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The Mediterranean Diet and Long Life

The key to a long life may not be money, fast cars and a diet filled with animal fats. Quite the contrary. In an article recently published in the Lancet, the internationally recognized British medical journal, data from Albania, one of Europe “poorest countries”, would indicate that once again the “Mediterranean diet” may be a factor in the long life. Albanians in the south of the country have a diet rich in olive oil, fruits and vegetables and relatively low in meat, while those in the north-eastern part of the country tend to eat more foods from animal sources. The part of the population consuming the Mediterranean type diet lived longer, but even so taken together the longevity numbers for the whole country were the best in Europe.


The phenomenon of the Mediterranean diet has been known for several years. It has become obvious that the incidence of heart disease in the countries in the south of Europe are lower than in countries in the north. Diet has been the obvious factor explaining this difference. There has been debate about which particular component of the diet is exerting a protective effect. Red wine has been suggested, but the most likely ingredient is olive oil. Olive oil is a good source of monounsaturated fatty acids. And there are many studies now suggesting that increased consumption of monounsaturated fatty acids may be beneficial to health.

Perhaps it is the combination of a glass of red wine during a meal that contains a salad with an olive oil dressing that is the key. Eating such a meal in a cafe overlooking the Mediterranean may also help.

Components of the Mediterranean Diet
Carbohydrates - 60%
cereal or grain products
Fats - 30%
olive oil (source of monounsaturated fatty acids)
Protein - 10%
red meat
vegetable sources (beans, nuts, legumes)
wine (in moderation)


Lyon Diet Heart Study

Circulation 2001,103:1823–1825

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