The Mediterranean diet celebrates natural, protein-rich eating and also allows for the occasional glass of wine. The Mediterranean diet celebrates natural, protein-rich eating and also allows for the occasional glass of wine. The Mediterranean diet celebrates natural, protein-rich eating and also allows for the occasional glass of wine. (Photo: rawpixel.com/Shutterstock)

This lifestyle change could save 20,000 lives every year

New research reveals the diet that helps people live longer, healthier lives.

If there was strong scientific evidence that changing your diet could save your life, would you do it?

Well, sit tight, because that evidence has arrived. A long-term study in the United Kingdom suggested that adhering to a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, fish and olive oil – commonly known as the Mediterranean diet – could reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease by up to 16 percent.

If that percentage wasn't enough to make you put down that Big Mac, consider this: The study, published this week in the BMC Medicine Journal after analyzing about 24,000 people in the city of Norfolk for up to 17 years, suggests that almost 20,000 people's deaths across the U.K. could have been prevented if they'd adopted this protein-rich, plant-heavy diet.

fish, nuts, olive oilFoods like fish, nuts, avocado and olive oil are essential components of the Mediterranean diet. (Photo: Tina Larsson/Shutterstock)

"Greater adherence to the Mediterranean diet was associated with lower CVD [cardiovascular disease] incidence and mortality in the U.K.," the study's authors wrote. "This diet has an important population health impact for the prevention of CVD."

This study is yet another solid piece of evidence of the seemingly endless stream of benefits of the diet – which is popular in countries like Italy, Greece and Israel. Previous studies have made similar associations to the diet's positive impact on cholesterol and blood pressure. Researchers last year found that people in Greece who followed the Mediterranean diet were 47 percent less likely to develop heart disease over a 10-year period.

An Israeli woman buys vegetables on Jan 22 2010 in Tel Aviv. A woman buys vegetables at a market in Tel Aviv, Israel. Research says a diet rich in healthy fats like avocado and fish is actually cheaper than a typical Western diet. (Photo: ChameleonsEye/Shutterstock)

Furthermore, a study of Italian and Swiss citizens found that women who adhere closely to the diet can cut their chances of developing uterine cancer by more than half. And if that weren't promising enough, the diet has also been associated with the prevention of cognitive decline.

Thinking about making this diet yours? We've got plenty of tips to get you started, like a conveniently categorized guide to overhauling your pantry, plenty of recipes that celebrate the bounty of the Mediterranean region, and our foodie-centered list of the best Mediterranean cookbooks.

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