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.

By Mary West
Sep. 12, 2018 13:13 UTC

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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