Background: Information about nutritional risk factors of functional limitation is scarce. The aim of this study was to examine the association between the Mediterranean diet and risk of physical function impairment in older adults.
Methods: We used data from 1,630 participants in the Seniors-ENRICA cohort aged ≥60 years. In 2008-2010, adherence to the Mediterranean diet pattern was measured with the Mediterranean Diet Score (MDS) and the Mediterranean Diet Adherence Screener (MEDAS). Study participants were followed up through 2012 to assess incident impairment in agility and mobility as well as impairment in overall physical functioning, defined as a ≥5-point decrease from baseline to follow-up in the physical component summary of the 12-Item Short-Form Health Survey.
Results: Over a median follow-up of 3.5 years, we identified 343 individuals with agility limitation, 212 with mobility limitation, and 457 with decreased overall physical functioning. No association was found between the MDS score and the likelihood of impaired agility or mobility, although a 2-point increment in the MDS score was marginally associated with lower likelihood for decreased overall physical function. Compared to individuals in the lowest tertile of the MEDAS score, those in the highest tertile showed a lower odds of agility limitation (odds ratio: 0.67, 95% confidence interval: 0.48; 0.94, p trend = .02), mobility limitation (odds ratio: 0.69, 95% confidence interval: 0.40; 0.88, p trend = .01), and decreased overall physical functioning (odds ratio: 0.60, 95% confidence interval: 0.45; 0.79, p trend < .001).
Conclusions: In this prospective cohort study, a Mediterranean-style dietary pattern, especially when measured with the MEDAS, was associated with a lower likelihood of physical function impairment in older adults.
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