Mediterranean Diet May Reduce Risk of Frailty in Older Adults

New findings suggest that a diet consisting mainly of plant-based foods with low to moderate amounts of fish and poultry kept people independent and healthy as they aged.

By Julie Al-Zoubi
Jan. 22, 2018 12:35 UTC

A recent University College London-led study found that fol­low­ing a Mediterranean diet that is rich in olive oil, fruit, veg­eta­bles, whole grains and nuts may reduce the risk of frailty in older adults.

The study revealed that peo­ple who fas­tid­i­ously fol­lowed the Mediterranean diet were gen­er­ally around 50 per­cent less likely to become frail over a near four-year period than those who were care­less about adher­ing to the diet.

Our find­ings would sup­port the con­sump­tion of olive oil as part of a Mediterranean type of diet as being poten­tially pro­tec­tive for your health in older peo­ple.- Kate Walters, University College London

The researchers con­ducted a sys­tem­atic review and meta-analy­sis of four pub­lished stud­ies that exam­ined the asso­ci­a­tion between stick­ing to a Mediterranean diet and the devel­op­ment of frailty in older peo­ple. 5,789 peo­ple over the age of 60 were ana­lyzed. The par­tic­i­pants lived in France, Spain, Italy and China.

Their find­ings sug­gested that a diet con­sist­ing mainly of plant-based foods with low to mod­er­ate amounts of fish and poul­try kept peo­ple inde­pen­dent and healthy as they aged.

Kate Walters, senior author of the study told Olive Oil Times, All the stud­ies included used the Mediterranean Diet Score to mea­sure the dif­fer­ent com­po­nents of the diet. The con­sump­tion of olive oil is one of the com­po­nents of this score, and the major­ity of those who score highly on this mea­sure (in the 6 – 9 range which in our find­ings have half the risk of becom­ing frail over nearly 4 years com­pared to those with the low­est score) will con­sume above aver­age amounts (the median score for that pop­u­la­tion) of olive oil within their diet.”

Walters added, We are unable to say which com­po­nent of the Mediterranean diet is pro­tec­tive from our research, but our find­ings would sup­port the con­sump­tion of olive oil as part of a Mediterranean type of diet as being poten­tially pro­tec­tive for your health in older peo­ple.”

The diet stud­ied was based on typ­i­cal eat­ing habits of peo­ple from Greece and Southern Italy in the 1960s and included low to mod­er­ate amounts of wine but was low in sat­u­rated fat and sugar. This type of diet has already been asso­ci­ated with numer­ous health ben­e­fits includ­ing lower inci­dences of car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease, dia­betes and decreased rates of can­cer.

In her report, Walters con­cluded, Nutrition is thought to play a cru­cial role in devel­op­ing frailty and we found that the Mediterranean diet may help older indi­vid­u­als main­tain mus­cle strength, activ­ity, weight, and energy lev­els.”

Frailty is com­mon among older peo­ple and leads to lack of energy, weight loss and weak mus­cle strength. It is asso­ci­ated with lower qual­ity of life and can lead to falls, frac­tures, dis­abil­ity, demen­tia and pre­ma­ture death.

Lead researcher, Gotaro Kojima added, Our study sup­ports the grow­ing body of evi­dence on the poten­tial health ben­e­fits of a Mediterranean diet, in our case for poten­tially help­ing older peo­ple to stay well as they age.”

While the study showed that older peo­ple who fol­lowed a Mediterranean diet had a lower risk of becom­ing frail it is unclear if any other char­ac­ter­is­tics of the par­tic­i­pants may have increased their pro­tec­tion. The researchers con­cluded that fur­ther research is needed to deter­mine exactly how much fol­low­ing a Mediterranean diet can reduce the risk of frailty.

The study was adjusted to account for many of the major fac­tors that could influ­ence the results includ­ing age, gen­der, social class, smok­ing, alco­hol con­sump­tion, amount of exer­cise and any exist­ing health con­di­tions. Other fac­tors may not have been accounted for or mea­sured.

An ear­lier study also con­cluded that adher­ence to a Mediterranean diet reduced the risk of frailty in older French adults.


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