How to live longer: The diet linked to 'lower frailty' and 'healthier ageing' – BMJ study

It has long been established that eating a healthy diet can extend your lifespan but research continues to establish the mechanisms that drive this beneficial effect. A Mediterranean-style diet has been consistently championed for its longevity benefits and a study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) has posited a novel explanation for its impact.

Researchers investigated if a one-year Mediterranean-style diet intervention could alter the gut microbiota and reduce frailty.

The gut microbiota is increasingly recognised as an important regulator of host immunity and brain health.

The gut microbiota resides in the intestine and is home to the human body’s largest population of microorganisms.

To gather their findings, researchers profiled the gut microbiota in 612 non-frail or pre-frail subjects across five European countries (UK, France, Netherlands, Italy and Poland) before and after the administration of a 12-month long Mediterranean diet intervention tailored to elderly subjects (NU-AGE diet).

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The NU-AGE diet emphasises greater intakes of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy and cheese, fish, low-fat meat and poultry, nuts, and olive oil, the use of a vitamin D supplement (10 µg) and lower intakes of alcohol, sodium and sweets.

The researchers found adherence to the diet was associated with specific microbiome alterations.

Adherence to the diet was “positively associated with several markers of lower frailty and improved cognitive function”, the researchers wrote.

What’s more, the dietary approach was negatively associated with inflammatory markers including C-reactive protein and interleukin-17, they said.


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“Collectively, our findings support the feasibility of improving the habitual diet to modulate the gut microbiota which in turn has the potential to promote healthier ageing,” the researchers concluded.

How to follow a Mediterranean-style diet

A Mediterranean diet incorporates the traditional healthy living habits of people from countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, including France, Greece, Italy and Spain.

The Mediterranean diet varies by country and region, so it has a range of definitions.

But in general, it’s high in vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, beans, cereals, grains, fish, and unsaturated fats such as olive oil. It usually includes a low intake of meat and dairy foods.

Exercise is also integral to longevity and should complement a healthy diet.

“Adults should do some type of physical activity every day. Exercise just once or twice a week can reduce the risk of heart disease or stroke,” explains the NHS.

The health body continues: “Speak to your GP first if you have not exercised for some time, or if you have medical conditions or concerns.

“Make sure your activity and its intensity are appropriate for your fitness.”


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