Various studies have shown that a healthy Mediterranean diet may contribute to reduced fasting glucose concentrations and lipid levels in those at risk for diabetes, may lower the risk for cardiovascular events and stroke, and improve cognition. A new study involving 10,670 female nurses, published in the November 5 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine, indicates that middle-aged women following a healthy Mediterranean-type diet — with an emphasis on fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fish, moderate amounts of alcohol, and little red meat — have much greater chance of healthy aging later on. This study began in 1976.
The researchers separated "healthy" from "usual" aging on the basis of 4 health domains.
Overall, 11.0% of the participants were considered healthy (and so were free of chronic diseases, and with no limitation in cognitive function, mental health, and physical function), and the remaining participants were considered usual agers.
"In this study, women with healthier dietary patterns at midlife were 40% more likely to survive to age 70 or over free of major chronic diseases and with no impairment in physical function, cognition or mental health," said lead study author, Cécilia Samieri, PhD, Institut pour la Santé Publique et le Developpement, Université Bordeaux, France.
Meanwhile, several health domains were typically impaired among the "usual" agers. "For example, 33% had both chronic diseases and limitations in cognitive, physical, or mental health; 64% had only limitations in cognitive, physical, or mental health; and 3.4% had only 1 or more chronic diseases." said Dr. Samieri. "It's largely accepted that cumulative exposures to environmental risk factors over the lifespan are probably more important than late-life exposures to determine health in older ages," said Dr. Samieri. "Several mechanisms of age-related chronic diseases, for example, atherosclerosis in cardiac diseases, brain lesions in dementia, start in midlife."
Other research that documented health benefits of the Mediterranean diet, including the following:
Reduced fasting glucose concentrations and lipid levels in patients who are genetically at increased risk for type 2 diabetes as well as reduced risk for stroke.
Lowered risk for type 2 diabetes by about 20% when the diet also included foods with low glycemic load.
Slowed progression of carotid plaque.
Improved cognitive function.
Cardiovascular events reduced by 30% in people at high risk vs those receiving a low-fat diet.