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Physical exercise, rest and socializing, the benefits of the Mediterranean diet lifestyle

The Mediterranean lifestyle - identified as the combination of a Mediterranean diet (rich in fruit, vegetables and whole grains, little salt and added sugars) with habits of physical activity, adequate rest and socialization - is correlated with lower mortality risks for all causes, for cancer and cardiovascular diseases (CDVs).

These results come from a prospective study (Maroto-Rodriguez et al., 2023) – by the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (ES) and the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health (Boston, Massachusetts, USA), published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings – conducted on a cohort of over 110.000 adults in England, Scotland and Wales followed for nine years. (1)

1) Mediterranean diet, Mediterranean lifestyle and reduction of the risks of premature mortality. The benefits on populations of other geographical areas

Numerous scientific studies have verified the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet and the lifestyle that is ideally associated with it (2,3,4). A limited amount of research has instead been conducted on the benefits of this diet for populations in geographical areas other than its region of origin. (5)

'This study suggests that even non-Mediterranean populations can adopt the Mediterranean diet using the products available in their territories and follow the Mediterranean lifestyle, as a whole, within their own cultural context'.

'We thus observed the possibility of transferring this lifestyle and its positive effects on health' explains Mercedes Sotos Prieto, researcher at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid and adjunct assistant professor of environmental health at the Harvard Chan School.

2) Selection of participants and research methods

French researchers studied the lifestyle habits and health conditions of 110.799 individuals between 40 and 75 years of age, selected from the UK Biobank cohort between 2009 and 2012 as they were free of cardiovascular diseases and tumors, following them until 2021. The style Mediterranean lifestyle was assessed through the Mediterranean Lifestyle Index (MEDLIFE), based on the responses to the lifestyle questionnaire and diet assessment, using three parameters:

– 'consumption of Mediterranean foods'. Intake of foods included in the Mediterranean diet, such as fruit and whole grains,

– 'Mediterranean eating habits'. Adherence to habits and practices around meals, including limiting salt and consuming healthy beverages, e

– 'physical activity, rest, social habits and conviviality'. Adherence to lifestyle habits that include regular naps, exercise and time spent with friends.

Every voice it was then evaluated within the three parameters, assigning higher scores in relation to the level of adherence to the Mediterranean lifestyle. Information on deaths was collected in death registers. Cox regression models were used to analyze study associations.

3) Research results

The follow-up on the population examined in the study in question, it allowed us to record, in the following nine years, 4.247 deaths from all causes, 2.401 from cancer and 731 from cardiovascular diseases. Analysis of these results, together with MEDLIFE scores, shows an inverse association between adherence to the Mediterranean lifestyle and mortality risk.

Participants those with higher MEDLIFE scores were found to have a 29% lower risk of all-cause mortality and 28% lower risk of cancer mortality than those with lower MEDLIFE scores.

Adherence each MEDLIFE category was independently associated with a lower risk of all-cause and cancer mortality. The category 'physical activity, rest, social habits and conviviality' was the most strongly associated with the reduction of these risks, as well as a lower risk of mortality from cardiovascular diseases.

Dario Dongo


(1) Javier Maroto-Rodriguez, Mario Delgado-Velandia, Rosario Ortolá, Stefanos N. Kales, Fernando Rodríguez-Artalejo, Mercedes Sotos-Prieto. (2023).
Association of a Mediterranean Lifestyle With All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality: A Prospective Study from the UK Biobank. Mayo Clinic Procedures. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mayocp.2023.05.031

(2) Dario Dongo. Over-55, prevent cardiovascular disease. The PREDIMED-Plus study. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 8.8.22

(3) Dario Dongo. Maintaining a healthy weight with the Mediterranean diet, clinical study. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

(4) Marta Singed. Mediterranean diet and immune system, new scientific evidence. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

(5) Tong, T.Y.N., Wareham, N.J., Khaw, K.T. et al. Prospective association of the Mediterranean diet with cardiovascular disease incidence and mortality and its population impact in a non-Mediterranean population: the EPIC-Norfolk study. Med BMC 14 (135). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12916-016-0677-4. Brief summary about Mediterranean diet Cambridge study

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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.

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