A new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine shows that women who followed a Mediterranean style diet in midlife, were more likely at old age to be without any major limitations in physical and mental health.

Investigators from Brigham and Women’s Hospital of the Harvard Medical School, the Harvard School of Public Health and the French National Institute of Health followed 10,670 women who were part of the Nurses’ Health Study, a long-term epidemiological study that started in 1976 and has followed over 230,000 registered nurses to assess risk factors for cancer, cardiovascular disease and other chronic conditions.

The researchers gathered dietary data from these women when they were in their late 50’s and 60’s and then again 15 years later, the participants provided information about their health. Their diet quality was assessed using two questionnaires: the Alternative Healthy Eating Index and the Alternate Mediterranean Diet score.

The results of their analysis showed that women who had a high adherence to a Mediterranean style diet as measured by the Alternate Mediterranean score had a 46% greater chances of healthy aging which was defined as 70 years or older with no major chronic diseases and no major impairment in cognitive and mental health.

Women who had greater adherence to a “Healthy Diet” as measured by the Alternative Healthy Eating Index only had 34 percent great chance of healthy aging. In other words, the Mediterranean style diet was more effective.

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