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Mediterranean diet prevents disease, improves survival

Mediterranean diet prevents disease, improves survival

Sep 22 (Reuters Health) - Consumption of a Mediterranean- style diet appears to prevent metabolic syndrome and improve survival, according to the findings from two studies that appear in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

In the first study, Dr. Dario Giugliano, from Policlinico Seconda Universita di Napoli in Italy, and colleagues conducted a clinical trial to assess the role that diet plays in metabolic syndrome, a condition characterized by obesity, high blood pressure and increased blood sugar.

The study involved 180 patients with the condition who were randomly instructed to follow an Mediterranean-style diet, which includes high levels of whole grains, fruits, nuts and vegetables, or a "prudent" diet, consisting of 50 to 60 percent carbohydrates, 15 to 20 percent protein and less than 30 percent total fat.

At two-year follow-up, Mediterranean-style diet patients had a lower omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid ratio than subjects on the other diet, the authors note.

Although physical activity increased to a similar extent in each group, patients in the Mediterranean-style diet group lost more weight than those in the prudent diet group.

Perhaps most importantly, 78 of 90 patients in the prudent diet group still had metabolic syndrome compared with 40 of 90 patients in the Mediterranean-style diet group, a statistically significant difference.

In the second study, Kim T. B. Knoops, from Wageningen University in the Netherlands, and colleagues looked at the effect that a Mediterranean-style diet and other lifestyle factors had on 10-year survival rates in elderly European men and women.

The researchers analyzed data from 1507 apparently healthy men and 832 women who were included in the Healthy Aging: a Longitudinal study in Europe (HALE) population.

Between 1988 and 2000, a total of 935 subjects died, most from cardiovascular diseases and cancer, the investigators report.

Consuming a Mediterranean-style diet, moderate alcohol use, physical activity, and nonsmoking, reduced the risk of death from any cause by 23 percent, 22 percent, 37 percent, and 35 percent, respectively. The results were similar when the researchers looked at mortality due to coronary heart disease, cardiovascular diseases in general, and cancer.

The presence of all four of these beneficial activities reduced the risk of death from any cause by 65 percent. Around 60 percent of all deaths were attributed to not pursuing these activities.

In a related editorial, Dr. Eric B. Rimm and Dr. Meir J. Stampfer, from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, comment that "as a society, the US spends billions on chronic disease treatments and interventions for risk factors. Although these are useful and important, a fraction of that investment to promote healthy lifestyles for primary prevention among individuals at all ages would yield greater benefit."

SOURCE: Journal of the American Medical Association. September 22/29, 2004.

Publish Date: September 22, 2004
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