A “Mediterranean-type” diet combined with exercise and a quiet, stress-free lifestyle are the secrets to a long life, according to a study carried out in the five locations around the world where people live the longest – including the Greek island of Ikaria.
Based on the study by Italy’s Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition, longevity seems primarily linked to diet but other factors also play a role, such as a positive approach to life, sociability, control of stress and exercise.
The centre’s experts compared the lifestyles of people in the world’s five “blue” regions – where inhabitants regularly live to more than 100 years old – and found that in all these places, some separated by thousands of miles, the local diet shared some important elements with the Mediterranean diet, which includes a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grain cereals, pulses, fish and extra virgin olive oil.
The five regions were the town of Loma Linda in California, where the main foods consumed are whole grain cereals, pulses, vegetables and fish, Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula where the staples are sweet potatoes, bananas and papaya, Sardinia in Italy where people eat a lot of pulses, almonds and tomatoes, Okinawa in Japan where the diet is based on tofu, pulses, mushrooms and melons and Ikaria in Greece, where the diet includes a lot of feta cheese, lemon and fish.
According to experts, the secret lies in a “5+2” diet, with five days of primarily vegetarian foods and two days that include meat in small quantities. According to the Italian press, in an upcoming forum in Milan the institute is to announce that faithfully following a Mediterranean diet can add at least 4.5 years to the length of life, as well as being cheaper. According to estimates, a meat-based diet currently costs 45 euros a week in Milan and 36 euros while the menu based on a Mediterranean diet costs 41 and 34 euros, respectively.