The characteristics of the participants are shown in table I. The dispersion of data was very high and the differences between men and women were not significant in most of the parameters measured. However, there were significant differences in physical activity, and women showed poorer outcomes than men.
The mean age of the subjects in the study was 81.0 ± 4.6 years, with the most numerous group aged between 75 and 80. Most of population had a primary education level, less six diseases, a daily consumption of less five drugs and they were non-smokers, only one subject was smoker.
The mean BMI was 27.9 ± 4.1 kg/m2. They had a moderate level of physical activity, with an average of over 69 minutes of activity a day, particularly walking, cycling, swimming and gymnastics adapted to the elderly (Table I). Regarding food consumption, most subjects routinely used olive oil for cooking and salads and frequently ate fresh fish.
Table II shows the percentage of senior citizens who met the MEDAS targets and adhere to the Mediterranean diet.
All the participants used olive oil as theirin cooking fat, almost 90% met the targets for using olive oil as their frying fat, and 94.9% consumed dished seasoned with tomato sauce, onion or leek with olive oil.
The majority met the target for low consumption of red meat (92.4%), carbonated/sweetened beverages (79.7%), animal fat (77.2%), and commercial sweets and pastries (62%). In addition, more than 69% of the sample consumed more than three servings of fish per week. The population tended to consume vegetables, fruits and legumes. In contrast, consumption of wine and nuts was low. Less than 21% of individuals meet the targets.
Table III shows the relationship between consumption of foods of the study population and their adherence to the Mediterranean dietary pattern. Study population consumed similar serving of fruit, vegetables, and fish corresponding with the serving recommended of the food pyramid of Mediterranean Diet (Table III).
The mean MEDAS score was 9.4 ± 1.6, denoting strict adherence to the Mediterranean diet. 69.6% of individuals attained a MEDAS score of over 9, while 27.9% had a MEDAS score of 7 to 8, representing modest adherence to the Mediterranean diet.
Only 2.5% showed values of low adherence to the Mediterranean diet pattern. No differences were found due to sex but there were significant differences due age. Group aged over 90 showed a lower MEDAS (8.3 ± 1.2) (Table IV). MMSE values were high for all participants, especially for men and subjects aged over 90. Significant gender differences were not found.
87.5% of people –especially men– showed no cognitive limitations, while 9.7% of women and 2.8% of men had cognitive limitations (Table IV).
The number of individuals with cognitive problems increased with age. It is worth noting that no cognitive limitation was detected in the group aged over 90, although this result is only indicative and cannot be generalized, as there were few participants in the study. The average value of GDS indicated that the population had no depressive problems.
No differences due to sex and age were found. Seventy-five per cent of population showed no depressive problems. However, 23.6% of study population showed symptoms of slight depression (15.3% women and 8.3% men).
Only 1.4% reached values of severe depression. In terms of age, the group aged 81-85 years presented slightly higher values than the other age groups (Table IV). We studied the relation between MMSE and GDS values with the three categories of degree of adherence to the Mediterranean diet: low degree of adherence (MEDAS score < 6), moderate degree of adherence (MEDAS score 7-8) and strict adherence (MEDAS score > 9) (Table V).
As the degree of adherence rose, the percentage of individuals that had no cognitive limitations also increased, p < 0.05. In terms of depression, it was observed that none of the subjects suffered severe depression; a few individuals had values indicating mild depression, but these do not appear to be related to the quality of the diet.