Eating a Mediterranean diet 'improves quality of life as well as mental and physical health'
Consumption of oil-rich Mediterranean foods, such as fish and seafood, helps to improve overall well-beingOf the 11,000 students surveyed over a four-year period, scientists found those who stuck to the diet scored far higher on quality of life questionnaire

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UPDATED:

15:11 GMT, 30 May 2012

Eating a Mediterranean diet is good for the mind as well as the body and improves a person's quality of life, according to researchers.

The study found that the consumption of oil-rich Mediterranean foods, such as fish and seafood, helps to improve overall well-being.

For years the region's diet has been associated with superior physical health.

Tuck in: Eating a Mediterranean diet is good for the mind as well as the body and improves a person's quality of life, according to researchers

Tuck in: Eating a Mediterranean diet is good for the mind as well as the body and improves a person's quality of life, according to researchers

But scientists have now linked its consumption to improved mental and physical health too.

A Mediterranean diet, which is characterised by a regular intake of fruit, vegetables, pulses, fish, olive oil and nuts, has been proven to lessen the chances of chronic illness.

Regions where people subside on it also have a lower mortality rate.

However, it was not yet clear how the
diet impacts on mental and physical health and quality of life.

So scientists devised a food
pyramid, which states main meals should never lack cereals and fruit and
veg – and a daily intake of two litres of water.

Olive oil is the main source of fat
for nutritional quality and moderate consumption of wine is recommended,
as well as fish, lean meat and eggs – all are found in Mediterranean
diets.

At the top of the pyramid are sugar,
sweets, cakes, pastries and sweet drinks, which should only be consumed
occasionally and in small amounts.

'The Mediterranean diet is an
important factor associated with better quality of life and can be
considered as a healthy food model'

The researchers, from the University of Las
Palmas de Gran Canaria and the University of Navarra in Spai, conducted a four-year study of the eating habits of more than 11,000 university
students.

Dietary intake data was taken at the
beginning of the study and self-perceived quality of life was measured
after the four year period.

To determine whether the Mediterranean
diet was followed, consumption of vegetables, pulses, fruit, nuts,
cereals and fish were positively rated on a questionnaire and meat,
dairy products and alcohol were negatively valued.

Results showed those who stuck more to
the Mediterranean diet scored higher on the quality of life
questionnaire in terms of physical and mental well-being, with the link
to physical well-being even stronger.

Lead researcher Patricia Henrmquez Sanchez said: 'The progressive ageing of the population in developed countries makes it even more interesting to find out those factors that can increase quality of life and the health of the population.

'The Mediterranean diet is an important factor associated with better quality of life and can be considered as a healthy food model.'

The study is published in the European Journal of
Clinical Nutrition.