Mediterranean diet propels Italy to top spot on list of world’s healthiest nations

Olives and wine: the keys to a long life?
Image: SEAN GALLUP/Getty Images

Special shout-out to my octogenarian cousins still living it up in the Italian hillside.

The Mediterranean nation was ranked the world’s healthiest country in the Bloomberg Global Health Index.

The index, released on Monday, graded 163 countries based on variables such as life expectancy, causes of death and health risks such as high blood pressure, malnutrition, the availability of clean water and tobacco use.

Italians are in better shape than their peers in other developed nations, with lower blood pressure and cholesterol, Bloomberg found. Those two factors are likely attributed to the classic Italian diet that’s rich in vegetables, extra virgin olive oil, lean meats and fish (and so, so many carbs).

Image: bloomberg global health index

Italy is also brimming with doctors, who seem to be keeping busy even as millions of workers struggle to find jobs. In Italy’s stagnating economy, the unemployment rate hit about 12 percent in December, with youth unemployment rising to around 40 percent.

Thanks to healthy lifestyles, quality health care and relative political stability, babies born in Italy today can expect to live to be in their 80s, according to the index.

But babies in countries at the bottom of the ranking will have roughly 30 fewer years on Earth. In Sierra Leone, the average newborn will die by 52. The West African nation is considered among the poorest in the world, and only 60 percent of people there have access to safe drinking water, contributing to the spread of diseases.

A separate report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OCED) puts Italy slightly lower on the life expectancy ranking.

Babies in Japan, Spain and Switzerland had higher life expectancies at birth, though only by a hair.

Still, Bloomberg’s list is hardly the final word on which nations are relatively healthy, or unhealthy. Within each nation, the growing disparity between rich and poor means that while some families have access to health care and fresh foods, many others don’t.

In the United States, for instance, the poorest states Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and West Virginia are also considered among the least healthy, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nationwide, the U.S. maternal mortality rate is actually rising, despite the overwhelming global trend in the opposite direction.

On the Bloomberg list, the U.S. landed in 34th place, with a health grade of 73.05 out of 100, compared to Italy’s grade of 93.11.

VIA: http://mashable.com/