When you think of the Mediterranean these days, the region’s azure waters, rich history, and lively cultures may not come to mind. Instead, you may first think of the Mediterranean diet. This heart- and brain-healthy diet includes olive oil, fruits, vegetables, nuts and fish; occasional red meat; and a moderate amount of cheese and wine. Most doctors and nutrition experts I interview for the Harvard Health Letter tell me that the evidence points to a Mediterranean diet as the very best for our health. But there’s another diet that appears to be equally good: a vegetarian diet.
A study published this week in JAMA Internal Medicine found that people who ate a vegetarian diet were 12% less likely to have died over the course of the five-year study than nonvegetarians. The researchers, from Loma Linda University in California, noted that the benefits of a vegetarian diet were especially good for men, who had a significant reduction in heart disease. Keep in mind that the study couldn’t prove that a vegetarian diet caused good health—it’s possible that it was something else that vegetarians did and nonvegetarians didn’t do that made the difference.