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Gerontology. 2008;54(4):232-7. doi: 10.1159/000135069. Epub 2008 May 26.

Differences in overall mortality in the elderly may be explained by diet.

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Departamento de Biología Funcional, Area de Fisiología, Facultad de Medicina, Universidad de Oviedo, Oviedo, Spain.



Although a relationship between diet and mortality is well recognized, there is little information on the extent to which different food sources contribute to survival in elderly people.


To examine the effect of individual food groups on mortality in institutionalized elderly people from Asturias (Northern Spain) after 6 years of follow-up.


The dietary intake of 288 elderly people aged 60-85 years was assessed using a semiquantitative food frequency questionnaire (FFQ). Age, gender, energy intake, chewing ability, hyperglycemia, hypercholesterolemia, physical activity, smoking habit, self-perceived health, education level and the institution from which participants were recruited were covariates in Cox regression models analyzing the effect of food on survival.


Fruit intake was found to be inversely associated with overall mortality. Multivariate adjusted mortality rate ratio (95% CI) per 1 SD increase in fruit intake was 0.714 (0.519-0.981). On the contrary, each 1 SD of potato intake led to a 32% higher risk of death (RR (95% CI) = 1.319 (1.033-1.685)).


A high intake of fruit late in life was associated with a longer survival. An inverse association between potato intake and survival was also observed, but further research is necessary before any firm conclusions about the possible harmful aspects of potato consumption can be drawn.

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