11th July

Can the Mediterranean diet increase your lifespan?

The Mediterranean diet is one that’s well recognised for its benefit to human health, with those who eat Mediterranean-based foods perceived as some of the healthiest people on the planet.

 

Cilento, a region in southern Italy, is thought to be home to particularly healthy residents, whose diets are high in Mediterranean staples – including extra virgin olive oil, nuts and vegetables.

 

This diet, in particular, is widely accredited for its ability to reduce the risk of the onset of many serious illnesses – including heart disease, Alzheimer’s and certain cancers. Largely based on oils, oily fish, nuts and vegetables, the Mediterranean diet focuses on eliminating foods that cause inflammation – such as sugars and dairy – whilst increasing the intake of healthy fats. Extra virgin olive oil, for example, is known for its high monounsaturated fatty acid content, which can help with weight loss, decreased inflammation and reduced risk of heart disease.

 

Interesting clinical trials, which first took place in France, have since shown that a Mediterranean-based diet reduces the instances of cardiovascular problems. However, the extent to which these results can be applied to the average Westerner’s lifestyle is questioned, considering their contrasting stress levels, circadian rhythm and poorer diets that can have significant implications on their overall health.

 

More recently, a study was conducted in Spain, whereby subjects were either given a litre per week of extra virgin olive oil and a daily allowance of nuts – which are both highly consumed in the Mediterranean diet – or put on a low-fat diet. The results showed that those who consumed the olive oil and nuts presented a 30% reduced risk of heart attacks and stroke.

 

Although the Mediterranean diet cannot be proven to extend your lifespan by a significant amount, it does help the average elderly individual live a healthier, more fulfilling life. Put simply, the diet can’t be solely responsible for longevity; it should be paired with an active lifestyle that limits exposure to harmful toxins. This is, arguably, more difficult in the modern day as a result of increased screen time and reduced physical activity.

 

In addition to staying active and picking up healthy habits, anyone can transition towards a Mediterranean-inspired diet, which largely includes:

 

- Abundant fruit and vegetables

- Nuts, seeds, legumes

- Whole grains, herbs, breads

- Fish, seafood, extra virgin olive oil

 

In addition to incorporating the above, it’s advised that in order to maximise the benefits of a Mediterranean diet, you should also reduce the intake of sugars, refined grains, trans fats and highly processed foods.

 

The Mediterranean diet has been shown to contribute towards improved overall health, but it must be combined with an otherwise healthy lifestyle to maximise its benefits on the body.

 

At the Huntington & Langham Estate, we have always believed in this type of balanced approach to care, and indeed life, by considering people’s overall wellbeing rather than simply focusing on their medical care. This has always involved wholesome home-cooking, enjoyment of our surrounding countryside, and an active social life.

 

The importance of this was highlighted, in the last week, when a lady moved in to Huntington House from hospital. Her family had thought she had given up on life, as she had not eaten for almost a week; but to their surprise, she had enjoyed a plate of scrambled eggs within hours of arriving. Medically she is at the end of her life, but holistically, she is now living rather than dying.

 

It’s never too late to benefit from a healthier, more fulfilling life; regardless of whether it helps you live longer, it can certainly help you live better.

 

This blog has taken inspiration from ‘A Visit to the Land of Happy Old People’, a detailed article about the benefits of living a Mediterranean-inspired lifestyle. Click here to read more.

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