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.
Despite the many studies that seem to show this effect, the results are not consistent and thus require further study.
A new study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease aimed to compare a variety of diets and their effects on cognitive dysfunction, including Alzheimer’s Disease, all-type dementia, and all-type cognitive impairment in Swedish elderly men.
1,138 Swedish elderly men aged 70 years old were followed over 12 years. Dietary information was collected using a 7 day diet record book that was filled out by all participants.
Diets examined were: the WHO recommendations/Health Diet Indicator, a Mediterranean-style diet, and a low carbohydrate/high protein diet.
Dietary information was then compared with and correlated with incidence of Alzheimer’s Disease, all-type dementia, and all-type cognitive impairment.
At the end of the 12 year follow-up:
4% of men developed Alzheimer’s Disease.
6% of men developed all-type dementia.
4% of men developed all-type cognitive impairment.
There were no strong associations between diet and any of the cognitive dysfunction examined in this study.
There was a possible beneficial relationship between a Mediterranean-style diet and all-cognitive impairment.
The results of this study did not find any significant associations between diet and cognitive dysfunction in Swedish elderly men, adding to the already inconsistent results found between studies. The did see a trend toward a possible beneficial relationship between a Mediterranean-style diet and all-cognitive impairment, however, these results were not statistically significant.
It is possible that perhaps the sample size was too small to see any effect, or there are other factors involved that have a stronger influence on cognitive dysfunction than diet alone.
The three diets in this study are somewhat similar, in that they are all considered to be relatively “healthy” diets compared to a Western-style diet. Inclusion of this diet would have been important for this study, as this type of diet is consumed by a significant number of people throughout the world.
It is possible that there weren’t enough participants in this study to be sensitive enough to pick up any real differences in terms of associations with cognitive dysfunction. It’s also possible (and likely) that there is single type of diet for every individual, and there are other factors involved that contribute to the development (or lack thereof) of cognitive dysfunction.