by STEPHEN HULL
A Mediterranean diet rich in cheese, nuts and olive oil can protect against heart disease and cancer, new research shows.
A study of 22,000 Greeks showed that large amounts of the foods, combined with fresh fruit and vegetables, cut the chance of death from heart disease by 33 percent.
The risk of dying from cancer was 24 percent lower.
The diet, which varies from country to country, often includes monthly servings of meat and weekly meals of poultry, eggs and sweets.
Vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, olive oil, unrefined cereals, cheese and yogurt are eaten most days, as is fish.
Wine is enjoyed frequently, but in moderate amounts.
Although olive oil is widely credited with many of the diet's benefits, the research, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, did not find any one specific food in the diet was responsible for the improvement in health.
Dr Frank Hu of Brigham and Women's Hospital, in Boston, said the study showed it was more a case of combining particular nutrients or foods which somehow interact to reduce the risks of cancer and heart disease.
Daily physical activity also played a critical role in cutting death rates, the study found.
People who exercised daily for at least an hour had a 28 percent lower risk of cancer or heart disease.