Researchers from the Stanford School of Medicine in California say that following a Mediterranean diet consisting of plenty of fruits and vegetables and holding off saturated fats decreases the level of inflammation in the aged and elderly people. This is substantiated by the reduced levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) in such individuals.
The reserachers tracked the level of CRP in the blood of 911 healthy individuals with an average age of 66 years. The effect of the diet on this protein was monitored from January 2002 through December 2003. The researchers were able to ensure that subjects were following the prescribed diet by analyzing a food questionnaire that was filled by the subjects. Based on intake of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and grains, meat and meat products, dairy products, fish, alcohol and the mono-unsaturated-to-saturated fat ratio, the reserachers tabulated the Mediterranean Diet Score, which graded individuals from 0 to 9 based on the adherence to the diet. Plasma CRP levels were also monitored periodically. Dr. Joan M. Fair presented the findings of the study at the American Heart Association's 46th Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology, held in Phoenix last weekend. "The (positive) effects of the Mediterranean diet might be the anti-oxidant components of fruits and vegetables and the anti-inflammatory effects of the diet may be one explanation for its protective effect against cardiovascular disease," Fair said. "There are other markers of inflammation that we haven't assessed yet in terms of diet, such as high coronary artery content, which we found in 200 patients. We have the blood available, we just haven't run the tests yet." It was also found that every point increase in Mediterranean Diet Score resulted in a decrease in CRP of 0.14 mg/L in women and a decrease in CRP of 0.10 mg/L in men.