The Mediterranean diet is one of the most famous eating patterns in the world, popularized by its myriad of health benefits. Yet, it’s less about the eating habits and more about the other habits adopted by the people of the Mediterranean region. In fact, per a recent study, a Mediterranean lifestyle, not a Mediterranean eating plan, could be the key to a longer, healthier life.
What is a Mediterranean lifestyle?
The Mediterranean diet is defined by fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean protein, whilst limiting salt, sugar, and processed foods (with the occasional glass of red wine).
Besides the diet, a Mediterranean lifestyle also features moderate exercise, active social relationships, napping, and reduced sedentary habits.
Now, researchers from the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid in Spain and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health set out to examine the link between the Mediterranean lifestyle and cancer and heart disease mortality in the British population.
Boosting health outcomes
Led by Dr. Mercedes Sotos-Prieto, the team analyzed the data of 10,799 individuals, aged 40- 75, from the UK Biobank. Using the Mediterranean Lifestyle (MEDLIFE) index, the team was able to analyze the lifestyle habits of the participants, which they had provided through lifestyle and dietary assessments. The team then broke down their answers into three major categories:
- “Mediterranean food consumption”
- “Mediterranean dietary habits”
- “Physical activity, rest, and social habits and conviviality”
The team then followed up nine years later to examine the participants’ health outcomes. They found that 4,247 had died from all causes; 2,401 from cancer; and 731 from cardiovascular disease.
Mediterranean lifestyle offers longevity boost
Per the findings, published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, participants who adhered to a Mediterranean lifestyle faced a 29% reduced risk for all-cause mortality and a 28% reduced risk for cancer-related mortality.
“This study adds to the literature that beyond diet, other components of the Mediterranean Lifestyle can play a combined and stronger role in the risk of mortality, cancer, and cardiovascular disease, not only in Mediterranean countries but in non-Mediterranean.” – Dr. Mercedes Sotos-Prieto, Healthline
Speaking about the study, dietitian Kristin Kirkpatrick told Healthline that the results weren’t surprising. After all, a diet that features nutrient-dense foods can help improve health and mitigate cancer risk,
“Many of the foods found in the Mediterranean diet are high in polyphenols and flavonoids, which have been found in other studies to play a protective role against certain chronic conditions including cancer,” she added.
Adopting a Mediterranean lifestyle
While the study failed to directly show cause and effect, Mediterranean habits can do wonders for your health. As the study found, you don’t need to live on a Mediterranean island to adopt and enjoy a Mediterranean lifestyle. To live more like the Mediterranean, try the following:
- Include more fruits, veggies, and whole grains in your diet
- Cut back on sugar, salt, processed foods, red meat and alcohol
- Try taking a walk every day
- Spend more time with loved ones
- Find unique ways to stay active – dancing and gardening
- Get enough sleep
- Reduce your screen time
Want to know more?
If you adopt Mediterranean lifestyle habits, you will improve your wellbeing. However, there’s an even better alternative. You can follow the Blue Zones for healthy lifestyle tips.
Blue Zones are five areas around the world virtually free of disease, with many healthy residents living to age 100 and beyond. Here’s how you can create your own blue zone to boost longevity.