The Mediterranean Diet and healthy aging are linked, according to a new study. Want to live a healthy long life? Abandon the Western Diet and adopt the Mediterranean Diet.

Results from a randomized preclinical trial suggests that adopting a Mediterranean diet may ease psychological stress and promote healthy aging. The findings of this study were published in Neurobiology of Stress.

Researchers from Wake Forest School of Medicine conducted the research:

• They randomized adult female macaques aged 8.2 to 10.4 years to receive a Western or Mediterranean diet for 31 months, which translates to about 9 human years.
• First there was a 7-month standard diet baseline observational phase.
• The monkeys were assessed for behavior, blood pressure, heart rate, cortisol levels, ACTH, and by a stress test.
• Both diets were balanced for protein, fat, and carbohydrate macronutrients.
• The Western diet contained protein and fats derived primarily from animal products, was high in saturated fats and sodium, and low in monosaturated and n-3 fatty acids.
• The Mediterranean diet contained protein and fats were derived primarily from plants, lean fish, and dairy, was high in monounsaturated fatty acids, complex carbohydrates, and fiber, and low in sodium and refined sugars.

The Mediterranean Diet and Healthy Aging

This study links the Mediterranean diet and healthy aging. At 29 months, a significant interaction between diet and heart rate fluctuation throughout the day was observed.

• Animals on a Mediterranean diet had elevated heart rates at mealtimes which returned to normal between feedings.
• The monkeys on the Western diet had less pronounced peaks during mealtimes and more sluggish recoveries.
• Animals on the Mediterranean diet exhibited 2.7% more frequent low frequency heart beats and less frequent very low frequency heart beats compared with the Western diet group.
• The overall age-related changes of heart rate patterns were delayed among animals fed the Mediterranean diet.
• The Western group exhibited a 28.8% higher proportion of very low frequency heart beats, less frequent low frequency heart beats
• Similarly, the cortisol response over time was delayed among the Mediterranean diet group.

At study conclusion a significantly different response to the stress test was observed for each treatment group. Monkeys on the Mediterranean diet had a greater increase of heart rate from baseline (60 bpm) compared with Western diet animals (38 bpm).

At 240 minutes following the stress test, monkeys on the Mediterranean treatment had decreased heart rates by 23 bpm but the monkeys on the Western diet did not recover.

Researchers’ Conclusions

These data indicated that a Mediterranean-like diet successfully modified the physiological stress responses during aging and may have important clinical implications for human health.

According to the study authors, “Our findings suggest that population-wide adoption of a Mediterranean-like diet pattern may provide a cost-effective intervention on psychological stress and promote healthy aging with the potential for widespread efficacy.”

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