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Evolution of the Dietary Patterns Across Nutrition Transition in the Sardinian Longevity Blue Zone and Association with Health Indicators in the Oldest Old.

  • Pes, Giovanni Mario1, 2
  • Poulain, Michel3, 4
  • Errigo, Alessandra5
  • Dore, Maria Pina1, 6
  • 1 Dipartimento di Scienze Mediche, Chirurgiche e Sperimentali, University of Sassari, Viale San Pietro 8, 07100 Sassari, Italy. , (Italy)
  • 2 Sardinia Longevity Blue Zone Observatory, 08040 Ogliastra, Italy. , (Italy)
  • 3 Institute for the Analysis of Change in Historical and Contemporary Societies (IACCHOS), Université Catholique de Louvain, 1348 Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium. , (Belgium)
  • 4 Estonian Institute for Population Studies, Tallinn University, 10120 Tallinn, Estonia. , (Estonia)
  • 5 Dipartimento di Scienze Biomediche, University of Sassari, Viale San Pietro 43/b, 07100 Sassari, Italy. , (Italy)
  • 6 Baylor College of Medicine, One Baylor Plaza, Houston, TX 77030, USA.
Published Article
Publication Date
Apr 28, 2021
DOI: 10.3390/nu13051495
PMID: 33925037


Health and longevity in humans are influenced by numerous factors, including lifestyle and nutrition. However, the direct relationship between lifetime eating habits and functional capacity of the elderly is poorly understood. This study investigated the dietary changes across nutrition transition (NT) in the early 1960s, in a population located in the Sardinia island known for its longevity, dubbed as "Longevity Blue Zone" (LBZ), as well as the relationship between the dietary patterns and a panel of health indicators. A total of 150 oldest-old participants (89 women and 61 men, age range 90-101 years) living in the LBZ were recruited. Participants were interviewed using validated questionnaires to assess the consumption frequency of common food items, as well as the correlation with self-rated health, comorbidity, affective and cognitive level, physical mobility, disability and anthropometric parameters. Differences between subgroups were evaluated using the Mann-Whitney U test for independent samples or the Wilcoxon signed-rank test for paired samples. Correlation analysis was performed by calculating the Spearman correlation coefficient, separately in males and females. Compared to the pre-NT epoch, the consumption of meat, olive oil and fresh fruit slightly increased, while the consumption of lard, legumes and vegetables decreased. A significant association was found between increased olive oil intake across NT and self-rated health (ρ = 0.519), mobility (ρ = 0.502), improved vision (ρ = -0.227) and hearing (ρ = -0.314); increased chicken meat intake and performance in activities of daily living (basic activities of daily living: ρ = 0.351; instrumental activities of daily living: ρ = 0.333). Instead, vegetable consumption showed low correlation with health indicators. A mild increase in meat intake, mostly pastured poultry, is associated with better physical performance in the Sardinian LBZ elders, suggesting that a supply of protein may have been crucial to maintaining adequate functional capacity.

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