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Lasting benefits from lifestyle changes (Mediterranean diet and exercise). From Science Daily:

Mediterranean diets have lasting health benefits

The health benefits of switching to a Mediterranean style diet and upping the amount of time spent exercising for a period of just eight weeks can still be seen a year after stopping the regime, a new study has shown.

The research by Sheffield Hallam University and the University of Lincoln in the UK revealed that the diet and exercise combination leads to improved blood flow in cells in the inner lining of the blood vessels -- called the endothelial cells -- a full 12 months after completing participation in the intervention programme.

Endothelial cells line the interior of the entire vascular system of the human body -- from the large arteries to the smallest capillaries -- and improvements in their function could reduce the risk of people developing cardiovascular disease, the study said.

Researchers believe the long-term health benefits observed after such a short intervention could be due to molecular changes associated with the Mediterranean diet. Traditional Mediterranean cuisine is based on olive oil, fruit, vegetables and salad, fish, legumes, whole grain foods, wine and limited consumption of red meat.

The study focused on healthy people over the age of 50. Participants were originally assessed over an eight-week period.One group was encouraged to eat more vegetables, fruit, olive oil, tree nuts and fresh oily fish, as well as take up a moderate exercise regime, while the other just took up exercise alone.

The results showed more health improvements in the Mediterranean diet group than the exercise only group, which one year later, were still evident despite the lifestyle changes implemented during the study no longer being carefully followed.