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Mediterranean Diet Linked with Healthier Gut Microbiome in Aging

Some of the worlds healthiest, longest lived people follow a Mediterranean diet, so researchers wonder about the mechanism behind its link with healthy aging. In this study, researchers analyzed the gut microbiome of 612 older European adults before starting a Mediterranean diet, and then after 1 year of following a Mediterranean diet. Those who followed the Mediterranean diet most closely had significant differences in their gut microbiome, including microbes associated with lower risk of frailty, better brain function, and lower inflammation.
Gut. 2020 Jul;69(7):1218-1228. doi: 10.1136/gutjnl-2019-319654. Epub 2020 Feb 17.

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Better Lung Function in Aging

Lung function gradually declines with aging, but certain lifestyle changes may be able preserve lung function for a longer period of time. In a study of more than 2,000 adults ages 50+, those most closely following a Mediterranean diet had better lung function (as measured by peak expiratory flow rate) than those not following a Mediterranean diet, even after adjusting for factors like age, smoking history, and physical activity. When looking at specific foods, grains, dairy foods, and fish were all linked with better lung function.
Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2020 Mar 23:1-6. doi: 10.1080/07315724.2020.1740114. [Epub ahead of print] (Papassotiriou I et al.)

Healthy Diets Like Mediterranean Diet Linked with Lower Risk of Hearing Loss

Conversations, TVs at normal volume, and most social activities occur at mid-range frequency of sound. Therefore, mid-range hearing loss can make it difficult to communicate in day-to-day life. In this study, researchers followed 3,135 women who were an average of 59 years old and followed them for 3 years assessing their eating habits and hearing capability. Those most closely following a Mediterranean diet, a general healthy diet (as measured by the Alternate Healthy Eating Index), or a DASH Diet (a diet for healthy blood pressure that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy) were 23-28%, 23-28%, and 25-29% less likely, respectively, to develop mid-range hearing loss than those not following those diets. The relationship with low-frequency and high-frequency hearing loss was not statistically significant. 
American Journal of Epidemiology. 2019 Oct 14. pii: kwz223. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwz223. (Curtain SG et al.)

Healthy Diet in Midlife Linked with Lower Risk of Cognitive Impairment Later in Life

Eating a healthy diet in mid-life can pay dividends in later decades. In this study, researchers analyzed the eating habits of 16,948 middle-aged adults in China, then assessed their brain function 20 years later. Those most closely following a Mediterranean diet or a Plant-Based Diet were 33% and 18% less likely to have cognitive impairment than those not following those diets. Other healthy diets, including the DASH diet and the alternative Healthy Eating Index, were also linked with significantly lower risks of cognitive impairment.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2019 Oct 1;110(4):912-920. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqz150. (Wu J et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Improvements in Brain Function in Adults Age 70+

What nourishes your body can also help nourish your brain as well. In this study, researchers analyzed the eating habits and brain function of more than 1,400 older adults. In the adults aged at least 70 years old, closely following a Mediterranean diet was linked with improvements in global cognitive function, visual-spatial organization, memory, scanning, and tracking. However, the results were not statistically significant in the adults younger than age 70, or in the group as a whole.
Nutritional Neuroscience. 2019 Aug 21. doi: 10.1080/1028415X.2019.1655201. (Wade AT et al.)

Mediterranean Diet in Young Adulthood Linked with Healthier Brain in Middle Age

Eat a nutritious diet while you’re young, and your brain may thank you later. Scientists analyzed the diets of 2,621 young adults (average age: 25) and then assessed their brain health 25 & 30 years later (average ages: 50 & 55, respectively). Those most closely following a Mediterranean diet in young adulthood had a significantly lower decline in cognitive function than those not following a Mediterranean diet.
Neurology. 2019 Mar 6. pii: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000007243. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000007243. [Epub ahead of print] (McEvoy CT et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Better Brain Health in Adults at Risk for Alzheimer's

Numerous studies have observed a link between the Mediterranean Diet and slower cognitive decline, but researchers wonder how this might relate to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. To better understand diet’s relationship with Alzheimer’s pathology, scientists analyzed the eating patterns and buildup of Aβ (small pieces of protein that can accumulate in the brain, potentially creating plaques and causing brain cells to be destroyed) in 77 older adults who were already on the path to Alzheimer’s disease (by being flagged as being Aβ accumulators). Those most closing following a Mediterranean diet had significantly less Aβ accumulation over time, with fruit standing out as a particularly beneficial food. The authors suggest that improving your Mediterranean diet score by just 1 point (0-9 point scale) may result in a 20% decrease in Aβ accumulation over 1 year, and up to a 60% decrease over 3 years.
Translational Psychiatry. 2018 Oct 30;8(1):238. doi: 10.1038/s41398-018-0293-5. (Rainey-Smith SR et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Prolonged Survival in Elderly

The Mediterranean Diet is well known for its links with longevity, but researchers wonder if this protective effect might apply to an elderly population as well. In a study of 5,200 older adults in Italy (ages 65+), researchers found that those most closely following a Mediterranean diet were significantly less likely to die over the 8-year study period. In fact, each 1-point increase in the Mediterranean Diet Score (0-9 point scale) was linked with a 4-7% lower risk of death from all causes over the 8 years.
British Journal of Nutrition. 2018 Aug 30:1-14. doi: 10.1017/S0007114518002179. [Epub ahead of print] (Bonaccio M et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Healthy DNA in Women

If your DNA is a shoelace, telomeres are the plastic endcaps, that protect it. Shorter telomeres are linked with many age-related diseases, such as heart disease and cancer. To see how diet relates to telomere length, scientists analyzed the eating habits and telomere length of 4,758 adults in the US. Most closely following a Mediterranean diet (or other similar healthy diets, like the DASH diet or Healthy Eating Index) was associated with significantly longer telomere length in women, but not in men. 
American Journal of Epidemiology.  2018 Jun 15. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwy124. [Epub ahead of print] (Leung CW et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Lower Risk of Agility and Mobility Problems in Aging

Maintaining healthy physical function is important to help seniors live comfortably and independently as they age. To see if diet relates to physical function, researchers analyzed the eating patterns and physical function of 1,630 seniors (ages 60+) in Spain. Those most closely following a Mediterranean Diet (as measured by MEDAS, the Mediterranean Diet Adherence Screener) were 33% less likely to have problems with agility, 31% less likely to have problems with mobility, and 40% less likely to have decreased overall physical function. Note that when eating patterns were analyzed by MDS (the Mediterranean Diet Score, which is less thorough then MEDAS, as it covers fewer foods and doesn’t have specific cut-off points for each food group), the relationship was only statistically significant for physical functioning.
The Journals of Gerontology. 2018 Mar 2;73(3):333-339. (Struijk EA et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Healthy Aging

When it comes to aging healthfully, no eating pattern quite stacks up to the Mediterranean diet. In this study, researchers analyzed the eating patterns of more than 3,000 middle-aged French adults who were free of chronic disease and monitored their health over the next 15 years. Those most closely following a Mediterranean diet in middle age were significantly more likely to age healthfully, meaning that they were free of chronic disease, depression and pain, were able to live independently.
The Journals of Gerontology: Series A.  2018 Mar 2;73(3):347-354. (Assmann KE et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Related to Life Satisfaction, Physical Function, and Improved Health in Older Adults

The Mediterranean diet is good for our physical health, but new studies show that the Mediterranean diet might also be good for our mental health. To see how the Mediterranean diet relates to quality of life, researchers analyzed the eating patterns and health factors of 351 older Spanish adults (ages 60+). Participants who most closely followed a Mediterranean diet were more physically active and had significantly better health-related quality of life. In both men and women, following a Mediterranean diet was linked with better mental function. Among men, those most closely following a Mediterranean diet were more likely to have healthy blood sugar and cholesterol levels, as well as improved physical function. Among women, those most closely following a Mediterranean diet were more likely to have better life satisfaction. 
The Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging. 2018;22(1):89-96. (Zaragoza-Marti A et al.)

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