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Healthy diet rich in vegetables and chronic systemic inflammation in older adults
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1  School of Health Sciences, Örebro University
Academic Editor: David Nieman


It is hypothesized that healthy diets (HD) rich in fruits and vegetables can modulate the inflammatory status in older adults. However, to determine the true impact of HD on inflammatory status objectively assessed physical activity (PA) behaviors need to be considered. The aim of the present study was to explore links between HD, fruit and vegetable intakes and biomarkers of systemic inflammation in older adults. In a sample of 216 (82 men, 134 women) community-dwelling older adults (65-70 yrs), dietary habits were assessed by food frequency questionnaire and a healthy diet score (HDS) was retrieved together with intakes of fruits and vegetables. PA behaviors were assessed using accelerometry. The following pro-inflammatory blood biomarkers were assessed: C-reactive-protein (CRP), interleukin-6 (IL-6), IL-18 and tumor necrosis factor (TNF-a). Associations were determined using linear regression analysis with the following covariates: age, sex, education level, energy intake, adherence to PA guideline, daily sedentary time, medication use, and waist circumference. Our results showed that HDS was inversely related to level of IL18 (β = -0.04; p<0.05). However, this association was attenuated after adjusting the model with waist circumference. No other significant associations between HDS and other biomarkers were observed. Vegetable intake was inversely associated with level of IL6 (β = -0.19; p<0.05), which remained significant after further adjustment for waist circumference. No significant associations between vegetable intake and other inflammatory biomarkers were observed. In contrast, fruit intake was not associated with any inflammatory biomarker. In conclusion, our findings reveal beneficial associations between healthy diets rich in vegetables and biomarkers of systemic inflammation in older adults. Importantly, these associations remained evident regardless of adherence to PA guidelines and daily time spent sedentary, which highlights the plant-rich diet as an important lifestyle factor with potential to mitigate age-related systemic inflammation.

Keywords: Physical activity; Aging; Dietary patterns; C-reactive protein; Interleukin-6