Recently recognized with UNESCO World Heritage status, in the Immaterial Heritage category, the Mediterranean diet has been touted an ‘elixir of life' for its role in promoting health. Based on fruit, vegetables and olive oil, the Mediterranean diet is also said to play an important role in reducing the signs and effects of aging, says agriculture group Coldiretti (www.coldiretti.it).
Recent Istat data suggests that Italy has one of the highest life expectancies in Europe (see ‘Italy by the numbers' this page), with women living on average 84.3 years and men 79.1. Moreover, in the last 10 years, Coldiretti maintains, the average life expectancy in Italy has increased by 1.5 years for men and 2.1 years for women.
Other findings supporting the benefits of the Mediterranean diet were recently published in the British Medical Journal. Results of a study lead by Francesco Sofi, nutritionist at the University of Florence, indicate that the Mediterranean diet can reduce the likelihood of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease by 13 percent; cardiovascular problems by 9 percent; and cancer by 6 percent.