Of course, the answer to that question is contingent on an overwhelming amount of different factors, but when it comes to pinpointing a nearly, dare we say, perfect style of eating (at least when it comes to promoting overall health and wellness), science may be getting pretty close.
According to a new study to be presented at the American College of Cardiology's (ACC) 64th Annual Scientific Session in San Diego this weekend, adults who diligently followed a “Mediterranean diet” decreased their risk of developing heart disease by 47 percent compared to adults who didn’t follow the diet.
It was also reported that following a Mediterranean diet was more protective against heart disease than physical activity.
The ACC reports, “Our study shows that the Mediterranean diet is a beneficial intervention for all types of people--in both genders, in all age groups, and in both healthy people and those with health conditions," said Ekavi Georgousopoulou, a Ph.D. candidate at Harokopio University in Athens, Greece, who conducted the study along with Demosthenes B. Panagiotakos, Ph.D., professor at Harokopio University. "It also reveals that the Mediterranean diet has direct benefits for heart health, in addition to its indirect benefits in managing diabetes, hypertension and inflammation."
Conducted in Greece, the study supports prior evidence that has associated the particular style of eating with health benefits and it was the first to monitor heart disease risk over a 10-year period in a general population.
“Most previous studies have focused on middle-aged people,” the ACC reported.
The findings are based on data collected from more than 2,500 Greek adults, ages 18 to 89. Participants provided researchers with information about their health every year from 2001 to 2012.
“The researchers scored participants’ diets on a scale from 1 to 55 based on their self-reported frequency and level of intake for 11 food groups,” the ACC reports. “Those who scored in the top-third in terms of adherence to the Mediterranean diet, indicating they closely followed the diet, were 47 percent less likely to develop heart disease over the 10-year follow-up period as compared to participants who scored in the bottom-third, indicating they did not closely follow the diet. Each one-point increase in the dietary score was associated with a 3 percent drop in heart disease risk”
While there aren’t any official specifications as to what the Mediterranean diet consists of, it’s widely agreed that it generally emphasizes fresh, whole foods like fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, fish, olive oil and moderate amounts of red wine.
Put more simply, the foods that are most commonly eaten by people who live in some Mediterranean regions.
Of course, this isn’t the first time the health benefits of this style of eating have been highlighted. As the ACC points out, “…previous studies have also linked the Mediterranean diet with reduced cardiovascular risks, including the Nurses’ Health Study, which included nearly 75,000 American nurses who were tracked over a 30-year period.”
Additionally over the past several years, many health organizations and news outlets have also reported on the diet and its benefits, including Mayo Clinic, The Atlantic and The New York Times, and parts of Greece and Italy (where a Mediterranean type diet is generally followed) are considered part of the world's "blue zones," or areas of the world where people live the longest.