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Mediterranean Diet Improves Symptoms of Depression in Young Men 11/09/22
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All Health and Nutrition Bites


Fast Food and Depression
There's been a fair amount of research into depression and diet, mostly focusing on the Mediterranean Diet in general, one component of it (olive oil) or looking at specific nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids and B vitamins. All of these are associated with a reduced risk of depression.

Healthier and Happier
We've seen that low levels of dehydration can affect people's mood - causing higher levels of anger or hostility, fatigue, and feeling that a given task is more difficult to perform (Drink Water, Feel Better 2/29/12). Following a Mediterranean-style diet also appears to be good for your mood, improving feelings of contentedness, vigor and alertness (Mediterranean Diet Good for More Than Your Physical Health 1/19/11).

Mediterranean Diet Good for More Than Your Physical Health
If you've been following Dr. Gourmet for a while you know that following a Mediterranean-style Diet can help reduce your risk of many chronic diseases, from heart disease to cancer, and help you manage or improve such conditions as diabetes and poor cholesterol scores. We also know that it may help reduce your risk of neurological conditions such as Alzheimer's Disease and Parkinson's Disease. 


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Mediterranean Diet and Quality of Life

We know that following a Mediterranean style diet can help prevent a number of chronic diseases and conditions - from improving insulin levels and cholesterol scores to preventing heart attack and stroke. But health is more than just lack of disease - it's also about quality of life.

It might sound pretty hard to quantify one's quality of life, but researchers at the RAND Corporation have taken a stab at it by developing what is known as the SF-36, or Short Form Health Survey (36 being the number of questions). The survey is divided into several sections, with sample questions as follows:

  • "Do you feel full of pep?"
  • "Does your health limit you in... lifting or carrying groceries?"
  • "How much bodily pain have you had during the past 4 weeks?"
  • "In general, would you say your health is...."
  • "Have you felt so down in the dumps that nothing could cheer you up?"

These are designed to measure both physical as well as mental well-being.

Researchers in Spain noted that the Mediterranean Diet had a significant impact on physical health. Was it also related to an improved quality of life?

They made use of data gathered during a long-term study of university graduates in Navarra, Spain (Eur J Clin Nutr 2012;66(3):360-368). Over 11,000 men and women participated in responding to detailed food questionnaires as well as taking the SF-36. After four years of followup the researchers assigned each participant a Mediterranean Diet score of 0-9, with 9 being high adherence and 0 being a more Western-style diet. They then correlated the participants' Mediterranean Diet scores with their scores on the SF-36.

Unsurprisingly, they found that those with a higher Mediterranean Diet score indicated a higher physical qualtity of life. They also reported a better emotional quality of life, although the association was not as strong.

What's interesting is when the researchers looked at those whose adherence to the Mediterranean style diet changed over the four years of the study. Increasing one's Mediterranean Diet score by as little as one point meant an a fairly significant increase in both their physical and emotional quality of life. The exact amount is hard to quantify - these are very subjective states, after all - but the increase in scores was as little as 10% and as much as 50%.

What this means for you

More research will need to be done over a longer term, but these findings are certainly intriguing. Live healthier - and it appears you'll also live better - by improving your Mediterranean Diet score by 1 or more points. Here's a guide to the Mediterranean Diet, with a downloadable score card for you to assess your current diet and tips for ways to improve your score.

First posted: June 6, 2012