Background: There is increasing evidence that there are protective health effects from diets which are high in fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, and which include fish, nuts, and low-fat dairy products. We sought to investigate the association of Mediterranean diet on clinical status of 150 elderly men and women.
Methods: During 2004 - 2005, we studied 53 men and 97 women, aged 65 to 100 years, from various areas of Cyprus. A diet score that assesses the inherent characteristics of the Mediterranean diet was developed for each individual (range 0-55). Adoption of the Mediterranean diet was evaluated against the presence of cardiovascular risk factors like hypertension, diabetes, hypercholesterolemia and obesity.
Results: 26% of men and 18% of women had diabetes, 60% of men and 58% of women had hypertension, 60% of men and 68% of women had hypercholesterolemia, and 34% of men and 52% of women were obese. More than 90% of the participants reported consistency in their dietary habits for at least the past 3-4 decades. A significant inverse correlation was observed between diet score and the number of the investigated risk factors (rho= -0.26, p< 0.001). When we took into account age, sex, smoking habits, and physical activity status, we observed that a 10-unit increase in the diet score was associated with 21% lower odds of having one additional risk factor in women (p< 0.001) and with 14% lower odds in men (p = 0.05).
Conclusion: Adherence to a Mediterranean diet is associated with reduced odds of having hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, diabetes and obesity among elderly people.