A shift towards a more plant-based diet is promoted as healthy as well as sustainable. Whether this also applies to older adults is however less clear: On one hand plant-based diets may lead to energy deficits among vulnerable older adults and therefore negatively impact well-being. On the other hand, plant-based diets have been found to have anti-inflammatory properties, suggesting they could be beneficial to older adults, often prone to chronic inflammation.
Using data of the Lifelines cohort study, we therefore investigated how plant-based diet are associated with well-being in older adults (mean age= 65.2) and whether this association is mediated by levels of high-sensitivity c-reactive protein (hsCRP).
We found a healthful plant-based diet, consisting e.g. of wholegrains, fruits & vegetables and legumes, to be associated with 14% greater well-being in older adults. Meanwhile, an unhealthful plant-based diet, consisting e.g. of refined grains, sugary foods and drinks and potatoes to be associated with 19% lower well-being. Secondly, we observed a healthful plant-based diet to be associated with lower levels of hsCRP, however there was no mediating effect of hsCRP on the association between plant-based diets and well-being. We therefore conclude that both, a healthful plant-based diet and low levels of chronic inflammation may independently contribute to greater well-being in older adults.
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