The Mediterranean diet is a set of nutritional recommendations that parallel the dietary patterns of people who live in southern Spain, Greece and Italy. According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, approximately 30 percent of all heart attacks, strokes and heart disease-related deaths can be prevented by simply adhering to the Mediterranean diet. Although this statistic is impressive, there are a number of other diets (vegetarian, low-fat, high fiber etc.) that have also shown positive effects when it comes to lowering the risk of heart disease. So why are we all suddenly being told that Mediterranean is the way to go?
To pinpoint the ideal diet for older adult health, the diet needs to buffer a number of areas that typically become concerns as we get older. Interestingly, there is mounting evidence that the Mediterranean diet can offer just that. The key characteristics of the Mediterranean diet include a high intake of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, whole grains and olive oil, a moderate intake of wine, dairy and poultry, and a low intake of red meat, sweet beverages, pastries and creams.
Recently, lead researcher Marta Guasch-Ferré and her 11 associates conducted a 5 year study which analyzed the link between the Mediterranean diet and the risk of hyperuricemia in older adults. Hyperuricemia is a condition that involves an excessive amount of uric acid in the blood. The presence of hyperuricemia is an indicator of poor health, and it is associated with a variety of adult health problems, such as metabolic syndrome (pre-diabetes), type 2 diabetes mellitus, hypertension, chronic kidney disease, gout, cardiovascular disorders and increased risk of death. The study, which was published in the Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, was conducted on 7,445 participants between the ages of 55 to 80.
The study revealed that the closer the participants adhered to the Mediterranean diet, the lower their risk of hyperuricemia. Also, consuming the diet helped to reverse hyperuricemia in patients who were previously diagnosed with it, and the low consumption of red meat (less than one serving per day) that is associated with the Mediterranean diet reduced the risk of hyperuricemia by 23 percent. Subjects on the diet who also consumed sofrito sauce and legumes further reduced their risk for hyperuricemia. The researchers believe the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of the diet are responsible for its ability to prevent and reverse hyperuricemia, as well as lowering the risks for other adult health problems associated with the condition.
Experts continue to tout the benefits of the Mediterranean diet, and dub it as one of the healthiest diets for adult health. The diet is low in saturated fat and is loaded with micronutrients, vitamins, minerals, fiber, omega-3s and antioxidants. These factors help to greatly reduce risks for the most prevalent age-related diseases, including cancer, heart disease, arthritis, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes. The nutrient dense nature of the diet also enhances adult health by increasing energy and stamina, reducing the risk for depression and slowing the physical signs of aging. In fact, a study conducted on over 74,000 Europeans aged 60 and over found that a close adherence to the Mediterranean diet increases the overall life expectancy of elderly adults, and can reduce mortality risk by a whopping 14 percent.
One must still keep in mind that we all have different metabolic systems and nutritional requirements, so to state that the Mediterranean diet is the healthier diet for all older adults would be presumptuous, to say the least. However, its healthy attributes far surpass the Standard American Diet (SAD), and the key characteristics of the Mediterranean diet undeniably contribute to a better, healthier lifestyle.