While the data continues to pour in on the benefits of the Mediterranean diet for cardiac health, the lack of information on how this diet affects the aging process has not gone unnoticed by the scientific community. As such, an international team of investigators, led by researchers at the University of Cork, set out to determine the effects of the Mediterranean diet on older populations. Amazingly, the five-country study found that eating a Mediterranean diet for a year boosts the types of gut bacteria linked to “healthy” aging while reducing those associated with harmful inflammation in older people.
The researchers published their findings yesterday in Gut through an article titled “Mediterranean diet intervention alters the gut microbiome in older people reducing frailty and improving health status: the NU-AGE 1-year dietary intervention across five European countries.”
“Aging is accompanied by deterioration of multiple bodily functions and inflammation, which collectively contribute to frailty. We and others have shown that frailty co-varies with alterations in the gut microbiota in a manner accelerated by consumption of a restricted diversity diet,” the authors wrote. “The Mediterranean diet (MedDiet) is associated with health. In the NUAGE project, we investigated if a one-year MedDiet intervention could alter the gut microbiota and reduce frailty.”
Previous research suggests that a poor/restrictive diet, which is common among older people, particularly those in long term residential care, reduces the range and types of bacteria (microbiome) found in the gut and helps to speed up the onset of frailty.
The researchers, therefore, wanted to see if a Mediterranean diet might maintain the microbiome in older people’s guts and promote the retention or even proliferation of bacteria associated with “healthy” aging.