Mediterranean diet may offer special health benefits for this age group

Adhering to the diet for one year altered study subjects' microbiomes.

There's yet another reason to try the Mediterranean diet, new research has found.

Among elderly individuals, adhering to a diet rich in vegetables, fruit, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds and olive oil for one year was linked to changes in gut microbiota associated with less fragility and better cognitive function.

The Mediterranean diet previously has been associated with a host of health benefits, including lower cardiovascular disease risk and longer life expectancy.

The study, published Monday in Gut, a British Medical Journal publication, analyzed the gut microbiota of 612 study participants between the ages of 65 and 79. Roughly half of the participants were assigned a Mediterranean diet, while others were control subjects.

Over the course of 12 months, the study participants assigned the Mediterranean diet were less likely to lose diversity in their gut microbiota. Reduced gut diversity has been associated with autoimmune diseases, obesity and aging. Among those same participants, adhering to the Mediterranean diet was also associated with better cognitive function and memory.

"Our findings support the feasibility of improving the habitual diet to modulate the gut microbiota, which in turn has the potential to promote healthier aging," the study authors wrote.