Background: The Mediterranean diet has been suggested to play a beneficial role for health and longevity. However, to our knowledge, no prospective US study has investigated the Mediterranean dietary pattern in relation to mortality.
Methods: Study participants included 214,284 men and 166,012 women in the National Institutes of Health (NIH)-AARP (formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons) Diet and Health Study. During follow-up for all-cause mortality (1995-2005), 27,799 deaths were documented. In the first 5 years of follow-up, 5,985 cancer deaths and 3,451 cardiovascular disease (CVD) deaths were reported. We used a 9-point score to assess conformity with the Mediterranean dietary pattern (components included vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts, whole grains, fish, monounsaturated fat-saturated fat ratio, alcohol, and meat). We calculated hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) using age- and multivariate-adjusted Cox models.
Results: The Mediterranean diet was associated with reduced all-cause and cause-specific mortality. In men, the multivariate HRs comparing high to low conformity for all-cause, CVD, and cancer mortality were 0.79 (95% CI, 0.76-0.83), 0.78 (95% CI, 0.69-0.87), and 0.83 (95% CI, 0.76-0.91), respectively. In women, an inverse association was seen with high conformity with this pattern: decreased risks that ranged from 12% for cancer mortality to 20% for all-cause mortality (P = .04 and P < .001, respectively, for the trend). When we restricted our analyses to never smokers, associations were virtually unchanged.
Conclusion: These results provide strong evidence for a beneficial effect of higher conformity with the Mediterranean dietary pattern on risk of death from all causes, including deaths due to CVD and cancer, in a US population.