Beyond just protecting your heart and keeping you agile, the Mediterranean Diet could be the key to living a longer— and not just healthier — life, a new study suggests.
Researchers analyzed data taken from 10,670 women in their late 50s and early 60s and found that women with healthier diets were more likely to live disease-free to 70 and beyond. The data was collected as part of the Nurses’ Health Study, one of the longest-running studies on women’s health and aging.
Women with healthy, balanced diets were 34 percent more likely to age healthily, while those following the Mediterranean Diet were 46 percent more likely. Healthy dieters consumed more whole grains and less alcohol and red meat. The Mediterranean Diet similarly limits red meat and is rich in fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats.
The healthy agers lived to 70 without having major chronic diseases, cognitive impairments, physical impairments, and mental health issues. Each participant’s overall health was recorded in the mid 1980s and again 15 years later.
“Better diet quality at midlife seems to be strongly linked to greater health and well-being in persons surviving to older ages,” researchers concluded.
While the study didn’t look at what makes the Mediterranean Diet so good for you, researchers believe it may be because the diet helps lower inflammation, AARP reported. Recent research has discovered that inflammation may be the primary cause of aging and several age-related diseases.
“These data may have an especially important role in promoting a healthy diet—maintaining physical, cognitive, and mental health with aging may provide a more powerful incentive for dietary change than simply prolonging life or avoiding any single chronic disease,” researchers wrote.