When it comes to living a long, healthy life, there’s a few major factors that researchers continually see pop up. Having a sense of purpose, feeling connected to family and friends, and regularly moving your body are all big ones. Of course what you eat matters, too, and new research continues to reinforce the link between the Mediterranean diet and longevity, most recently with a study published in the medical journal Gut.
Researchers instructed 612 adults between the ages of 65 and 79 in five different European countries to follow the Mediterranean diet for one year, analyzing how both cognitive function and gut microbiomes changed before and after they began the eating plan. They found that sticking to the Med diet may be linked to lowering inflammation markers, increasing both brain function and gut health—and therefore the aging process overall.
“On a global basis, the majority of elderly people do not consume a Med diet and, in fact, a major challenge in elderly healthcare is the consumption of a restricted diet which is associated with a low-diversity gut microbiome, especially in subjects in long-term residential care,” reads the study.
Before being instructed to follow the Med diet, researchers collected stool samples and asked the participates about their current diets and lifestyles. The participants ate lower amounts of fiber, vitamins (specifically vitamins C, B6, B9, and thiamine), minerals (including magnesium and iron), and healthy fats before starting the Med diet. They were asked to increase consumption of vegetables, legumes, fruit, nuts, olive oil, and fish while lowering the amount of red meat, dairy, and saturated fats.
Here’s what a registered dietitian has to say about the Mediterranean diet:
They key to reaping the healthy aging benefits of the Mediterranean diet is getting more fiber, healthy fats, and the aforementioned vitamins and minerals. To this point, making a change to eat healthier—whether it’s by following the Mediterranean diet or another eating plan—may have similar longevity benefits. Is the Mediterranean diet the only way to get live a long, healthy life? Maybe not—but and it’s certainly one that’s been repeatedly shown to be beneficial for longterm health.
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