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THE QUESTION: Does adhering to a Mediterranean diet — featuring lots of fruit, vegetables, nuts, grains and fish, and little meat and dairy products — lengthen lives?

THIS STUDY: It analyzed data on 380,296 people who averaged 62 years old and were free of chronic diseases. In a 10-year span, 27,799 of them died. The more that people had conformed to a Mediterranean-style diet, the less likely they were to have died during this time.

Men who followed the diet most closely were 21 percent less likely to have died for any reason, including cancer and heart disease, than were those who did not follow the diet; women were 22 percent less likely.

WHO MAY BE AFFECTED? Older people. The typical American consumes fewer fruits, vegetables and grains and more salt, sugar and saturated fat than health experts recommend. Many blame this eating pattern, along with minimal exercise, for an increasing number of overweight people with chronic health problems.

CAVEATS: Data on foods consumed came from questionnaires completed by the study participants. The study did not list precise causes of death.

FIND THIS STUDY: It's in the Dec. 10/24 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

LEARN MORE ABOUT the Mediterranean diet at www.americanheart.org; learn about healthy eating at www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines.