Live long & prosper: Med diet credited with lengthening life span: Study

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

Olive oil, a principle ingredient in the Mediterranean diet, is considered a key component of a healthy dietary pattern.©iStock
Olive oil, a principle ingredient in the Mediterranean diet, is considered a key component of a healthy dietary pattern.©iStock

Related tags Olive oil Nutrition

Several food constituents that make up the Mediterranean diet have been strongly credited in extending life span, a 10-year follow-up study has shown.

Results gathered from a sample of community dwellers aged 65 years and older revealed that the risk of death was decreased among subjects with the highest fruit, vegetable and fish consumption. In addition, olive oil consumption was also found to be beneficial only in female subjects.

Findings once again point towards the Mediterranean diet as a dietary pattern that is beneficial to a wide range of demographics. Many studies have pointed towards its use of fresh produce, simple cooking techniques and food low in saturated fats, added sugar and processed meats.

The high consumption of fruits, vegetables​ and fish or greater consumption of olive oil have been hailed for their protective effects.

Similarly, studies on consumption frequency found that high intakes of fruits and/or vegetables, fish or coffee​ have a beneficial effect on survival.

The adoption of a healthy lifestyle in middle age has long been put forward as a way of entering old age in good physical and mental shape.  As the population of older individuals is increasing worldwide, the emphasis on diet has directed public health policymakers to create specific prevention programmes for elderly populations.

French cohorts

France flag
Communities from France were used in obtaining the study results. ©iStock

The study enrolled residents aged 65 years and older living in Bordeaux (South-West of France), Montpellier (South-East of France) and Dijon (North-East of France) between the years 1999 to 2000.

The cohort sizes were set at 2500 in Bordeaux, 5000 in Dijon and 2500 in Montpellier of which a final sample size of 8937 was used.

The subjects were then questioned about their dietary habits, lifestyle and medical health. This included socio-demographic status, current symptoms and complaints, blood pressure, tobacco, alcohol and drug use, body measurements, neuropsychological testing and blood sampling.

Clinical examinations at the start of the study and after 2, 4, 8 and 10 years were carried out.  

“The study suggests that daily consumption of fruits and vegetables, eating 2 servings/week of fish and regular use of olive oil (only in women) are significantly linked to better survival,”​ the study noted.

“This was independent of socio-demographic, health-related and lifestyle variables. Overall, higher diet diversity is associated with lower mortality risk.”

Accumulating evidence

fish oil dha epa omega 3 Serquan
The benefits of omega-3 fish oils have been well documented.©iStock/serquan

A wealth of studies​has strongly linked the high consumption of fruits and vegetables and survival after adjusting for major confounders.

In the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition study​,​ following a plant-based diet was linked to a lower risk of death in southern Europe, but not in the UK or in Germany, after controlling for all known risk factors.

A study​that emphasised olive oil and salad within the diet was associated with longevity in an Italian elderly cohort.

The researchers pointed to the antioxidant content of fruit and vegetables as a strong factor in determining the balance between free radicals and antioxidants, which is said to increase life expectancy.

In addition, the effect of high concentrations of flavonoids, polyphenols, carotenoids, folic acid and vitamin C on mortality was also mentioned.  

The protective effect of fish consumption on health was also highlighted having already been linked​to the anti-inflammatory effects of essential omega-3 fatty acids.


Source: British Journal of Nutrition

Published online ahead of print,

“Nutrition and mortality in the elderly over 10 years of follow-up: the Three-City study.”

Authors: Claudine Berr et al.

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