Scientific review published in Advances in Nutrition finds that adoption of a Mediterranean diet is an effective strategy

Our global population is aging: between 2000 and 2050, the proportion of the world’s population aged 60 years and over will have doubled from about 11% to 22%.  Moreover, the number of people aged 80 years or older will have almost quadrupled in that same time period.

As we age, we become more susceptible to age-related diseases such as sarcopenia, cardiovascular disease and neurodegenerative disease, increasing the risk of disability and mortality among older adults.  Inflammation, especially chronic low-grade inflammation, plays a key underlying role in the development of these age-related diseases.

The question therefore is what can we do to lower inflammation among older populations to keep them healthy and able to live independently?  Many nutrition scientists believe that the adoption of a Mediterranean diet may provide part of the answer.  Although the Mediterranean diet varies from one country to another, its key components are high consumption of vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, and fish coupled with moderate consumption of dairy, meats, and wine.

Some recent studies have examined the association between the Mediterranean diet and inflammation in older adults; however, the results have been inconclusive.  Moreover, systematic reviews and meta-analyses exploring the Mediterranean diet’s effect on inflammation have not included many studies of older adults.  In light of these knowledge gaps, Pei-Yu Wu et al. conducted a scientific review to ascertain the association between the Mediterranean diet and inflammation in older adults.  Their review, “The Mediterranean Dietary Pattern and Inflammation in Older Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis,” was published in Advances in Nutrition, the international review journal of the American Society for Nutrition.

To begin their research, the authors performed a comprehensive search of the scientific literature, leading them to 13 studies that met their criteria, including three randomized controlled trials.  According to the authors, the results of their analyses of these studies “suggest that the Mediterranean dietary pattern is related to a reduction in chronic, low-grade inflammation in older adults.”  In particular, studies using monounsaturated fatty acids or olive oil as one of the components of a Mediterranean diet showed a significant reduction in circulating C-reactive protein, an indicator of inflammation.

The authors did point out the small number of studies in their scientific review, calling for additional long-term randomized controlled trials to gain further insight into the effects of a Mediterranean diet on older adults.  In addition, “further research could examine ‘how’ the Mediterranean dietary pattern relates to inflammation and the ‘dose-response’ in-depth.”  Despite these caveats, the authors were able conclude that “the anti-inflammatory effect of the Mediterranean dietary pattern may lead to healthy aging in older adults and a decrease in health care costs.”

Individual dietary needs vary.  If you are considering changing your diet, it’s best to consult with your healthcare provider to determine your particular nutrition needs.

Reference: Pei-Yu Wu, Kuei-Min Chen, Wan-Chi Tsai, The Mediterranean Dietary Pattern and Inflammation in Older Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis, Advances in Nutrition, nmaa116,