Mediterranean diet could help to slow ageing

Mediterranean, diet, food
19/04/2018 - 16:12
Adhering to what is considered the Mediterranean diet can increase your chances of ageing healthily, according to a series of articles published in the Journals of Gerontology, Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences.

The research found new correlations between the diet and healthy ageing outcomes.

Among their findings, the new articles report on underlying mechanisms of the diet; the positive relationship between the diet and physical and cognitive function; the value of taking a coenzyme Q10 supplement while sticking to the diet; and the role of the diet in reducing inflammation.

However, in several of the studies, the level of benefit was dependent on how adherence to the diet was measured.

The study also highlights the need for careful approaches to the use of data in order to measure the diet’s potential benefits.

A spokesperson from British Nutrition Foundation said: “The Mediterranean diet is one well-known example of healthy dietary pattern but other dietary patterns that do not necessary include all the foods typically found in the Mediterranean region can be as healthy.

“Dietary patterns across the world that are based on wholegrain and high fibre starchy foods, plenty of fruit and vegetables, and low in saturated fat, sugar and salt have been associated with lower risk of chronic disease.”

Hallmarks of the Mediterranean diet include: a variety of minimally processed whole grains and legumes as the staple food; consuming a diverse range of fresh vegetables daily; fresh fruits as dessert; cold pressed extra-virgin olive oil, nuts, and seeds as the principal source of fat; moderate consumption of fish; dairy products consumed in low amounts; red and processed meat consumed in very low frequency and amounts; and wine consumed in low to moderate amounts only with meals.

There are a number of scales used to measure adherence to the diet. One of the journal’s studies, conducted by researchers at the University of Paris 13, found that among test subjects, higher numbers on the Literature-based Adherence Score to the Mediterranean diet were associated with higher odds of meeting certain healthy aging criteria.

Other indexes yielded a weaker correlation. In another study by researchers at the Autonomous University of Madrid, closer adherence to the diet was associated with a lower likelihood of physical function impairment in older adults.

The exact mechanism by which an increased adherence to the diet exerts its favourable effects is still unknown to scientists.

However, writing in one of the new articles, researchers from Washington University state there is accumulating evidence of five important adaptations induced by the Mediterranean dietary pattern.

These include lipid lowering; protection from oxidative stress and inflammation; modification of growth factors that can promote cancer; and inhibition of nutrient sensing pathways by amino acid restriction.

“Greater clarity on how this diet is defined, in both interventions and observational studies, will be critical in the aim of achieving a consensus on how to optimally apply this dietary pattern towards maximizing healthy aging,” state Michelle A. Mendez, PhD, and Journals of Gerontology: Medical Sciences editor-in-chief Anne B. Newman, MD, FGSA, in an opening editorial.

An analysis of existing research, published earlier this year in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, found that people whose diets most closely followed Mediterranean diet principles were less than half as likely as those with the least-Mediterranean diets to become frail as they aged, irrespective of where they lived.

Furthermore, a study published in the journal Neurology in 2017 showed that eating an easy-to-follow Mediterranean diet can have lasting benefits for brain health. 

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