According to a review of studies, following the Mediterranean diet may reduce the risk of frailty in older individuals. The findings suggest that a diet emphasizing primarily plant-based foods – e.g., fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts – may help keep people healthy and independent as they age.
Frailty is common among older people and its prevalence is increasing as the population ages. Frail older adults may often feel low in energy and have 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.
The research team, from the University College London in the UK, looked to see if following a healthy diet might decrease one's risk of frailty.
The researchers analyzed evidence from all published studies examining associations between adherence to a Mediterranean diet and development of frailty in older individuals. Their analysis included 5789 people in four studies in France, Spain, Italy and China.
The evidence was very consistent that older people who follow a Mediterranean diet had a lower risk of becoming frail. People who followed a Mediterranean-style diet very closely were overall less than half as likely to become frail over a nearly four-year period compared with those who followed it the least.
The Mediterranean diet may help older individuals maintain muscle strength, activity, weight, and energy levels.
It's unclear, though, whether other characteristics of the people who followed a Mediterranean diet may have helped to protect them from frailty. The studies included in the review did, however, account for many factors that could be associated including age, gender, social class, smoking, alcohol, how much they exercised, and how many health conditions they had.
Source: Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, online: January 11, 2018.
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