Background: Adherence to a traditional Mediterranean diet has been associated with lower mortality and cardiovascular disease risk. The relative importance of diet compared to other lifestyle factors and effects of dietary patterns over time remains unknown.
Methods: We used the parametric G-formula to account for time-dependent confounding, in order to assess the relative importance of diet compared to other lifestyle factors and effects of dietary patterns over time. We included healthy Melbourne Collaborative Cohort Study participants attending a visit during 1995-1999. Questionnaires assessed diet and physical activity at each of three study waves. Deaths were identified by linkage to national registries. We estimated mortality risk over approximately 14 years (1995-2011).
Results: Of 22,213 participants, 2163 (9.7%) died during 13.6 years median follow-up. Sustained high physical activity and adherence to a Mediterranean-style diet resulted in an estimated reduction in all-cause mortality of 1.82 per 100 people (95% confidence interval (CI): 0.03, 3.6). The population attributable fraction was 13% (95% CI: 4, 23%) for sustained high physical activity, 7% (95% CI: - 3, 17%) for sustained adherence to a Mediterranean-style diet and 18% (95% CI: 0, 36%) for their combination.
Conclusions: A small reduction in mortality may be achieved by sustained elevated physical activity levels in healthy middle-aged adults, but there may be comparatively little gain from increasing adherence to a Mediterranean-style diet.
Keywords: G-computation; G-methods; Parametric G-formula; Time-varying confounding.