We've been told to eat a Mediterranean diet without always knowing why. Here's one important reason why. The foods in a Mediterranean diet can help you live longer. For the first time, a sound scientific study has found that a high-polyphenol diet can lower your risk of dying by a significant 30%.
Polyphenols are natural chemicals found in fruits, veggies, nuts, beans, coffee, tea, and grains. They're the foundation of a Mediterranean diet. These chemicals are high in antioxidants and are anti-carcinogenic and anti-inflammatory and, as you may remember, inflammation is present in just about all chronic illnesses. Plants contain more than 8,000 different phenolic compounds, so it isn't hard to find ways to consume them. And according to this research, you definitely should.
This study, published in the Journal of Nutrition, is the first one to look at dietary polyphenol intake by using a nutritional biomarker instead of just a food frequency questionnaire, which isn't an accurate way of measuring these chemicals. Questionnaires can easily contain incorrect information.
The researchers did a 12-year follow-up study on a group of 807 men and women aged 65 or older from Greve and Bagno in Tuscany, Italy. They were able to measure a nutritional biomarker, total urinary polyphenol concentration. Professor Christina Andrés Lacueva, study coordinator, explained, "The development and use of nutritional biomarkers enables [us] to make a more precise and, particularly, more objective estimation of intake as it is not only based on participants' memory when answering questionnaires."
These biomarkers also account for bioavailability and differences between people. That makes it easier to accurately assess the associations between food intake and mortality or disease risk. And the results were significant: a 30% reduction in mortality risk for the participants who consumed more than 650 mg of polyphenols a day versus the participants who consumed 500 mg a day or fewer. Eating 650 mg per day is fairly easy. Polyphenols are plentiful in all plant foods, including fruits, veggies, and even popcorn (which has 300 mg per serving).
Study author Raul Zamora Ros notes that "results corroborate scientific evidence suggesting that people consuming diets rich in fruit and vegetables are at lower risk of several chronic diseases and overall mortality." This is no doubt due, at least in part, to their anti-inflammatory effects. As Hippocrates said ages ago: Let food be your medicine, and medicine your food!
If you suspect you're not getting enough polyphenols or if you just want to boost the amount you're getting, consider making a breakfast smoothie with fruit and a scoop or two of Advanced Greens Formula. This formula contains whole fruits and veggies and is packed with polyphenols.
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R. Zamora-Ros, M. Rabassa, A. Cherubini, M. Urpi-Sarda, S. Bandinelli, L. Ferrucci, C. Andres-Lacueva. High Concentrations of a Urinary Biomarker of Polyphenol Intake Are Associated with Decreased Mortality in Older Adults. Journal of Nutrition, 2013; 143 (9): 1445 DOI: 10.3945/jn.113.177121
Universidad de Barcelona (2013, October 9). High dietary intake of polyphenols are associated with longevity. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 11, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131009111025.htm.