Mediterranean diet linked to a longer life among older adults

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BARCELONA, Spain — Pass the fish and olive oil, a new study finds that sticking to the Mediterranean diet led to a lower risk of death among older adults.

According to the results of a 20-year experiment, researchers from the University of Barcelona say seniors over the age of 65 lived longer if they continued to adhere to a Mediterranean diet. This diet is famous for being rich in oily fish, whole grains, fruit, vegetables, and olive oil. It can also include a modest amount of dairy products, but usually limits or excludes the consumption of red meat.

Researchers examined the blood and urine samples of 642 people over the age of 65 for two decades, while also monitoring their daily diet through food questionnaires. Study authors focused on specific dietary biomarkers, including total polyphenols and resveratrol metabolites (a byproduct of grape intake), plasma carotenoids, selenium, vitamin B12, fatty acids, and each person’s levels of monounsaturated and saturated fatty acids.

All of the participants came from the InCHIANTI project, a study conducted in Italy’s Tuscany region. Over those 20 years, 425 participants died. Specifically, 139 died of cardiovascular diseases and another 89 died of cancer. After factoring in each person’s dietary information, the team found a link between greater longevity and higher scores measuring Mediterranean diet consumption.

“An 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,” concludes study first author Tomás Meroño in a university release.

Researchers published their findings in the journal BCM Medicine.

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