Health Studies

Mediterranean Diet Decreases Risk of Frailty in Aging Adults

The Mediterranean diet stands the test of time! As part of a prospective cohort study in Spain, researchers assessed 1815 community dwelling older adults for adherence to the Mediterranean diet and measures of frailty (including exhaustion, muscle weakness, low physical activity, slow walking speed, and weight loss). The researchers found that greater adherence to the Mediterranean diet was significantly associated with a decreased risk of frailty. The study also found that reduced frailty risk was related with increased fruit consumption and fish consumption.
Journal of the American Medical Directors Association. 2014 Aug 7 (Leon-Munoz LM et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Reduces Risk of Cognitive Decline

Just because you don’t live in the Mediterranean, doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from the Mediterranean diet. An Australian study followed 527 healthy older adults (average age=69 years) in 3 different dietary pattern groups (Australian-style Mediterranean, Prudent/healthy, and Western) over a 3-year period. Researchers found that in participants with genetic predisposition to Alzheimers disease (APoE4 allele carriers), high adherence to the Australian-style Mediterranean diet (high in fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, and fish) was associated with better executive function, the set of mental processes used in planning, strategizing, remembering details, and managing time and space.
Molecular Psychiatry. 2014 July 29. [Epub ahead of print] (Gardener SL et al.) 

Med Diet Associated with Healthy Aging

A new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine demonstrates that eating a Mediterranean Diet is associated with greater health and well-being in older age. The study analyzed food frequency questionnaires collected between 1984 and 1986 from 10,670 women in their late 50s and early 60s with no major chronic diseases. Fifteen years later researchers again collected data from the same women and found that those who had adhered to a Mediterranean Diet in middle age were about 40% more likely to live past 70 and to have avoided 11 chronic diseases measured in the study including many cancers, type 2 diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease. Those who most closely followed a Med Diet also were more likely to age without physical disabilities, signs of cognitive impairment, or mental health problems.
Annals of Internal Medicine. 2013; 159(9): 584-591. (Samieri, et al.)

Mediterranean Diet and Bone Health in the Elderly

A group of scientists in France looked at the relationship between following a Mediterranean diet and fractures in a group of 1,400 elderly people from Bordeaux, France. Researchers collected information on diet and used it to measure how closely they were following the Mediterranean diet. After analyzing the reported fractures and comparing this with adherence to a Mediterranean diet they found no relationship between the two.
Osteoperosis International. [Epub June 20, 2013] (Feart et al.)

Aging, Depression, and the Mediterranean Diet

A group of investigators from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago conducted a study among participants of the Chicago Health and Aging Project (CHAP) into the relationship between the Mediterranean diet and depression among older adults. They found that in this large, biracial community greater adherence to a Mediterranean pattern of eating including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fish and legumes, was associated with a decreased likelihood of developing depressive symptoms over time. The link between the Mediterranean diet and mental health may be found in a number of dietary components of the diet like B-vitamins, antioxidant nutrients, and fat components.
The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging. 2013; 17(5):441-445. (Skarupski et al.)

Mediterranean Diet, Cognitive Function and Dementia

A group in the UK conducted a systematic review of the literature currently available concerning the possible relationship between the Mediterranean diet, cognitive function and dementia. After analyzing the available research they found that most published studies (9 out of 12) suggest greater adherence to a Mediterranean diet is associated with slower mental decline and decreased risk for Alzheimer’s disease. More research is needed to clarify the relationship of the Med Diet with vascular dementia and mild cognitive impairment.
Epidemiology. 2013; 24(4):479-489. (Lourida et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Reduces Expression of Inflammation Gene in Elderly

Atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, has been linked with chronic low-grade inflammation, and such inflammation has been tied, in part, to fats in the diet. Scientists at the University of Córdoba, Spain, asked 20 healthy elderly adults to follow three different diets for three weeks each, and compared their bodies' expressions of a gene linked to inflammation under each diet. They found that consumption of a Mediterranean Diet reduced post-meal inflammation more than the other two diets (a saturated fat-rich diet or a low-fat, high-carb diet enriched with Omega 2 polyunsaturated fats). The researchers stated that "these findings may be partly responsible for the lower CVD risk found in populations with a high adherence to the Med Diet."
British Journal of Nutrition
, November 15, 2011;1-9 [Epub ahead of print] (Camargo et al.)

Elderly Women Stay Independent Longer, with Med Diet

We all want to live to a ripe old age, without pain and disability. While previous studies have shown that greater adherence to a Mediterranean Diet is linked to longer life and reduced risk for cognitive problems, scientists in France set out to study whether the Med Diet could also contribute to seniors' ability to fend off physical disability and live independently longer. To do so, they followed 1410 elderly adults for more than five years. While they did not find a link for men, the researchers found that women eating a diet closest to the traditional Med pattern enjoyed a 50% lower risk of being unable to take care of their own daily needs.

European Journal of Epidemiology, August 28, 2011 [Epub ahead of print]

Women Live Longer with the Mediterranean Diet

Researchers at Maastricht University in the Netherlands followed a group of 120,852 men and women for ten years, starting when the group was 55-69 years old. They assessed each person on four factors – adherence to the Mediterranean Diet, non-smoking, normal weight, and regular physical activity – to learn which factors helped people to live longer. Scoring high on all four factors was strongly related to reduced mortality, adding an estimated 8.4 years to men's lives and 15 years to women's lives. Among women, adherence to the Med Diet in particular was significantly related to lower mortality.

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, July 27, 2011 [Epub ahead of print]

Countering the Effect of Depression in Elderly Heart Attack Patients

Many studies have found links between heart disease and depression. Researchers in Greece set out to study whether elderly patients (mean age 75 years) admitted to the hospital for acute heart disease were more likely to suffer another cardiovascular incident within 30 days if they exhibited symptoms of depression. The scientists did, in fact, find that depressive symptoms heightened the risk of this type of relapse, but that higher adherence to the Mediterranean Diet erased the association.

Cardiology Research and Practice, 2011: 429487 [Epub May 9, 2011]

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