Adults who had consumed a healthy diet over the long-term study period performed better in three standardised physical performance measures at age 60-64, found a research team from University of Southampton (UoS), in collaboration with University College, London.
The study analysed subjects’ diet at four points between ages 36-64. The researchers found that those who consumed more fruit, vegetables and wholegrain bread, (and less refined carbohydrates and processed meats), performed better in chair rise, standing balance and timed up-and-go (TUG) tests.
Adults who had improved their diet later in the study period also showed better performance in the first two of these tests, suggesting that changing to a better dietary regime, even in early old age could be beneficial.
"Improving the quality of your diet can have a beneficial effect on health whatever your age. However, this study suggests that making good dietary choices throughout adulthood - by cutting down on highly processed foods and incorporating more fruit, vegetables and whole grains into your diet - can have a significant beneficial effect on strength and physical performance later in life, helping to ensure a much healthier old age," commented lead author Sian Robinson, Professor of Nutritional Epidemiology at UoS.
Studies examining long-term benefits of healthy diets in mid-life on physical performance in old age are relatively rare. However, results in this study are consistent with the most comparable other long-term trial, the Whitehall cohort.
“If these observational findings are confirmed in other studies, they have important public health implications: positive changes in dietary patterns in early older age could have benefits for physical performance and healthier ageing,” wrote the researchers.
“The link between dietary patterns and frailty in older people will open the door to effective interventions against the age-related decline in musculoskeletal function which is such a growing cause of disability in ageing populations worldwide,” concluded study leader Professor Cyrus Cooper, Director of the Medical Research Council Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit at UoS.
Source: The Journals of Gerontology: Series A
Published online: 13 October 2017. DOI: 10.1093/gerona/glx179
“Adult Lifetime Diet Quality and Physical Performance in Older Age: Findings From a British Birth Cohort”
Authors: Sian M. Robinson, Cyrus Cooper, et al