Estimated read time: 1-2 minutes
This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.
Research done in the 50's showed that despite eating a lot of fat, people who lived on the Greek island of Crete had long lives, and very low rates of heart disease and cancer.
They ate a diet typical of many Mediterranean countries. And that diet could be the secret to long life. That's according to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine.
A Mediterranean diet favors plant foods, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes.
Olive oil is the main source of fat. And fish and poultry are eaten weekly.
There's also wine in moderation, normally with meals.
Researchers in Greece tracked more than 22,000 healthy adults for three and half years.
They found those who followed a Mediterranean diet most closely cut their risk of death by at least 25-percent. Specifically, they were less likely to die from heart disease or cancer.
The findings held true regardless of other risk factors like obesity, smoking, or sedentary lifestyle.
And when they looked at specific food groups in the Mediterranean diet, like how much olive oil or fish was consumed, there was no clear link to survival.
It seems the diet as a whole is what's most important.
Unfortunately, the typical diet in Greece and other Mediterranean countries is changing rapidly. They're eating a more westernized diet, rich in saturated fat and refined carbohydrates, and there's been a dramatic increase in obesity.
So once again, it comes down to making healthy choices to last a lifetime.