean regimen can work to add literally years to a person’s life.
6. The Cumulative Effect of the Mediterranean Diet
It is important to note that the beneficial effects of the Mediterranean diet appear to be cumulative over time. In the other words, the longer a person practices the dining habits of the Mediterranean plan, more of inherent physical benefits of this healthy eating regimen will be ingrained into a person’s makeup. Simply put, the benefits of a Mediterranean diet literally are stored up over time, increasing a person’s lifespan and adding to his or her overall health and well being not only now but well into the future.