THE QUESTION Do midlife eating habits affect how healthy people will be as they age?
THIS STUDY analyzed data on 10,670 women, most in their late 50s and generally healthy. Over the next 15 years, their mental and physical functioning and dietary patterns were assessed periodically. Those whose diets most resembled Mediterranean-style eating — more plant-based foods (fruits, vegetables and nuts), whole grains and fish, less red and processed meats, and moderate amounts of alcohol — had about a 40 percent greater chance of living beyond age 70 and doing so healthily than those whose diets were least like the Mediterranean. Aging healthily meant having no major chronic diseases, no physical disabilities and no cognitive impairment.
WHO MAY BE AFFECTED? People of middle age, especially women. A Mediterranean-style diet, so-named for the region where it has been the dominant eating pattern for centuries, has been shown to improve cholesterol and blood sugar levels, protect against heart disease and possibly lower risk for cancer, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
CAVEATS Dietary data came from the women’s responses on periodic questionnaires. Most of the women were white; whether the findings apply to other races or to men remains unclear.
FIND THIS STUDY Nov. 5 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine.
LEARN MORE ABOUT the Mediterranean diet at www.heart.org.
Learn about healthy aging at www.mayoclinic.com.
The research described in Quick Study comes from credible, peer-reviewed journals. Nonetheless, conclusive evidence about a treatment's effectiveness is rarely found in a single study. Anyone considering changing or beginning treatment of any kind should consult with a physician.