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Keywords:

  • walking speed;
  • elderly;
  • Mediterranean diet;
  • dietary assessment;
  • function

Objectives

To determine the association between Mediterranean diet (MedDiet) score and 20-m walking speed over 8 years.

Design

Health, Aging and Body Composition Study (Health ABC) beginning in 1997/98.

Setting

Community.

Participants

Two thousand two hundred twenty-five well-functioning individuals aged 70 and older.

Measurements

Walking speed was assessed in relation to low, medium, and high adherence to the MedDiet (0–2, 3–5, 6–9 points, respectively).

Results

Individuals in the highest MedDiet adherence group were more likely to be male; less likely to smoke; and more likely to have lower body mass index, higher energy intake, and greater physical activity (P < .05). Usual and rapid 20-m walking speed were highest in the high MedDiet adherence group than in the other groups (high, 1.19 ± 0.19 m/s; medium, 1.16 ± 0.21 m/s; low, 1.15 ± 0.19 m/s, P = .02, for usual speed; high, 1.65 ±0.30 m/s; medium, 1.59 ± 0.32 m/s; low, 1.55 ± 0.30 m/s, P = .001, for rapid speed). Over 8 years, usual and rapid 20-m walking speed declined in all MedDiet adherence groups. Higher MedDiet adherence was an independent predictor of less decline in usual 20-m walking speed (P = .049) in generalized estimating equations adjusted for age, race, sex, site, education, smoking, physical activity, energy intake, health status, depression and cognitive score. The effect decreased after adding total body fat percentage to the model (P = .13). Similar results were observed for MedDiet adherence and rapid 20-m walking speed; the association remained significant after adjustment for total body fat percentage (P = .01). The interaction between time and MedDiet adherence was not significant in any of the models.

Conclusion

Walking speed over 8 years was faster in those with higher MedDiet adherence at baseline. The differences remained significant over 8 years, suggesting a long-term effect of diet on mobility performance with aging.