A few weeks ago, the EURECA-PRO conference was held in Chania, presenting research results on the Mediterranean diet and the health benefits of its use. Based on data collected over 25 years, it was found that regions where the Mediterranean diet plays a leading role are characterized by lower rates of mortality and the occurrence of chronic diseases. Crete topped the list of places with the lowest mortality from heart disease.
The conference was organized by the Technical University of Crete and was attended by over 200 scientists, specialists and experts dealing with responsible consumption and production from many European countries.
The benefits of the Mediterranean diet and the results of long-term research were presented by Mrs. Antonia Trichopoulou, known as the "mother of the Mediterranean diet". She is professor emeritus of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Athens and president of the Hellenic Health Foundation. Her area of expertise is the impact of the Mediterranean diet on health.
Trichopoulou first presented an extensive analysis of the composition of the Mediterranean diet and misconceptions about the quality of its individual elements. Trichopoulou emphasized that when arranging the appropriate proportions of dietary ingredients, it is necessary to distinguish between green and starchy vegetables because their amount must be different in everyday consumption.
Trichopoulou then presented extensive research on the low mortality rates in areas where people generally follow the principles of the Mediterranean diet. In studies conducted over 25 years in many European countries, the region with the lowest mortality rates from heart disease was Crete. Taking the highest place on this list is probably the best proof of the effectiveness of using Mediterranean cuisine.
However, this is not the only benefit of using this diet. In areas where people eat according to the rules of this diet, there are fewer chronic diseases, fewer cases of cancer, and, as a result, life expectancy increases.
Here you can refer to the recently published Eurostat results. In 2021, life expectancy in Greece was 80.2 years, roughly the same as the average in the European Union (80.1 years). For women, life expectancy was also 5.5 years longer than for men.
However, in Greece there are significant differences in the life expectancy of women and men depending on the region they live in. For example, in Thrace, Macedonia, Central Greece and the Western Peloponnese, life expectancy for men ranges from 76.4 to 77.6 years and for women between 83 and 83.4 years.
In the Ionian Islands, the average life expectancy for men is 78.1 years and for women 83.4 years. Data from Crete show that men live on average to 79.1 years and women to 83.4 years.
Only the inhabitants of the north-eastern Aegean live longer: men live to 80.5 years, and women to 85.4 years.
Unfortunately, despite the noticeable and confirmed health benefits of using the Mediterranean diet, Professor Trichopoulou also emphasized at the conference that the new generation is currently distancing itself from this lifestyle and all its consequences. Although this diet is recognized all over the world as very healthy, it seems that in certain age groups it is less popular than other eating styles. So it appears that, over time, the positive life expectancy statistics that have been developed by previous generations may not be maintained by today's younger Cretans.