Milwaukee The secret to long life may be a Mediterranean-style diet along with exercise and a little alcohol, according to a new study.
The study, one of the first to look at the individual and combined effects of diet and lifestyle in older people, found a 23 percent reduction in overall deaths during a 10-year period among those who adhered to a Mediterranean diet.
Similar reductions in deaths also were found among those who consumed moderate amounts of alcohol, primarily wine, at 22 percent lower; engaged in regular physical activity, 37 percent; and did not smoke, 35 percent.
Those who combined all four -- diet, alcohol, exercise and not smoking -- saw a 65 percent reduction in overall deaths, according to the study published today in the Journal of the American Medical Assn.
Nearly the entire issue of JAMA was devoted to studies on the beneficial effects of diet and exercise, including one that found that walking two miles a day significantly reduced the risk of dementia in older men.
"These are just remarkable studies," said Diana Kerwin, an assistant professor of medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin. "This shows that at age 70, you can add some lifestyle habits and still impact your longevity."
Several earlier studies have showed a connection between exercise and improved brain health later in life.
"I think diet and lifestyle play an important role in longevity. Even in old age, it matters if you consume a Mediterranean diet, consume moderate alcohol, are physically active and don't smoke," said Kim Knoops, lead author of the Mediterranean diet study and a researcher with the division of human nutrition at Wageningen University in the Netherlands.
The reductions came from lower rates of death from heart disease, cancer and other causes.
A Mediterranean diet was defined as one that emphasized whole grains, fish, nuts, leugmes, olive oil, fruits, and vegetables and potatoes, but not meat and dairy products.