Harvard Health Letter

News briefs: Mediterranean now, better health later

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Here's more evidence that the Mediterranean diet has protective health benefits: a study published Nov. 4, 2013, in Annals of Internal Medicine found that women who adhered to a Mediterranean-type diet in midlife had greater physical and mental function in old age. Researchers looked at questionnaire responses about dietary habits from more than 10,000 women in their 50s and 60s, then compared it against how the women fared healthwise 15 years later. They concluded that women who followed a healthy diet during middle age had about 40% greater odds of surviving past the age of 70 without chronic illness and without physical or cognitive impairment. The women who were healthiest ate more plant foods, whole grains, and fish; ate less red and processed meats; and limited alcohol intake. That's typical of a Mediterranean diet, which is also rich in olive oil and nuts. Want to make the switch? Start by sautéing food in oil, not butter; eat more fruits and veggies as snacks; choose whole grains instead of refined breads and pastas; and substitute a fish meal for a red meat meal at least twice per week.?