Mediterranean Diet Adds Years to Life

It's a new twist on an old theme, but new research shows
once again that diet and exercise are the keys to a longer, healthier life.

Two new studies based on a large U.S. diet and health survey demonstrate the
benefits of exercise and diet in reducing health risks and prolonging life.

The first shows people who follow a Mediterranean-style diet rich in
vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and healthy oils, such as those found in
fish, olives, and nuts, were less likely to die of cancer , heart
disease , or any other cause over a five-year period.

The second shows people who engaged in moderate exercise like walking for at
least 30 minutes a day most days of the week, as recommended by national
guidelines, were 27% less likely to die during the study than non-exercisers.
Even a smaller amount of exercise produced benefits in reducing the risk of
death over the short-term, but those healthy benefits increased with more
frequent and vigorous exercise.

Diet and Exercise Provide Big Benefits

The studies, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, were
both based on data collected from the National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet
and Health Study involving 566,407 AARP members aged 50 to 71 in six states who
filled out diet and exercise questionnaires between 1995 and 1996.

In the first study, researcher Panagiota N. Mitrou, PhD, currently of the
University of Cambridge, England, and colleagues looked at the effect of the
Mediterranean diet on the risk of death over five years.

This diet has gained in popularity in recent years thanks to research that
shows countries that follow the diet, rich in fruit and vegetables and low in
saturated fat, have lower rates of heart disease and other health problems.

This study confirmed those healthy effects and showed men and women who
followed a Mediterranean diet were 20% less likely to die from any cause during
the study.

In the second study, researcher Michael F. Leitzmann, MD, DrPH, of the
National Cancer Institute, and colleagues compared the risk of dying during the
study to rates of exercise.

The results showed that people who were moderately active for at least 30
minutes a day, most days of the week were 27% less likely to die than those
that were inactive. But the health benefits of exercise increased with
more vigorous activity. Those who engaged in vigorous activity had a 32% lower
risk of death during the study; a level of physical activity that was less than
recommended was linked to a 19% lower death risk.

By Jennifer Warner
Reviewed by Louise Chang
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