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Thumbs Up for the Mediterranean Diet

A study by top researchers in Boston and Athens, Greece found that people who eat a traditional Mediterranean diet are much more likely to live longer and escape the ravages of heart disease and cancer.

Back in the 1950s, researchers began to wonder about the link between diet and heart disease. That led to the now-celebrated Seven Countries Study, which found that Mediterranean men had lower mortality rates, particularly from heart disease, than Northern European and American men. It also confirmed the connection between saturated fat and heart disease. Since then, Mediterranean-style diets have frequently been touted as the epitome of healthy eating.

The Building Blocks of Good Health

There is no single Mediterranean diet. Instead, it's a blanket term for a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, nuts and legumes, and whole grains like pasta, bread, couscous and rice. Another defining aspect is that most of the fat comes from olive oil. Fish and poultry are consumed in low to moderate amounts and red meat and full-fat dairy take a back seat.

A study published in June 2003 in the New England Journal of Medicine, adds to the case. Researchers charted the lifestyles of 22,043 healthy adults living in Greece. "We found that a higher degree of adherence to the traditional Mediterranean diet was associated with a reduction in total mortality," they concluded. "The reduction in mortality was evident with respect to both deaths due to coronary heart disease and deaths due to cancer, although it was slightly more pronounced with respect to the former."

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