Exploring the Mediterranean diet

A large-scale study seems to confirm that a Mediterranean-style diet helps keep the elderly healthy and increases longevity.

In the late 1940s, it was observed that people who live around the Mediterranean sea seem to be generally healthier, and live longer, than people elsewhere. Further study showed that people in that area — Greece, Spain, Italy, Morocco, France, etc. — eat a rather similar diet. It centers around fish, olive oil, wheat, fresh produce and some red wine. Soon, the ‘Mediterranean diet’ was recommended for people everywhere as a way to keep healthy and live longer.

This new study correlates the diet, state of health and mortality rate of some 75,000 Europeans aged 60 and over in nine countries. It found that, the closer the diet is to the Mediterranean diet, the stronger the benefit. Which proves, once again, that the Mediterranean diet works.

But a closer look reveals that it works better in some places than in others.

The study found that the benefit is strongest in Greece and Spain, followed by Italy and France, and weaker elsewhere. In the Netherlands, for instance, the mortality rate is over twice that of Greece. The study explains the differences by pointing out that the diet in Greece and Spain is “closer to the genuine Mediterranean diet. The others are approximations.”

There is another explanation. Chinese medicine believes that an appropriate diet is the key to prevention. This means that the diet should consist primarily of whatever grows ‘here and now’. This is because whatever grows naturally at that time and in that location is ideally suited to the local climate.

Take oil, for instance. Chinese medicine believes that oil has a moisturizing and cooling effect on the body, which helps counteract the effects of a dry, hot climate. So it makes sense to eat a fair bit of oil in the Mediterranean region, but in countries like the Netherlands, which is damp and cool, it’s more likely to cause health problems in the long run.

Although the Mediterranean diet is much better than many other diets, it’s really ideal only if you live around the Mediterranean.

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