Adherence to a Mediterranean (Med) diet pattern, characterized by increased intake of fruits, nuts/seeds, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, seafood, yogurt and vegetables, and decreased intake of red/processed meats, refined grains, starches and added sugars, is associated with reduced cardiometabolic risk independent of total calorie intake or single nutrients. We examined whether adherence to Med diet was associated with risk factor change in the context of a behavioral weight management trial for U.S. community-dwelling older adults at elevated diabetes and cardiovascular risk. The Pitt Retiree Study (n=322) examined the impact of 12 weekly group lifestyle sessions on weight and cardiometabolic risk (BMI, waist, glucose, lipids, and blood pressure) in older adults (age 65-80 yrs). Dietary goals included calorie reduction, <30% of total calories from fat, lean protein at most meals, and following USDA MyPlate guidelines but not a Med diet. Adherence to a Med diet pattern (0-14 score) was assessed at baseline, 4, 12, and 24 months and categorized as low (0-5), moderate (6-9), or high (≥10). The baseline median Med diet score was 6 (range 0-13), with 45% categorized as low, 50% moderate, 5% high. Women were more adherent than men (p<0.01). Adjusting for sex, higher scores were correlated with older age (p=0.02), lower baseline BMI (p=0.01) and smaller waist (p=0.01). Median [IQR] scores improved at 4 months (+1 [0, +2] p<.001) with 27% low, 63% moderate, 10% high. Each 1-unit Med diet increase was associated with -0.1 kg/m2 BMI (SE=0.04, p=.006) and -1.0 mmHg Systolic BP (SE=0.47, p=0.03) at 4 months. Med diet improvement was maintained at 12 (+1, [0, +2] p<.001) and 24 months (n=299, +1 [0, +2] p<.001). Adherence to a food pattern consistent with a Med diet improves after lifestyle intervention, even when not specifically prescribed, and is associated with weight and blood pressure benefits. Importantly, older adults sustain change in dietary quality over 2 years.
R.G. Miller: None. E.M. Venditti: None. M.D. Marcus: None. L.J. Germeroth: None. R.P.K. Conlon: None. M.D. Levine: None. T. Costacou: None.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (R18DK096404)