While it may not be possible for many to retire to an idyllic Mediterranean villa, research shows that you can improve your likelihood of happy and healthy aging by applying the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle wherever you live. Among all the remedies and wonders you'll find on the internet and in commercials for a longer life, the most important secret ingredient for healthy aging may already be in your pantry at home.
May is the International Month of the Mediterranean Diet, bringing greater awareness of the incredible diet associated with many health benefits. Rich in foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and extra virgin olive oil, following this dietary pattern provides the body with important nutrients that can help people live healthier lives throughout their life cycle — especially in later years of life.
What does healthy ageing mean?
The term healthy aging can have different meanings for different people. For some, reducing the risk of developing age-related diseases is tantamount to finding the fountain of youth. For others, improving their quality of life at the beginning of their golden years is key.
The World Health Organization explicitly defines healthy aging as "the process of developing and maintaining the functionality that enables well-being in old age." In other words, healthy aging has a lot to do with being able to live and function in a way that can satisfy basic needs, maintain relationships, and contribute to society, among other things.
And while there are a handful of things people can do to support their health as they age — through regular exercise, stress management, quitting smoking, etc. — dietary choices can have a profound impact on the aging process, as well.
A shining star of any diet that focuses on healthy aging is delicious and natural extra virgin olive oil.
How does extra virgin olive oil support healthy aging?
Extra virgin olive oil — whether you're just using it as a spice you drizzle on your vegetables, or using it in salad dressings, or using it as the cooking oil of choice — is really a nutrient-dense ingredient that has been clinically shown to provide a lot of unique health benefits throughout its life cycle.
And if you focus on aging, you'll hardly find any other food that supports as many aspects of health as extra virgin olive oil with a high polyphenol content.
Why that? Extra virgin olive oil, and extra virgin olive oil in particular, has been shown to help curb many aspects of the aging process, in part due to the content of monounsaturated fatty acids and its bioactive compounds such as polyphenols. Since extra virgin olive oil can help fight both oxidative stress and chronic inflammation, inclusion in an anti-aging diet is a natural supplement.
Coronary heart disease and heart health
Coronary heart disease is the most common type of heart disease, claiming over 350,000 lives in 2017, and people as young as 65 are at the greatest risk for CHD. Therefore, finding ways to reduce the risk of CHD in the elderly population can have a major impact on getting well again.
The potential benefits of olive oil in preventing and treating CDH are well documented. One notable study that has helped put olive oil on the map for healthy eating is the Seven Countries Study. This study looked at whether there was a link between diet and lifestyle choices and risk factors for cardiovascular disease in different countries over a long period of time. The results usually show that men who lived in Mediterranean countries had a much lower incidence of CHD than men who lived in countries accustomed to a diet high in saturated fat, such as Finland. But often overlooked is the finding that men in the Mediterranean also had fewer CHD incidences than those living in Japan. Both the Mediterranean and Japanese diets were predominantly plant-based, but there is one main difference: the Japanese diet was very low in fat, while the Mediterranean diet was relatively high in unsaturated fatty acids thanks to the generous consumption of extra virgin olive oil.
In another notable study, called the PREDIMED study, 7447 adults aged 55 to 80 who were at high cardiovascular risk were assigned to one of three diets: a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra virgin olive oil, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with mixed nuts, or a control diet that included dietary fat restriction. The results show that those who followed a Mediterranean diet with healthy fats from extra virgin olive oil or nuts experienced fewer cardiovascular events than those who followed a low-fat diet.
Alzheimer's disease is associated with symptoms such as memory loss and shorter attention spans. Experiencing this disease can lead to a significant change in a person's quality of life and affect their ability to live independently. While this disease can occur throughout its life cycle, it is more likely to affect the elderly population.
Consuming extra virgin olive oil may offer some benefits when trying to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. In fact, data shows that a nutrient found naturally in extra virgin olive oil can help the body eliminate and break down the amyloid beta plaques that can form in the brain. These plaques can ultimately lead to a diagnosis of this harmful disease, so a proactive approach is beneficial by helping the body rid itself of these factors.
Data has also shown that extra virgin olive oil can reduce inflammation in the brain, thus reducing the risk of Alzheimer's.
When people think of foods they should include to prevent osteoporosis, calcium-rich alternatives like milk and tofu often come to mind.
And although less well known, eating healthy fats from foods like extra virgin olive oil has also been shown to protect bones.
Osteoporosis is a disease that occurs when the body loses too much bone substance. The diagnosis of osteoporosis puts a person at a higher risk of bone fractures.
When it comes to this disease, prevention is key, as it is difficult to build bones with age, especially in postmenopausal women.
While extra virgin olive oil does not contain calcium, it contains phenols that have been shown to prevent the loss of bone mass. These phenols can support the bone-building cells by increasing the activity of certain enzymes in the body, which leads to the storage of calcium in the bone matrix. All of this ultimately means that bone health is supported by the consumption of olive oil alone.
After all, many of us want to live long and healthy lives. And including extra virgin olive oil in your diet could help you achieve both.
Many studies have linked olive oil intake to a reduced risk of early death. In the previously mentioned Seven-Country Study, researchers found that people who lived in Crete and therefore ate a lot of olive oil had the lowest rates of early death. The researchers attributed this result to adherence to the Mediterranean diet and the inclusion of extra virgin olive oil as the main source of fat.
And in a study called the Three Cities Study, the results show that after 10 years, a greater intake of olive oil was associated with a lower risk of death.
Finally, the results of the previously mentioned PREDIMED study showed a 48% reduced risk of death due to a cardiovascular event when a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra virgin olive oil was consumed. In particular, they found that the risk of mortality (premature mortality) decreased by 7% with each increase in the intake of extra virgin olive oil by 10 grams per day.
Olive oil – a delicious supplement that helps you age healthily
Since none of us have found the miracle cure to prevent age-related diseases and premature death, olive oil is the next best for now. Tasty and versatile, incorporating olive oil into your diet is an easy and delicious way to keep you healthy well beyond your golden years.
So drizzle some olive oil on your vegetables, use it as a dip for your bread or add it to your homemade marinades. And be sure to cook with it instead of less healthy and less flavorful fats. Your body will thank you.
Olivenöl für die Gesundheit