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Mediterranean diet can lead to longer life

A new study shows that adults 65 and older who follow the Mediterranean diet live longer. Interestingly, adherence to the Mediterranean diet was assessed by analyzing biomarkers in plasma and urine, which is a unique approach.

Professor Cristina Andrés-Lacueva is head of the Research Group on Biomarkers and Nutritional & Food Metabolomics of the Faculty of Pharmacy and Food Sciences of the University of Barcelona (UB) and the CIBER on Fragility and Healthy Ageing (CIBERFES).

According to Professor Andrés-Lacueva, her team developed an index of dietary biomarkers based on food groups that are part of the Mediterranean diet, and then assessed their association with mortality. Professor Andrés-Lacueva is also head of the research group in Ciber on Fragility and Healthy Aging (CIBERFES).

The research was carried out over 20 years, using data from 642 participants who were 65 years and older and resided in the Tuscany region of Italy. 

The scientists looked at the following biomarkers: polyphenols and resveratrol metabolites (from grape consumption), plasma carotenoids, selenium, vitamin B12, fatty acids and the proportion of monounsaturated and saturated fatty acids. 

Using a model and a food questionnaire, the scientists were able to ascertain how closely each participant followed a Mediterranean diet. During the course of the twenty-year study, 425 participants died – 139 from cardiovascular disease and 89 from cancer related causes. 

When analyzed, the biomarkers associated with a Mediterranean diet were inversely related to all causes of death. This means that the health benefits of a Mediterranean diet can boost longevity.

Tomás Meroño, co-first signatory of the study, said the study confirms that adherence to the Mediterranean diet (assessed by a panel of dietary biomarkers) is inversely associated with the long-term mortality in older adults, which supports the use of these biomarkers in monitoring evaluations to study the health benefits associated with the Mediterranean diet.

“A healthy diet is considered one of the fundamental factors to achieve healthy aging,” wrote the study authors. “Indeed, a growing body of epidemiological evidence shows that the Mediterranean diet (MD) may delay or prevent frailty, cognitive decline, and the onset of many chronic diseases in older subjects.” 

“Furthermore, several observational studies, including the European Prospective study into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC)-elderly study, a cohort of 74,607 men and women aged ≥60 years, have shown inverse associations between a greater adherence to different MD scores (MDS), in both the Mediterranean and non-Mediterranean countries, and total mortality.”

The study is published in the journal BCM Medicine.

By Zach Fitzner, Staff Writer

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