We are what we eat. However, little is known on how a specific dietary regime can impact the life of the elderly. Now, researchers from an EU funded project called NU-AGE are investigating the effects of the Mediterranean diet on older people. Their aim is to get clues on how to counteract physical and cognitive decline through diet changes.
Starting in July 2013, the project will study how the Mediterranean diet regime affects people over 65 years old by focusing on 1,250 volunteers; the largest study of its kind to date. Half of them will constitute a control group. The other half will receive the classic Mediterranean diet, rich in olive oil, fresh fruits and vegetables. At different stages during this year-long study on diet change, researchers will collect blood samples to investigate its effects at the cellular and molecular level.
"The Mediterranean diet is well known for being balanced", says Aurelia Santoro, immunologist at the University of Bologna, Italy, and NU-AGE scientific manager, "butwe do not exactly know how micro-nutrients, such as vitamins and phenols, affect molecular mechanisms". Until now, scientists knew that nutrients such as polyphenols or carotenoids, contained in vegetables, have antioxidant properties, but did not know exactly how these bringing health benefits at the molecular level.