January 19, 2018
2 min read

Mediterranean diet prevents frailty in older adults

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Adults aged 60 years and older who follow the Mediterranean diet have a reduced risk for frailty, according to a study published in the Journal of American Geriatrics Society.

“Nutrition is considered to play a crucial role in the complex pathogenesis of frailty,” Gotaro Kojima, MD, from the department of primary care and population health at the University College London, and colleagues wrote.

“Only a few studies have examined associations between the Mediterranean diet and frailty risk, and the results have been mixed and inconclusive,” they added.

To better understand these associations, Kojima and colleagues conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of four studies including 5,789 community-dwelling adults aged 60 years or older. The researchers assessed adherence to the Mediterranean diet and incident frailty. The mean follow-up was 3.9 years.

Participants were divided into three groups based on their Mediterranean diet score (MDS). A score of 0 to 3 indicated low adherence; 4 to 5 indicated medium adherence; and 6 to 9 indicated high adherence.

Participants with MDS scores of 4 to 5 (pooled OR = 0.62; 95% CI, 0.47-0.82; P = .001) or 6 to 9 (pooled OR = 0.44; 95% CI, 0.31-0.64; P < .001) demonstrated a significantly lower incident frailty risk than those with scores of 0 to 3. The researchers did not see significant heterogeneity or evidence of publication bias.

The researchers also found that adhering to the Mediterranean diet may help older patients maintain muscle strength, activity, weight and energy levels.

“We found the evidence was very consistent that older people who follow a Mediterranean diet had a lower risk of becoming frail,” Kate Walters, PhD, coauthor from the University College London, said in a press release. “People who followed a Mediterranean diet the most were overall less than half as likely to become frail over a nearly four-year period compared with those who followed it the least.”

“While the studies we included adjusted for many of the major factors that could be associated — for example, their age, gender, social class, smoking, alcohol, how much they exercised, and how many health conditions they had — there may be other factors that were not measured and we could not account for,” she added. “We now need large studies that look at whether increasing how much you follow a Mediterranean diet will reduce your risk of becoming frail.” – by Alaina Tedesco

Disclosure: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.