June 23, 2009
Some Mediterranean Diet Components More Important

Not all the components of the Mediterranean Diet are equally important in extending life.

Eating more vegetables, fruits, nuts, pulses and olive oil, and drinking moderate amounts of alcohol, while not consuming a lot of meat or excessive amounts of alcohol is linked to people living longer.

However, the study also claims, that following a Mediterranean diet high in fish, seafood and cereals and low in dairy products were not indicators of longevity.

While several studies have concluded that the Mediterranean diet improves chances of living longer, this is the first to investigate the importance of individual components of the diet.

Professor Dimitrios Trichopoulos at the Harvard School of Public Health explains that they have surveyed over 23,000 men and women who were participants in the Greek segment of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC).

So try harder to avoid red meat than dairy. Eat more fruits, nuts, and vegetables. I'm personally eating olives almost every day.

Update Here is the research paper.

The contributions of the individual components of the Mediterranean diet to this association were moderate ethanol consumption 23.5%, low consumption of meat and meat products 16.6%, high vegetable consumption 16.2%, high fruit and nut consumption 11.2%, high monounsaturated to saturated lipid ratio 10.6%, and high legume consumption 9.7%. The contributions of high cereal consumption and low dairy consumption were minimal, whereas high fish and seafood consumption was associated with a non-significant increase in mortality ratio.

Eat accordingly.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2009 June 23 11:31 PM  Aging Diet Studies

Micro said at June 24, 2009 7:39 AM:

Hey Russell,

Have you ever seen an epidemiological study that you haven't been fooled by?

Probably not, I'd say.

bbartlog said at June 24, 2009 10:29 AM:

Who is 'Russell'? If you're trying to address Randall I'd say your own reading comprehension fail sorta takes the sting out of your observation...

Micro said at June 24, 2009 11:29 AM:

Whoops! After reading this site, I guess some of that bad comprehension is rubbing off onto me......

But I still stress my initial observation.

"So try harder to avoid red meat than dairy. Eat more fruits, nuts, and vegetables. I'm personally eating olives almost every day."

Based on this retarded epidemiological study, where do you get the confidence to make such an assertion? Why do you say avoid red meat? Why not recommend avoiding seafood, cereals and increasing dairy?

There's no such thing as the "Mediterranean Diet." Just outright misrepresentation of the many different diets one finds in the Mediterranean basin regions.

Just like the "Okinawa Diet" one always hears about in the US health establishment and media these days. This Okinawa diet as portrayed in the US is some kind of fish/vegetarian type diet. But of course this isn't true at all, as anyone who's been to Okinawa or is familiar with the culture can attest. The Okinawans eat tons of pork, and not just the choice cuts but everything, organs, etc. But the US health establishment and media somehow ALWAYS conveniently leave this out. I wonder why....

bbartlog said at June 24, 2009 4:59 PM:

Yes... I tend to favor the paleo diet more than the mediterranean myself; but in the first place that doesn't rule out the possibility that mediterranean diet (as commonly understood) is healthier than the mainstream one. And it's also possible that some people will be better adapted to the mediterranean diet than others.

Paul A'Barge said at June 25, 2009 1:30 PM:

I don't care what you say, I ain't eating no pulses. What the heck are edible pulses anyway?

Brian said at June 25, 2009 1:40 PM:

I note that this:

1. Runs counter to the main thesis of most Mediterranean diet proponents. The main claim is about the goodness of omega-3 fatty acids and protein, and the badness of saturated fats and omega-6 fatty acids. In other words, fish are a critical component.

2. Suggests a mortality difference of ~4% vs. ~5% for an 8.5 year interval. Even if statistically significant and accurate (and those numbers also don't control for other things like smoking--it's certainly plausible that those following a Mediterranean diet are less likely to smoke--nor is it limited to deaths that could plausibly related to diet), we're still talking about very low mortality no matter what you do. Conclusion: Don't worry about it.

Syl said at June 25, 2009 2:55 PM:

Because I've become very cynical of science by press release I don't believe this study. Olive oil is good for you. yes. But the other stuff is boilerplate, almost as if they reached the conclusions they were looking for. The fish thing is the most interesting to me because the depletion of fish is the next big thing on the horizon for the greenies to go on and on about.

Dave in St. Louis said at June 25, 2009 2:58 PM:

Pulses are dry legumes - like kidney beans, lima beans, lentils and lupins.

Robin said at June 25, 2009 3:30 PM:

"I'm personally eating olives almost every day." Me too. In my martini.

PaulK said at June 25, 2009 3:30 PM:

Observational studies on nutrition have reached a point where they create more shadow than light. I recommend reading Stephan Guyenet's primer on the topic (Part I and Part II).

(In the meantime red meat will remain a mainstay of my diet.)

Paul said at June 25, 2009 4:09 PM:

What about the 'Eskimo Diet', which I've just invented? The Northern Peoples (my ancestors) have lived for thousands of years on nothing but fish and red meat from walrus and reindeer, NO fruits, nuts, vegetables or grains -- with no scurvy.

JohnRDC said at June 25, 2009 5:00 PM:

I love the phrase, "Northern Peoples." Very nice.

I'd add that of course the "Northern Peoples" also had healthy doses of fat in their diet. Missing? sweets.

Sweets of all kinds are the killers because they mess up the insulin/pancreas activity, which in turn regulates fat consumption. And,. of course, there's "high fructose corn syrup," an ingredient which I'll wager was also missing from the northern diet.

Eskimo Kiss said at June 25, 2009 5:39 PM:

The Eskimo Diet was usually followed by intense exercise. Rigorously buttfucking seals.

Randall Parker said at June 25, 2009 6:47 PM:


I didn't start eating olives because of this study. My confidence comes from a very large body of epidemiological studies and interventional studies.

Bond Vesper said at June 25, 2009 8:44 PM:

Always eat your olives with shaken ethanol. :)

sergei said at June 25, 2009 9:29 PM:

wait till the connection will be made between the fact that people in the Mediterranean are getting enough vitamin D to get the preventative benefits (u've heard it's kinda sunny there, right?)! THAT would be a ground breaking conclusion! love it how environmental factors considered in these studies seem to always focus on what people ingest....

el polacko said at June 25, 2009 9:38 PM:

good point about the vitamin D, sergei. americans have been taught to fear the sun.

Steve Parker, M.D. said at June 26, 2009 8:34 AM:

Here's a direct quote from the study (and thanks, Randall, for the link to the full article):

"Among the presumed beneficial components of the Mediterranean diet score, high consumption of all but fish and seafood was inversely associated with mortality, although none of these associations was statistically significant."

So I can understand the skepticism about this article. The researchers had to use some very sophisticated statistical manipulation to come up with the "healthy components" list. I'm not saying that's wrong. I will admit that the statistical analysis is beyond my comprehension, so I'm trusting the authors and peer-review process to be honest and effective. My college statistics course was too many years ago.

The take-home point for me is that the health benefits of the Mediterraneand diet probably from an overall combination of mutliple foods rather than any single component.

And remember to exercise regularly, maintain a healthy weight (BMI 18.5-25), keep your blood pressure under 140/90, and don't smoke.


Kevin said at June 30, 2009 9:03 PM:

I'm biased because I love meat, but it's starting to look like the thing to avoid is anything that comes from a grain. Has anyone else noticed this, or is it my imagination?

okinawa said at July 2, 2009 7:22 PM:

Okinawans really have it right with the variety of vegetables they eat. But,they also lead a less stressful life and handle stress well.

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