Journal Article

Mediterranean diet and physical functioning trajectories in Eastern Europe: findings from the HAPIEE study

Stefler, D., Hu, Y., Malyutina, S., Pajak, A., Kubinova, R., Peasey, A., Pikhart, H., Rodriguez-Artalejo, F., Bobak, M.
PLOS One, 13:7, e0200460 (2018)
Open Access


Background: Unhealthy diet may increase the risk of impaired physical functioning in older age. Although poor diet and limited physical functioning both seem to be particularly common in Eastern Europe, no previous study has assessed the relationship between these two factors in this region. The current analysis examined the association between overall diet quality and physical functioning in Eastern European populations.

Methods: We used data on 25,504 persons (aged 45–69 years at baseline) who participated in the Health Alcohol and Psychosocial factors in Eastern Europe (HAPIEE) study. Dietary assessment at baseline used food frequency questionnaire, and the overall diet quality was evaluated by the Mediterranean diet score (MDS). Physical functioning (PF) was measured by the physical functioning subscale (PF-10) of the 36-item Short-Form Health Survey at baseline and three subsequent occasions over a 10-year period. The cross-sectional and longitudinal relationships between the MDS and PF were examined simultaneously using growth curve models.

Results: Men and women with higher adherence to the Mediterranean diet had significantly better PF at baseline; after multivariable adjustment, the regression coefficient per 1-unit increase in the MDS was 0.39 (95% CI: 0.25, 0.52) in men and 0.50 (0.36, 0.64) in women. However, we found no statistically significant link between baseline MDS and the subsequent slope of PF decline in neither gender; the coefficients were -0.02 (-0.04, 0.00) in men and -0.01 (-0.03, 0.02) in women.

Discussion: Our results do not support the hypothesis that the Mediterranean diet has a substantial impact on the trajectories of physical functioning, although the differences existing at baseline may be related to dietary habits in earlier life.

Keywords: Czech Republic, Poland, Russian Federation, ageing, diet, health
The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.