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Wine - The Most Beneficial Component Of Mediterranean Diet


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By Margarita Nahapetyan

The traditional Mediterranean diet has long been praised for its health benefits, but apparently, the experts have never tried to figure out which of the components of the diet, that is characterized by high consumption of vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, cereals, seafood and olive oil, along with a moderate amount of alcohol and relatively little meat and dairy, deserves the credit and contributes to reduced mortality.

Now researchers from the University of Athens Medical School in Greece and the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, USA, have analyzed the role each of these food components play, and came to the conclusion that alcohol consumption in moderate amounts appears to be the most beneficial factor for health. The experts said that drinking one or two glasses on a daily basis as well as consuming a lot of fruit, vegetables and olive oil while keeping red meat consumption to a minimum, do add up to a recipe for a longer life.

Previous studies have demonstrated that sticking to Mediterranean diet can protect the brain against the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease and other memory problems, as well as reduce the chances of developing heart-related issues and even cut the risk of being diagnosed with cancer.

For the new study purposes, professor Dimitrios Trichopoulos of Harvard School of Public Health and his fellow colleagues, used data from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition. In the report, which is published online, in the the British Medical Journal, they wrote that their study appears to be the first attempt to find out the relative importance of individual dietary components in the association between the Mediterranean diet and mortality.

The study involved more that 23,000 men and women who had never been diagnosed with cancer, heart disease, or diabetes. The diet habits of all the participants were analyzed and they were followed then for a period of 8.5 years, on average, until June 2008. Volunteers were asked to fill out appropriate questionnaires where they reported how much they conformed to a traditional Mediterranean diet, whether they smoked, their levels of physical activity and health history.

The results confirmed that individuals who ate a Mediterranean diet were healthier than those who did not. The investigators found that there were 652 deaths among the 12,694 people who did not follow the diet closely, when compared with 423 deaths among the 10,655 who did follow the diet.

Just alcohol accounted for 24 per cent of the total benefit, the researchers found, and most of that came in the form of wine consumed during meals.

The experts said that when a low intake of meat, high intake of vegetables or moderate alcohol consumption were excluded, the benefits of following a Mediterranean diet significantly decreased. They also found no benefits in combining key components, such as lots of vegetables and olive oil. The consumption of meat in small amounts was responsible for 17 per cent of the upside of following a Mediterranean diet. That was followed by 16 per cent from high consumption of vegetables and ten per cent to 11 per cent each from consuming lots of fruits and nuts, olive oil and legumes. The amount of cereals, dairy products and intake of seafood, did not appear to make much difference.

Professor Trichopoulous concluded that the main reasons why the Mediterranean diet can result in living a longer life, are moderate consumption of alcohol, in particular wine, low consumption of meat and meat products, and high intake of vegetables, fruits and nuts, olive oil and legumes.

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