Nutrition can be considered an important contributor to healthy ageing. In terms of the association of plant-based diets with premature mortality, it is no coincidence that the two dietary patterns most closely linked to longevity – the Mediterranean diet and the Okinawa diet from Japan – are both characterized by an abundance of plant-based foods and low to moderate amounts of fish and lean meat.
A new Swedish study aimed to evaluate the impact of adherence to the Mediterranean diet on premature death. Data on diet and lifestyle from 71,333 Swedish men and women followed for 15 years, were analyzed.
Individuals with the highest adherence to the Mediterranean diet (compared to the lowest) had longer survival, lower premature mortality risk (19%) and lower risk of cardiovascular disease mortality (26%). The authors observed a clear linear effect: every 1 unit increase in the Mediterranean diet score was associated with 3 months of longer survival. The difference in survival between participants with the extreme scores (highest adherence versus no adherence to Mediterranean diet) was up to 2 years, mainly due to a considerable reduction in the risk of cardiovascular death. When comparing participants at the extremes of the Mediterranean diet score, the risk of cardiovascular disease mortality was significantly reduced by 41 % while a non-significant risk reduction of 10 % was observed for cancer-mortality.
Thus a higher adherence to the Mediterranean diet (ie. mainly a plant-based eating pattern) resulted in a lower disease burden and about two years longer in good health.
Reference: Bellavia A, Tektonidis TG, Orsini N, Wolk A, Larsson SC. Quantifying the benefits of Mediterranean diet in terms of survival. Eur J Epidemiol 2016