A comprehensive review of the world's literature, covering research in PubMed, Embase, Web of Science, and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials from 1966 to 2008, shows that eating a Mediterranean diet prolongs life and prevents heart attacks, cancer, Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease (British Medical Journal, September 2008).
The combined studies included more than 1.5 million people followed for up to eighteen years. The reviewers analyzed total diet, rather than individual components of diet, because "the analyses of single nutrients ignore important interactions between components of a diet and because people do not eat isolated nutrients."
The Mediterranean diet contains abundant amounts of fruits, vegetables (including olives), whole grains, beans, seeds, nuts, fish, and up to two glasses of red wine a day. It does not include red meat and has only small amounts of dairy products (cheese).
In studies analyzing single components in the diet, eating red meat is associated with premature death, heart attacks, strokes, at least 23 different cancers, and arthritis. Not eating lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, seeds and nuts is associated with the same diseases. The more different vegetables you eat, the longer you live. Fish eaters live longer than people who do not eat fish.
It is sad that the Western Diet has reached Greece, where three-quarters of the adult population is overweight and the incidence of diabetes, heart disease and arthritis approaches that found in North America. The Mediterranean populations are sacrificing their health to the convenience and taste of "fast food" instead of following their traditional diet. List of the most recent (2009) studies supporting the Mediterranean diet