Who doesn’t want to lead a long and healthy life? We are constantly in search of ways and lifestyles that will enhance our life span. Here’s just how you can do that – follow a strict Mediterranean diet. According to a recent study, a Mediterranean diet apparently protects against major chronic diseases.

Researchers from the University of Florence, in Italy believe that a ‘Mediterranean style’ diet significantly reduces the risk of dying from heart disease and cancer. In addition it may also reduce the risk of developing neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Author of the study, Francesco Sofi, mentioned, “Unfortunately, despite the worldwide promotion of the Mediterranean diet, a progressive shift to a non- Mediterranean dietary pattern, even in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, has progressively developed.”

“In terms of diet, people concerned about cancer should aim to eat plenty of whole grains, fruits and vegetables and limit their intake of red meat, salt and energy dense foods and the Mediterranean diet does follow this approach to healthy eating.” added Prof Martin Wiseman, from the World Cancer Research Fund,.

The review was based on the meta-analysis of data pooled from 12 international studies some of which lasted 18 years. Involving more than 1.5 million people, the scientists looked at a numerical score to estimate how closely participants stuck to the diet, and the dramatic results were seen in those who followed it strictly.

The study found that those who strictly followed a diet rich in olive oil, grains, fish, fruit and vegetables, with low amounts of meat, dairy products and alcohol had a 9% lower susceptibility to heart diseases, 6% reduced risk of developing cancer and 13% reduced incidence of Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease along with 9% lowered risks of overall dying young.

The researchers suggest that a compilation of the score to calculate how strictly diets adhere to the model could be used to predict if patients are in danger of dying prematurely. They reveal that millions of people all over the globe rely on processed foods rather than fresh fish, meat, fruit and vegetables that could be characterising a short life span.

Published in the British Medical Journal, the study is the first to actually encourage a Mediterranean-like dietary pattern for the prevention of major chronic diseases.