Abstracted by Jessica Patella, ND from “Adherence to the Mediterranean diet and quality of life in the SUN Project.” from the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 66:360-368 (2012). A recent research which included 11,015 participants used a 136 item food frequency questionnaire to show that participants with the greatest adherence to the Mediterranean diet have improved physical health and mental quality of life. Posted June 25, 2012.
The Mediterranean diet is known for its beneficial effects on health, specifically in relation to chronic disease and increased life span (1,2). But can a diet increase the quality of life? Recent research showed that those who followed the Mediterranean diet increased their quality of life (1).
The Mediterranean diet is characterized by a few key components: (5)
- Being active and getting plenty of exercise.
- Basing meals on plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts.
- Eating fish a few times a week.
- Moderating the intake of poultry, eggs, cheese, dairy and yogurt to a few times per week.
- Limiting red meat and sweets to a few times per month.
- Replacing butter with olive oil.
- Drinking red wine in moderation (optional).
The research included 11,015 participants (4639 men, 6376 women). Their diet was assessed using a 136-item food frequency questionnaire. Based on their responses, participants received a score indicating adherence to the Mediterranean diet. The Mediterranean diet score included 9 components: vegetables, legumes, fruits and nuts, cereals, fish, meat and meat products, dairy products, moderate alcohol intake and the ratio of monounsaturated fatty acids to saturated fatty acids (1).
A health-related quality of life questionnaire was given after four years of follow-up. The quality of life questionnaire included eight sections: physical functioning, role limitations because of physical health problems, bodily pain, general health perceptions, vitality, social functioning, role limitations because of emotional problems and mental health.
Average results for physical functioning, role limitations because of physical health problems, bodily pain, general health perceptions and vitality were significantly better (p<0.05) in participants with a greater adherence to the Mediterranean diet (used between 7 to 9 categories out of 9) compared with those that did not adhere to the diet (used between 0 to 2 categories out of 9) (90.4 vs. 88.3; 87.6 vs. 85.2; 74.6 vs. 72.7; 65.0 vs. 62.5; 64.6 vs. 61.7 respectively) (1).
When the results were adjusted for age and activity variables, there was also a significant association between adherence to the Mediterranean diet and mental health quality of life scores. The participants with the greatest adherence to the Mediterranean diet (used 7 to 9 categories out of 9) showed better results in social functioning and role limitations because of emotional problems and mental health ( 95% CI: 0.18 (0.02-0.34) and 0.34 (0.03-0.66) respectively) (1), compared to those who did not adhere (used between 0 to 2 categories out of 9).
In conclusion, adherence to the Mediterranean diet shows improved physical health and mental quality of life in participants (1). This could be because the diet has been shown to reduce inflammation, reduce insulin resistance and is higher in omega-3 fatty acids, which can have beneficial effects physically and emotionally. (1).
Jessica Patella, ND, is a naturopathic physician specializing in nutrition and homeopathic medicine and offers a holistic approach to health. Visit her website at www.awarenesswellness.com.
- Sanchez P, et al. Adherence to the Mediterranean diet and quality of life in the SUN Project. 2012. Eur J of Clin Nutr 66: 360-368.
- Sofi F, et al. Adherence to Mediterranean diet and health status: meta-analysis. 2008. BMJ 337, a1344.
- Scarmeas N, et al. Mediterranean diet and mild cognitive impairment. 2009. Arch Neurol 66, 216–225.
- Sanchez-Villegas A, et al. Association of the Mediterranean dietary pattern with the incidence of depression: the Seguimiento Universidad de Navarra/University of Navarra follow-up (SUN) cohort. 2009. Arch Gen Psychiatry 66, 1090–1098.
- The Mediterranean Diet. Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/mediterranean-diet/CL00011