Healthy plant-based diet linked to lower risk of frailty

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Scientists from the Autonomous University of Madrid and elsewhere found a healthy plant diet is linked to a lower risk of frailty.

The research is published in The Journal of Cachexia, Sarcopenia, and Muscle and was conducted by Mercedes Sotos-Prieto et al.

In medicine, frailty defines the group of older people who are at the highest risk of adverse outcomes such as falls, disability, admission to hospital, or the need for long-term care.

The Mediterranean diet is characterized by high intakes of vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts, grains, fish, seafood, extra virgin olive oil, and a moderate intake of red wine.

The Mediterranean diet and other dietary patterns rich in fruits and vegetables have been linked to a lower risk of frailty in older adults.

However, not all plant-based diets are healthful, and no previous study has evaluated the role of the quality of plant-based dietary patterns in frailty risk.

In the current study, researchers aimed to assess the association between plant-based diet quality and the risk of frailty.

They used data from more than 80000 women aged ≥60 years from the Nurses’ Health Study, who were followed from 1990 through 2014. Dietary data were collected every 4 years using a food questionnaire.

The plant-based diet quality was assessed with two indices: (a) healthful plant-based diet index (hPDI), where healthy plant foods (whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, vegetable oils, and tea/coffee) received positive scores, while less healthy plant foods (fruit juices, sweetened beverages, refined grains, potatoes, and sweets/desserts) and animal foods received reverse scores; and

(b) unhealthful plant-based diet index (uPDI) where positive scores were given to less healthy plant foods and reverse scores to healthy plant foods and animal foods.

The participants’ frailty was assessed every 4 years, is defined as having three or more of the following five criteria from the FRAIL scale: fatigue, low strength, reduced aerobic capacity, having ≥5 illnesses, and weight loss ≥5%.

During the follow-up period, the team found more than 12000 cases of frailty. A healthy plant-based diet score was linked to a lower risk of frailty.

In addition, an increased healthy plant-based diet score was associated with a relatively 15% lower risk of frailty.

Conversely, the team also found a direct association between unhealthy plant-diet scores and the risk of frailty.

Based on the findings, the team concludes that a healthful plant-based diet is linked to a lower risk of frailty whereas an unhealthful plant-based diet is linked to a higher risk of frailty.

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