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Mediterranean Diet and Muscle Mass

The Mediterranean diet has long been touted for its ability to lower the risk of disease and improve health in old age. Tian and colleagues tested the association between a Mediterranean diet and muscle mass, and found that the Mediterranean diet is linked to higher muscle mass and may provide a protective effect.


Doctors and scientists have long touted the health benefits of a Mediterranean diet high in fruits, vegetables, lean meats, legumes, nuts, whole grains, and other healthful foods. This kind of diet is linked to low inflammation and helps lower the risk for many age-related diseases, including stroke, dementia, and cancer.

Previous research revealed a link between a Mediterranean diet and higher muscle mass in European women, but not among men, Iranians, or adults from Hong Kong. Muscle mass declines with age, leading to frailty, loss of strength, and higher mortality, so it’s important to understand the potential protective benefits of a Mediterranean diet on muscle mass.

Tian and colleagues published a new study in the British Journal of Nutrition investigating the links between a Mediterranean diet and muscle mass. The study included 3289 healthy subjects from Guangzhou, China, with about twice as many women as men. The researchers collected information on demographic characteristics, lifestyle (including physical activity and drinking), as well as personal and family history of disease, and diet. The researchers then measured height, weight, and skeletal muscle mass in kilograms. Baseline and follow-up data from several years later was available for 2520 participants.

Once other lifestyle factors were adjusted for, Tian and colleagues found a strong, significant association between a Mediterranean diet and greater muscle mass. This effect was about twice as strong in males than in females, and tended to be stronger in younger individuals than in older individuals.

A Mediterranean diet may prevent loss of muscle mass by reducing inflammation, as inflammation is thought to contribute to a reduction in muscle mass. Further, high fruit and vegetable intake may be independently linked to improved muscle mass. Long-term studies are needed to clarify precisely how a Mediterranean diet is linked to muscle mass.


Written By: C.I. Villamil

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