The Mediterranean diet has been a go-to recommendation for forming healthy eating goals for many years. Cultures around the Mediterranean region live longer, healthier lives than their American counterparts, and their diet is believed to be a large factor. This diet inspired by Spanish, Greek, and Italian regions centers around high consumption of olive oil, legumes, fruits, vegetables, and moderate consumption of fish, poultry, dairy, and wine. Olive oil in particular has become known worldwide as the healthy fat of choice, as it has been linked to reduced risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and several chronic diseases.
There have been previous studies showing that the Mediterranean diet is linked to increased life expectancy and decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer, and a new collection of studies has further cemented those links. As of March 2018, researchers have discovered new positive correlations between the Mediterranean diet and healthy aging. This research comes from a series of six articles appearing in the March issue of The Journals of Gerontology, Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences.
These articles reinforce the Mediterranean diet’s links to reducing the risk of developing multiple chronic diseases and increasing life expectancy. This includes lowered risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, atrial fibrillation, and breast cancer. Though the exact mechanism is not known, researchers were able to identify five important adaptations brought about by a Mediterranean dietary pattern. These include a lipid-lowering effect, protection against oxidative stress, inflammation, and platelet aggregation, modification of hormones and growth factors involved in the pathogenesis of cancer, inhibition of nutrient sensing pathways by specific amino acid restriction, and gut microbiota-mediated production of metabolites influencing metabolic health.
Another article in this series outlines how sticking to a Mediterranean diet can lead to a lower likelihood of physical function impairment in older adults. Participants in this study were less likely to suffer from agility limitation, mobility limitation, and decreased overall physical functioning if they stuck to a Mediterranean diet over a period of 3.5 years. Other positive effects cited by this report included reduced inflammation and increased likelihood to demonstrate the concepts of healthy aging, including good physical and cognitive functioning, independence in instrumental activities of daily living, no depressive symptoms, good social functioning, good self-perceived health, and no function-limiting pain.
If you were unsure of the Mediterranean diet’s positive effects before, maybe this new research will be convincing. With increasing costs in elderly care, high elderly suicide rates, and increased awareness of social isolation among the elderly, healthy aging is a more important consideration than ever.
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