(Daily Telegraph) The Mediterranean diet has long been hailed as the perfect recipe for a long life.
Researchers have claimed that the foods are effective against a variety of illnesses, from Alzheimer’s to cancer.
However, a new study suggests that not all the ingredients carry the same benefits.
Researchers found that eating large amounts of fish and seafood or the low levels of dairy food traditionally associated with the diet did little or nothing to lengthen a subject’s lifespan. However, drinking a glass of wine or two a day with large amounts of fruit, vegetables and olive oil, while keeping red meat consumption to a minimum did contribute towards a longer life.
The scientists behind the study claim that it is the first to identify which individual parts of the diet might contribute the most to longevity.
Previous research has found that sticking to the diet can protect the brain against developing Alzheimer’s and other memory problems.
The variety of ingredients also reduces the chances of developing heart disease and even cuts the risk of being diagnosed with cancer. The latest study, which followed 23,000 people, found that those who adhered most closely to a typical Mediterranean diet were 14 per cent more likely still to be alive after eight years.
Prof Dimitrios Trichopoulos, from the Harvard School of Public Health, who led the study, said: “The analysis suggests that the dominant components of the Mediterranean diet are moderate consumption of alcohol, mostly in the form of wine during meals, as is traditional in the Mediterranean countries, low consumption of meat and meat products, and high consumption of vegetables, fruits and nuts and olive oil.”
Drinking wine was most beneficial for lifespan, followed by reducing meat consumption and eating a lot of fruit, vegetables and nuts.
There were also “clear” benefits in combining key components of the diet, such as plenty of vegetables and olive oil, the researchers found.
However, the findings, published online by the British Medical Journal, do not mean that eating fish carries few health benefits.
Previous studies have suggested that the omega three “good” fatty acids found in fish such as tuna and salmon can help to protect the mind against decline and even reduce the risk that men will develop prostate cancer.
The study gave patients a score for how closely their diet resembled that of a typical Mediterranean diet.
Earlier this year, scientists found that older people who ate a Mediterranean diet were less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease over five years.
‘Researchers found that eating large amounts of fish and seafood or the low levels of dairy food traditionally associated with the diet did little or nothing to lengthen a subject’s lifespan. However, drinking a glass of wine or two a day with large amounts of fruit, vegetables and olive oil, while keeping red meat consumption to a minimum did contribute towards a longer life.’