Mediterranean diet and its impact on mortality of elderly people

Today, the world is increasingly elderly people, according to available data, 580 million people are older than 60 years, and forecasts say that by 2020 this figure rise to 1,000 million. With increasing life expectancy and aging population, a major cause of mortality are no longer communicable disease than noncommunicable diseases. This led to the conclusion that the mortality decisive influence with diet and lifestyle, which are directly linked to heart disease, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Precisely because of this, especially emphasizes that is primarily in the population of the elderly, is necessary to accept a healthier diet and a healthier lifestyle.

Because of the known impact of a healthy diet and lifestyle with conducting extensive scientific research named “HALE project” (Healthy Ageing: a Longitudinal study in Europe (HALE) population). Scientific research deals with the connection of diet and lifestyle, such as smoking, alcohol consumption, as well as physical activity with mortality in the elderly. The study was conducted on men and women of older age from 11 European countries. HALE project used the participants of previous projects SENECA and FINE. SENECA project (Survey in Europe on Nutrition and the Elderly: a Concerned Action) began in 1988 and it has participated residents of 19 European cities, born between 1913 and 1918, and the research was repeated in 1993 and in 1999. FINE project (Finland, Italy, the Netherlands, Elderly studies) began in 1993 and lasted until 2000. It has participated men born between 1900 and 1920, from five countries.

In both studies, data about diet were collected by the dietary history method. Thus, the data collected on the diet a month before the start of the study for SENECA study, and 2-4 weeks before the start of the study of the FINE study. Information about smoking, physical activity, level of education, coronary heart disease, cardiovascular disease, heart attack, diabetes and cancer in both studies were collected using a questionnaire, and the incidence of chronic diseases has been confirmed by medical evidence or by participants themselves. Information on physical activity was collected using Voorrips and Morris questionnaire, developed specifically for retired seniors, and are based on activities such as walking, cycling or gardening.
HALE study observes 98.6% of individuals from these two studies, who lived independently.

To evaluate the relationship of diet and lifestyle with mortality, defined group of low risk to diet and lifestyle. Since the diet is a low-risk groups defined by those who have had the result of at least 4 points on the modified version of the Mediterranean diet. The modified Mediterranean diet, which is practiced during the research, consisted of eight components: monounsaturated to saturated fats; legumes, nuts and seeds; cereals; fruit; vegetables and potatoes; meat and meat products; Dairy Products; fish. Entering all eight components is set to daily intake of 2,500 kcal for men and 2000 kcal for women. Results from diets, are awarded points according 0-8 points. For alcohol consumption, a low-risk group was determined for those who consumed more than 0 g of alcohol per day, and was divided into three groups: 0 g, 1-29 g and 30 or more g of alcohol per day.

For smoking in the group of low risk regarded as one of those who never smoked or stopped smoking before at least 15 years. For physical activity in a group of low-risk are classified as those under Voorrips or Morris questionnaire had medium or high result. Totals lifestyle calculated by adding together the individual results for diet, physical activity, alcohol consumption and smoking. 1 point is received if the individual belonged to the group of low risk to diet or certain lifestyle, and 0 points if it belonged to a group of high risk. The total could collect 4 points, 1 point for a Mediterranean diet, and 3 points for a healthy lifestyle (physical activity, alcohol consumption and smoking). Information on vital status and causes of death were available for 99.7% of the participants.

Information on diet, lifestyle and physical condition were available for 1507 men and 832 women with no signs of cardiovascular and coronary heart disease, heart attack and cancer at the beginning of Senac and FINE study. Results during the ten-year follow-up of men and women, aged between 70 and 90 years, who were practicing a Mediterranean diet, were not smokers or have stopped smoking before at least 15 years, were engaged in physical activity, and have little or moderate alcohol consumption, showed that the mortality rate from cardiovascular and coronary disease, heart attack and cancer, and the other causes of death are decreased by half compared to those who did not have the same habits and not consumed the Mediterranean diet.



[Knoops 2004] Knoops KTB, de Groot L, Kromhout D, Perrin AE, Moreiras-Varela O, Menotti A, van Staveren WA. Mediterranean diet, lifestyle factors, and 10-year mortality in elderly European men and women: the HALE project. 2004 American Medical Association; (Reprinted) JAMA, September 22/29, 2004—Vol 292, No. 12
Click here