According to a new study published online in the medical journal Thorax, following a Mediterranean diet may halve the chance of men developing any one of several lung ailments such as emphysema and bronchitis, collectively called Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). The study bolsters the idea that sticking to a diet that includes the moderate consumption of wine, particularly with meals, is associated with better overall health and, perhaps, a longer life.
"The higher the compliance with a Mediterranean diet, the lower the risk of developing COPD," concluded the study, led by Dr. Raphaëlle Varraso of the Harvard School of Public Health. "Conversely, the higher the compliance with the Western diet, the higher was the risk of developing COPD."
The study used a large portion of participants from the U.S. Health Professionals Follow up Study (HPHS), which began in 1986. That 12-year study, which ended in 1998, followed men who work in the medical profession, such as dentists, physicians or veterinarians. Throughout the course of the study, volunteers answered questions every two years about incidences of diseases, smoking habits, physical activity and medications taken. Detailed dietary questionnaires were administered in four-year intervals.
For the Thorax research, the scientists chose to look at the possible impact of lifestyle decision on risk of COPD--an umbrella term for lung diseases that swell the airways--since "it is expected to become the third leading cause of death worldwide by 2020," the authors wrote.
The medical men were separated into two categories: those who followed a Mediterranean diet and those who ate a diet that was rich in processed foods, refined sugar and cured and red meats--which the researchers called a "Western" diet. The researchers found that the Mediterranean diet was associated with a 50 percent lower risk of developing COPD than the Western diet. In addition, men who ate a predominantly Western diet were more than four times as likely to develop COPD, after taking into account other influences such as age and smoking.
And while the responsible consumption of wine is an integral part of the Mediterranean diet in adults, it also shows potential for children who follow an alcohol-free version of the diet. Another study, published online in Thorax the first week of April, found that 690 children living in Crete, aged seven to 18 years, had healthier respiratory tracts when they followed a non-wine Mediterranean diet closely.
In that study, 80 percent of the children ate fresh fruit and 68 percent ate vegetables at least twice a day. The children also ate nuts and consumed very low levels of Margarine, and were at the lowest risk of developing respiratory ailments.
"Our data suggests a beneficial effect of commonly consumed fruits, vegetables and nuts, and of a high adherence to a traditional Mediterranean diet during childhood on symptoms of asthma and rhinitis," the authors wrote. "Diet may explain the relative lack of allergic symptoms in this population," they added, even though, for reasons of youth, wine was not consumed.
Previous research has found that Greeks who ate a Mediterranean diet, which rarely contains dairy and focuses on fresh produce, grains, nuts, fish and wine, showed a 25 percent lower risk of deadly diseases. The diet has also been associated with longer life in another European study, as well as with a 40 percent lower risk of cognitive decline in New Yorkers in another body of research.
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