Mediterranean Diet, Food Consumption and Risk of Late-Life Depression: The Mugello Study

J Nutr Health Aging. 2018;22(5):569-574. doi: 10.1007/s12603-018-1019-3.


Objectives: To investigate eating habits and adherence to Mediterranean Diet (MD) in relation to the risk of depression in a cohort of nonagenarians enrolled within the Mugello Study, an epidemiological study aimed at investigating both clinically relevant geriatric items and various health issues, including those related to nutritional status.

Design: Cross-sectional study.

Setting: Homes and nursing homes in the Mugello area, Florence, Italy.

Participants: Subjects aged 90-99 years [N=388 (271F; 117M) mean age: 92.7±3.1].

Measurements: All subjects were evaluated through questionnaires and instrumental examinations. Adherence to MD was assessed through the Mediterranean Diet Score. A shorter version of the Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS) was used to detect the possible presence of depressive symptoms. In addition, cognitive and functional status was assessed using the Mini-Mental State Examination, the Clock Drawing Test, as well as the Basic and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living test.

Results: Depressed subjects (DS) (GDS score≥5, 43.8%) were older, females and widows, than non-depressed subjects (NDS). DS reported a slightly but not statistically significant lower MD score than NDS (33.9±3.9 vs. 34.6±3.3, p=0.149). Subjects who reported to consume a greater amount of olive oil and fruit were associated with a lower risk of depression (OR=0.35, 95%CI=0.20-0.59, p<0.001 and OR=0.46, 95%CI=0.26-0.84, p=0.011, respectively) after adjustment for many possible confounders. Similar results were obtained for women, while no statistically significant differences emerged for men.

Conclusion: Our results support the hypothesis that a diet rich in olive oil and fruit, characteristics of MD, may protect against the development of depressive symptoms in older age.

Keywords: Nutrition; food; fruits; longevity; olive oil.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / diet therapy*
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Depressive Disorder / diet therapy*
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology*
  • Diet, Mediterranean / psychology*
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology
  • Female
  • Fruit
  • Humans
  • Italy
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Nursing Homes
  • Nutritional Status
  • Olive Oil
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Olive Oil