A world first systematic review published in The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging has shown that the Mediterranean diet is linked to maintaining quality of life as we age.
Professor Caryl Nowson from the Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition at Deakin University, who conducted the review said the evidence also proves we need specific dietary recommendations for people over 65 as their needs are different to younger adults or people in middle age.
"After reviewing more than 800 studies we summarised data from 35 studies that contained sufficient, consistent evidence to link dietary components (not supplements) to key factors that impact on the health and well-being of older people. This included muscle health and strength, mental function, anxiety and cardiovascular disease.
"It is essential to maintain physical and mental function as we age to enable us to maintain our lifestyles and continue enjoying life.
"We found that older people eating a Mediterranean type diet that contains a variety of fruits and vegetables, olive oil daily and nuts, are more likely to have less chronic disease as they age, less likely to have a stroke or heart attack and less likely to become frail and more likely to remain cognitively alert," she said.
Professor Nowson said that her motivation for the study came after watching her mother who, as she grew older, became increasing frail and lost so much muscle that she would fall over and needed support with walking.
"We know that if we can reduce muscle loss with ageing and if we can maintain muscle strength then we are more likely to be physically active, less likely to fall or get a fracture and more likely to be able to maintain a high quality of life," she said.
"Older people actually require between 20 per cent and 60 per cent more protein than younger adults or people in middle age, as higher intakes of protein, when combined with resistance exercise, can help to reduce muscle loss.
"This research now provides sufficient epidemiological evidence to recommend that those 65 years and over adopt characteristics of a Mediterranean diet, including olive oil and at least three serves of vegetables per day. In addition, consuming more protein than younger people together with regular resistance exercise is likely to improve physical health.
"We all are happy to live longer, but the key is to remain both physically and mentally active and this lifestyle pattern is likely to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, cognitive decline and frailty," Professor Nowson said.
The paper can be found at: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12603-017-0920-5
Financial support for the study was provided by Meat and Livestock, Australia Ltd, however they had no input into the final results of this review.
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