Utah is miles from the fertile Mediterranean Basin that covers portions of three continents, including Europe, Asia and Africa.
The Mediterranean climate is considered subtropical and characterized by warm to hot, dry summers and mild to cool, wet winters. By contrast, Utah is largely considered a desert climate, with mild winters typical and hot, dry summers, devoid of precipitation.
Differences and miles set aside, Utahns can enjoy one advantage of the Mediterranean – longevity through diet.
Swedish researchers, who published their findings online November 26, 2011, in the scientific journal Age, report that the Mediterranean diet is associated with longer life.
Scientists compared participants in their 70s who ate a Mediterranean diet with those of the same age who eat more meat and animal products.
The Mediterranean diet incorporates ample amounts of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and fish, while limiting red meat and unhealthy fats, which are replaced with olive oil. The occasional glass of resveratrol-rich red wine is also consumed.
Previous research has linked the Mediterranean dietary approach to reductions in heart disease, cancer, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers observed that individuals who eat a Mediterranean diet live approximately two to three years longer than their red meat loving Western counterparts.
Those who consumed a Western-style diet – high in red meat, sugar, high-fat foods and refined grains – were 20 percent more likely to die of all mortality causes than those who followed the Mediterranean pattern.
The study authors confirmed their findings with three additional currently unpublished studies in both adults and children.
Barry Sears, M.D., and former research scientist at the Boston University School of Medicine and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, states vegetables and fish promote longevity because they “both will reduce cellular inflammation.”
Cellular inflammation is associated with a wide range of chronic diseases such as arthritis, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.
“Fish provides omega-3 fatty acids,” continues Sears, “and vegetables provide polyphenols with the least amount of carbohydrates.”
Omega-3 fatty acids combat inflammation at the cellular level and its associated diseases.
Research strongly suggests plant polyphenols, which are dietary antioxidants, prevent degenerative diseases, particularly cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Lead researcher, Gianluca Tognon, says “The conclusion we can draw from these studies is that there is no doubt that a Mediterranean diet is linked to better health, not only for the elderly but also for youngsters.”