Eating a 'true' Mediterranean diet can increase your chances of living longer. You are 22 per cent less likely to die from any disease, and it can even help repair some of the damage done if you're a smoker.
The only people who don't seem to benefit from the diet are those who are obese.
Despite the many years it's been championed, very few researchers have ever looked at the impact of the Mediterranean diet on people's longevity.
So a research team from the National Cancer Institute decided to find out by sending a questionnaire to 360,000 retired Americans, asking them about their diets, and general lifestyle choices and profiles, including their weight, age and whether they smoked.
Overall, 12,105 participants died in the five years of follow-up, with 5,985 people dying from cancer and 3,451 from heart disease. But those who carefully followed the diet reduced their risk of dying from any disease by 22 per cent, from cancer by 14 per cent, and from heart disease by 21 per cent.
But the closer the participants followed the diet, the better; those who ate plenty of fruit, vegetables and fish - and kept their meat intake to a minimum - fared best of all.
(Source: Archives of Internal Medicine, 2007; 167: 2461-8).