As we age and increase our risk for a variety of ailments and diseases, quality of life becomes very important to our overall well-being. Healthy diets have been shown to decrease the risk
and/or severity of many of these diseases, which begs the question “does a healthy diet result in an overall increase in quality of life as we age?”
A new study accepted into the journal Experimental Gerontology asked this very question and examined associations between diet and reported quality of life in older adults.
2457 (53% women) Australian adults between the ages of 55 and 65 participated in this study. Diet and quality of life were determined via a self-reported mail-in questionnaire.
Diet quality was scored based on the Dietary Guideline Index (DGI), recommended food score (RFS), and the Mediterranean diet score (MDS).
Quality of life was scored based on the RAND-36 test.
For men, higher DGI and RFS scores were associated with higher energy.
For men, higher DGI scores were associated with better overall health, both physical and mental.
For women, higher DGI and RFS scores were associated with better physical function, and better overall health.
For women, higher DGI, RFS, and MDS scores were associated with better emotional well-being and better energy.
The results of this study suggest that diet quality is positively associated with a better quality of life in older adults. Specifically, a better diet (and one that focuses on Mediterranean-style diet patterns) resulted in happier, more physically fit, and self-reported overall better health in older Australian adults.
Nutrition, lifestyle, and diet choices have been implicated as influencing cognitive health of various populations. Specifically,
research has shown that adherence to the Mediterranean diet is associated with improved cognitive health and brain aging in the elderly population.
A new review in the journal Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care focused on the longitudinal studied published between 2013 and mid-2014 on the effect of diet on cognitive health and brain aging. A total of 6 longitudinal studies and 2 large-scale meta-analyses were performed during this time.
The two meta-analyses indicate that there appears to be an effect of adherence to the Mediterranean diet on cognitive health in the elderly.
Adherence to the Mediterranean diet reduces risk of Alzheimer’s.
Adherence to the Mediterranean diet reduces risk of cognitive impairment.
The six longitudinal studies from the US and Europe show mixed results in the effect of Mediterranean diet adherence and cognitive health benefits.
At present, there is a lack of evidence supporting the idea that the Mediterranean diet is an “optimal dietary strategy” for reducing the risk of age-related cognitive health problems.
The results of this review suggest that there are a lot of inconsistencies in results of several recent studies related to adherence to the Mediterranean diet and cognitive health in the elderly. In general, there does seem to be evidence to support the idea that the Mediterranean diet may be beneficial for long-term mental health in some populations,
however, the inconsistencies make it difficult to generalize across all populations (for example, all elderly).
While some studies may show benefit, differences in experimental design as well as sample size make it very difficult to draw any conclusions on a general population level. Much more research is needed to clear up these discrepancies, and researchers should be more careful when planning experimental design such that reviews of current literature may (or may not!) reveal more interpretable results.
A group of Spanish researchers have recently published a paper examining the association between consistent Mediterranean diet consumption and risk of frailty in older community-dwelling adults.
A prospective cohort study looking at 1815 Spanish adults over the age of 60 was employed to examine this relationship.
At the beginning of the study, the “degree of Mediterranean Diet adherence” was determined for each study participant, which basically described how strict the participant was in terms of sticking to a Mediterranean-style diet, as well as various frailty measures including: exhaustion, muscle weakness, low physical activity, slow walking speed, and weight loss.