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Whole Grains Linked with Healthy Aging

Longevity is fascinating to study, but what is perhaps more important than the years in your life is the life in your years – the ability to age successfully from a medical, social, and lifestyle point of view. In this study, researchers evaluated whole grain intake and measured “successful aging” (using social, lifestyle, and medical indicators) in a group of 3,349 adults ages 50+. Those eating the most whole grains (about 7 servings per day) were significantly more likely to score higher on the “successful aging index” than those eating the least whole grains (about 1.5 servings per day). Those eating the most whole grains were also less likely to have high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol.
Nutrients. 2019 May 29;11(6). pii: E1221. doi: 10.3390/nu11061221. (Foscolou A et al.)

Demand for More Whole Grains in Senior Care 

Fiber is important for the elderly to help prevent constipation and improve quality of life, and yet many older adults are falling short on fiber. In this study, 681 dietitians working in long-term (elderly) care answered questionnaires exploring barriers to whole grain consumption for older adults. Overall, 89.5% of dietitians reported that they would like to serve more whole grains. Twenty seven percent of dietitians reported that cost was a barrier to serving whole grains in long term care, and yet 75% of dietitians report that their patients need fiber supplements, averaging upwards of $11-20 a month per patient. Given that whole grains are a natural source of fiber, whole grains may be able to offset some of the cost of fiber supplementation. Other factors influencing the decision to purchase whole grains included dietary needs (such as special considerations for kidney disease), existing food contracts, nutritional content, and acceptance by residents.
Journal of Nutrition in Gerontology and Geriatrics. 2017 Oct-Dec;36(4):178-188. (Coffman CA et al.)

Healthy Eating in Mid-Adulthood Linked with Healthier Body Composition Down the Road

It is never too late to begin the journey to healthy eating. In fact, adopting healthier habits in mid-adulthood may be especially important. To see the effect diet has on body fat distribution, researchers analyzed the eating patterns of approximately 2,000 adults (average age = 48 years), and then assessed their body composition 20 years later. Those with higher-quality diets in mid-adulthood (most closely following a Mediterranean Diet, DASH Diet, or scoring higher on the Healthy Eating Index – all of which prioritize vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes, and limit sweets and processed or red meats) had lower total body fat and a lower BMI, which are critical in chronic disease prevention. Following a high-quality diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, over a period of time is important to maintain a healthy level of body fat and to prevent fat tissue from accumulating in the liver.
Obesity. 2017 Aug;25(8):1442-1450. (Maskarinec G et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Improved Cognitive Performance in Elderly

As global life expectancy grows, dementia is an increasing concern. Healthy eating patterns like the Mediterranean Diet are thought to help decrease the risk of such diseases. Researchers recently analyzed the diets of 1,865 Greek adults over the age of 64 as part of The Hellenic Longitudinal Investigation of Ageing and Diet (HELIAD) study. The researchers concluded that closer adherence to the Mediterranean Diet may be associated with improved cognitive performance—particularly memory—and lower dementia rates. Fish and whole grains in particular were singled out for their association with cognitive benefits.
PLOS One. 2017 August 1. 12(8): e0182048. (Anastasiou CA et al.)

Fiber Linked with Healthy Aging

Researchers analyzed 10 years of extensive health and nutrition data in a study of more than 1,600 Australian adults, to see how carbohydrate nutrition (Glycemic Index, Glycemic Load, total carbs, sugars, and fiber) relates to successful aging. The researchers defined successful aging as absence of disability, depression, cognitive problems, respiratory problems, or chronic disease (like heart disease or cancer). Adults eating the most total fiber were significantly more likely to age successfully. Additionally, those eating the most cereal fiber (the type of fiber in whole grains) were 78% more likely to age successfully than those eating the least, and those eating the most fruit fiber were 64-81% more likely to age successfully. Those eating a higher Glycemic Index at the beginning of the study were more likely to die throughout the study, but neither Glycemic Index, Glycemic Load, total carbohydrate, nor sugar intake were significantly associated with successful aging. 
The Journals of Gerontology: Series A, Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences. 2016 Jun 1. pii: glw091. [Epub ahead of print] (Gopinath B et al.)