The Mediterranean diet was initially defined in the 1960s, when researchers studied the eating habits of people in Greece and Southern Italy, starting to compare the heart risks of Mediterranean populations with those of the United States and Northern Europe. Since the 1960s, researchers have used various definitions of the Mediterranean diet, generally emphasizing the same key components which include: a high intake of plant foods, such as leafy vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts (almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts), cereals wholemeal and olive oil; moderate consumption of fish, dairy products, meat and red wine; and a low intake of sweets and eggs. The benefits of this diet are recognized by the international scientific community, which can confirm the prevention activities on cardiovascular diseases and several types of cancers.
Now, following a Mediterranean diet could reduce the risk of frailty among the elderly, according to a new study from the University of London college in the UK. In an article that was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, the researchers describe how they came to this conclusion after analyzing data from published studies that followed older adults, and comparing their diets with the incidence of organic fragility. Frailty is described as a “state of increased vulnerability resulting from the decline associated with aging” that reduces a person’s ability to cope with daily challenges and acute stressful situations. There is still no “gold standard” to define frailty, but researchers and clinicians tend to regard it as a condition that meets three of the following five criteria: low physical activity, overall low energy, reduced walking speed, weak grip of objects and unintentional weight loss
Frailty is common among older adults and is associated with a lower quality of life and a higher risk of disability, osteoarthritis of the lower limbs, falls, dementia, hospitalization and premature death. The aging of the population, however, allows us to expect an increasing number of people with frailty. “The evidence was very consistent that older people on a Mediterranean diet had a lower risk of becoming frail,” says Dr. Kate Walters, research lead and director of the Center for Aging and Population Studies at University College of London. London.For their analysis, the team included data from four studies that examined the link between a Mediterranean diet and the incidence of frailty in 5,789 people from China, France, Italy and Spain, who were followed for an average of about 4 years. All four studies had categorized adherence to the Mediterranean diet in the same way.
Participants were divided into three groups, depending on how closely they followed the diet. The results showed that the incidence of frailty was significantly lower for participants who followed the Mediterranean diet more closely. People who ate a Mediterranean diet the most, were overall less than half as likely to become frail over a period of nearly 4 years than those who ate less. The researchers say the findings support the idea that a Mediterranean diet could help older people stay healthy as they age, for example by increasing activity, weight, energy levels and muscle strength. The latter depends not only on carbohydrates, but also on the amount of protein introduced. Not surprisingly, legumes, whole grains and fish, abundant in the Mediterranean diet, are excellent sources of proteins.
Another reason to be proud of our cultural heritage.
- edited by Dr. Gianfrancesco Cormaci, specialist in Clinical Biochemistry.
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