Benefits of the Mediterranean Lifestyle

Posted by Dr Katherine Bloomfield Senior Lecturer/Geriatrician Department of Geriatric Medicine, University of Auckland on 6 June 2018

It has been known for some time that the Mediterranean diet is beneficial for cardiovascular health and there is now growing evidence that it is also helpful in preventing and treating frailty. Think of food rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, with moderate fish consumption, olive oil as the predominant source of fat and moderate wine intake with meals. Red and processed meats and dairy products are eaten less frequently.

In an age of ‘fad diets’, this traditional diet has an increasing amount of scientific research behind it. Evidence includes a meta-analysis (an analysis of 4 studies of nearly 6000 older adults) and found that those individuals with the greatest adherence to a Mediterranean diet had 56% reduction in the risk of frailty compared to those with the lowest (Kojima et al). The frailty syndrome includes weight loss, fatigue, slow walking speed, low grip strength and low physical activity. Frail individuals are more likely to suffer adverse health events compared to non-frail.

It is the potential anti-inflammatory components of this diet that are thought to be effective. However, the benefits are thought to extend beyond just the individual nutrients, but include the overall lifestyle of the people who traditionally eat this way. This includes cooking and eating with family and friends. Exercising daily and ensuring adequate sleep are also important.

Reference: Kojima G, Avgerinou C, Illife S,Walters K. Adherance to Mediterranean Diet reduces incident frailty risk: systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 2018; 66:783-788.

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