The Mediterranean diet, which is often rated as the No. 1 diet for losing weight, is also touted as boosting brain health, preventing cancer, and helping prevent and control diabetes. But a new study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that it may also help keep people healthy and independent as they age.
Frailty is common among older people, and it is becoming more common as the population ages. Frail older adults may often have low energy, weight loss, and weak muscle strength. They are more likely to suffer from numerous health concerns, including falls, fractures, hospitalization, nursing home placement, disability, dementia, and premature death. Frailty is also associated with a lower quality of life.
Since nutrition is thought to play a crucial role in becoming frail, researchers at the U.K.’s University College London checked to see if a healthy diet might decrease the risk.
The researchers analyzed evidence from all published studies examining associations between Mediterranean diets and the development of frailty in older individuals. Their analysis included people in France, Spain, Italy, and China.
“We found the evidence was very consistent that older people who follow a Mediterranean diet had a lower risk of becoming frail,” said researcher Kate Walters, Ph.D. “People who followed a Mediterranean diet the most were overall less than half as likely to become frail over a nearly four-year period compared with those who followed it the least.”
According to a study from the University of Edinburgh, Mediterranean diets can keep brains from shrinking in old age. Researchers studied the eating habits of healthy seniors around age 70 who were given MRIs to measure brain volume at age 73, and again at age 76. Those who closely followed a Mediterranean diet had half the brain loss of those who didn’t follow the diet.
Not only is the Mediterranean diet heart healthy, an Italian study found that it also prolongs the lives of those who have already had heart attacks. Heart patients who followed the diet reduced death from all causes by 37 percent during the seven-year study. Statin drugs are believed to reduce major heart problems by only 24 percent.
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