European mature adults and elderly are moving closer to the Mediterranean diet: a longitudinal study, 2013-19

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BACKGROUND: The decreasing adherence in Mediterranean Diet (M.D.) during the last decades has been attributed to social, cultural and economic factors. However, recent efforts to improve dietary habits and the economic improvement might be reversing this trend. We analyze the changes in M.D. adherence between 2013 and 2019 among a sample of European mature adults and the elderly.

METHODS: Using data from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe for adults over 50 years old, we designed a longitudinal cohort study with a sample of participants from waves 5 (2013) and 8 (2019/20). Logistic regressions were used to model the consumption of M.D. adherence as a function of the year. We then stratified the analyses by education, age and transitions in economic status, employment and self-perceived health.

RESULTS: There was in 2019/20 a significant increase in the M.D. adherence (10.8% vs. 14.3%, OR = 1.367, P < 0.01). The rise was mainly related to the decrease of meat and fish (38.4% vs. 30.5%, OR = 0.703, P < 0.01) and growth of legumes and eggs intake (36.3% vs. 41.8%, OR = 1.260 P < 0.01). The results were consistent in all European regions and most sociodemographic groups. Younger people with higher income and education had a greater rise in adherence.

CONCLUSIONS: Our analysis shows a generalized growth in adherence to the M.D. across most socioeconomic subpopulations and countries in Europe, suggesting a shift to healthier diet patterns. The more noticeable increase among affluent, educated and healthy respondents, may further entrench dietary and health inequalities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)600-605
JournalEuropean Journal of Public Health
Issue number4
Early online date17 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2022


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