Mediterranean Diet Prolongs Life of Seniors

The higher consumption of monounsaturated fat and the lower consumption of saturated fat is one of the main factors behind the longevity benefit of the Mediterranean diet.

Sep. 12, 2018
By Mary West

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A study from Italy found the key to a longer life might lie in fol­low­ing the Mediter­ranean diet (Med­Diet). Senior par­tic­i­pants whose eat­ing plan most closely adhered to the diet had a 25-per­cent less like­li­hood of death from any cause com­pared to those who adhered to the diet a lit­tle or not at all.

Among the food items included in a Med­Diet, a higher con­sump­tion of monoun­sat­u­rated fatty acids mainly dri­ves the global health ben­e­fit.- Mar­i­alaura Bonac­cio, researcher

In the research con­ducted by the Depart­ment of Epi­demi­ol­ogy and Pre­ven­tion of the IRCCS Neu­romed in Molise, Italy, sci­en­tists explored the link between the Med­Diet and mor­tal­ity rates. They exam­ined data on 5,000 peo­ple over the age of 65 who were par­tic­i­pants in the Moli-sani Study and fol­lowed them up to eight years. In addi­tion, they reviewed epi­demi­o­log­i­cal stud­ies from sev­eral coun­tries, which brought the total of sub­jects in the research to 12,000.

Analy­sis of the results clearly showed that the Med­Diet sig­nif­i­cantly reduces the risk of death in the elderly. Accord­ing to the researchers, the link between the eat­ing plan and mor­tal­ity was depen­dent on the degree of adher­ence. The more closely the par­tic­i­pants fol­lowed the diet, the greater the mor­tal­ity reduc­tion they expe­ri­enced.

The nov­elty of our research is to have focused our atten­tion on a pop­u­la­tion over 65 years old,” said first author Mar­i­alaura Bonac­cio in a press release. We already knew that the Mediter­ranean diet is able to reduce the risk of mor­tal­ity in the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion, but we did not know whether it would be the same specif­i­cally for elderly peo­ple.

Now data from Moli-sani Study clearly show that a tra­di­tional Mediter­ranean-like diet, (rich in fruit, veg­eta­bles, fish, pulses, olive oil and cere­als, low in meat and dairy prod­ucts, with mod­er­ate wine con­sump­tion dur­ing meals), is asso­ci­ated with 25% reduc­tion of all-cause mor­tal­ity. This effect remains also if we con­sider specif­i­cally car­dio­vas­cu­lar or cere­brovas­cu­lar mor­tal­ity.”


The first author explained that extra vir­gin olive oil (EVOO) is one of the pri­mary fac­tors respon­si­ble for the longevity advan­tage.

In our study, we found that among the food items included in a Med­Diet, a higher con­sump­tion of monoun­sat­u­rated fatty acids (MUFA) over sat­u­rated fatty acids mainly dri­ves the global health ben­e­fit. Of course, EVOO is one of the major food sources of MUFA in the diet,” Bonac­cio told Olive Oil Times.

Pre­vi­ous stud­ies have dis­cussed the mech­a­nisms through which EVOO may pro­long sur­vival. They have pro­posed dif­fer­ent poten­tial path­ways that could be favor­ably mod­u­lated by higher intakes of EVOO. Among them, we acknowl­edge that the evi­dence sup­ports the path­way of inflam­ma­tion, which has been proven to be low­ered by numer­ous com­pounds largely present in EVOO,” added Bonac­cio.

Despite the encour­ag­ing results, the study shows a link rather than a cause-effect rela­tion­ship. In addi­tion, the par­tic­i­pants who fol­lowed the diet closely were more likely to exer­cise. Nonethe­less, because of the strength of the asso­ci­a­tion found in the cur­rent study together with that of pre­vi­ous research, it’s appar­ent that con­sum­ing the Med­Diet is one of the best prac­tices peo­ple can adopt to pro­tect their health.

The study was pub­lished in the British Jour­nal of Nutri­tion.

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