Mediterranean diet linked to reduced rates of chronic disease, Alzheimer's

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People who live in Mediterranean countries have long been admired for their healthy eating habits. Now a new study confirms why. The diet has recently been found to protect against heart disease, cancer, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease and other chronic conditions.

A Mediterranean diet comprises mostly grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, fish and olive oil, and has long been thought of as a paradigm of healthy eating, according to bmj.com. In the first study to look at the association between this diet and instances of chronic health conditions, researchers from the University of Florence analyzed 12 international dietary studies that included more than 1.5 million people. Those who stuck to the principles of the Mediterranean diet experienced a 9% reduction in overall mortality and cardiovascular disease, a 6% reduction in cancer rates and a full 13% reduction to the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease or Parkinson's disease.

Nine out of 10 people aged 65 and older in the U.S. have at least one chronic health condition, and about 77% of seniors have two or more chronic conditions (McKnight's, 5/30). According to study authors, this diet could help reduce the risk of premature and preventable deaths.