Study Shows Mediterranean Diet Reduces Anxiety and Stress in Elderly Adults

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The Mediterranean diet is associated with many health benefits, including reduced risk of chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and heart diseases. A new study has shown that, in addition to promoting physical health, the Mediterranean diet could also play a significant role in improving mental wellness.

The Mediterranean diet emphasizes consuming more vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains, legumes, healthy oils, and moderate amounts of fish and seafood.

According to the latest study from the University of South Australia, better adherence to a Mediterranean diet can help reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety in elderly adults. The findings were based on a study conducted among 294 participants aged 60 and above in Australia.

“Adherence to a MedDiet (Mediterranean diet) was inversely associated with the severity of anxiety symptoms independent of age, gender, BMI, physical activity, sleep, cognitive risk, and ability to perform activities of daily living. Furthermore, MedDiet adherence was inversely associated with symptoms of stress independent of age, gender, BMI, physical activity, and sleep. However, no relationship between MedDiet adherence and depressive symptoms was observed,” the researchers wrote in the study published in the journal Nutrients.

The researchers identified that the mental health benefits stem from specific elements of the diet such as fruit, nuts, legumes, and a low consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks.

“Nuts and legumes are rich in fiber, healthy fats, and antioxidants which are likely to help produce good bacteria in the gut, lower inflammation, and in turn have a favorable effect on brain health. Higher vegetable intake was also associated with lower symptoms of depression, although we were surprised the overall findings were not stronger for alleviating depression and this warrants further study,” Dr. Anthony Villani, a study co-author, explained in a news release.

The researchers believe their findings will give more hope, as they open the possibility of including the Mediterranean diet as part of a holistic approach to managing multiple health-related outcomes.

“There is now abundant evidence of the diet’s positive outcomes on various chronic diseases, and it is very transferable to practice. For example, I can recommend a Med diet to support a person’s diabetes management, knowing that it may have desirable outcomes on their mental health too,” Lisa Allcock, who co-led the study, said.

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