Health Studies

Med Diet Helps Prevent Cardiovascular Disease

A landmark clinical trial of nearly 7,500 people reveals that the Mediterranean Diet may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by up to 30 percent and may also reduce the risk for stroke among high-risk patients. Study participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups: Med Diet with at least 4 tablespoons of olive oil daily; Med Diet with an ounce of nuts daily; and a control group receiving advice on a low-fat diet. The two Med groups had no trouble following their instructions to enjoy five servings of fruits and vegetables, fish and legumes each three or more times a week, white meat instead of red, and wine (for those who drink), while avoiding commercial cookies and cakes, dairy products, and processed meats. The low-fat group morphed into a “typical Western diet” group. The study’s results were so clear that researchers halted the study earlier than planned because it was deemed unethical to prevent the control group from switching to a Mediterranean Diet.
The New England Journal of Medicine. 2013 February 25. [Estruch, et al.]
 

Polyphenols in Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Reduce Blood Pressure and Inflammation

Spanish scientists conducted a double-blind, randomized, crossover dietary intervention to study the effects of polyphenol-rich extra virgin olive oil in fighting hypertension in young women. For one 2-month period, the women consumed a diet including polyphenol-rich olive oil; after a 4-week washout, they switched to a diet including polyphenol-free olive oil. The polyphenol-rich olive oil decreased blood pressure, improved endothelial function and also reduced CRP, a marker of inflammation. [Extra-virgin olive oil is generally higher in polyphenols than regular olive oil.]
American Journal of Hypertension. 2012 Dec;25(12):1299-304. Moreno-Luna et al.

Premature Mortality Reduced with Med Diet

More than 15,500 Spanish university graduates taking part in the SUN project in Spain are assessed regularly for adherence to the Mediterranean Diet, while researchers follow their health. After 105,980 person-years of followup (about 6+ years for most subjects), this group has a mean age of about 38 years, and 125 of the subjects have died. Researchers determined that for each 2-point increase in the 0-point Med Diet Score, the risk of death dropped by 28%, leading them to conclude that adherence to the traditional Mediterranean Diet was associated with reduced risk of early death.
The Journal of Nutrition. 2012 September; 142(9):1672-8. [Martinez-González et al.]

Med Diet Assessment Tool Captures Obesity Risk

Spanish researchers involved with the PREDIMED Trial wanted to determine whether a 14-item Mediterranean Diet assessment tool could be used as a quicker and less expensive alternative to a 137-item food frequency questionnaire in predicting obesity risk. They found that the 14-items, considered those most typical of a traditional Mediterranean Diet, did indeed correlate to various obesity markers. High consumption of nuts and low consumption of sweetened sodas were most strongly associated with reduced likelihood of obesity.
PloS One. 2012; 7(8):e43134. [Epub 2012 Aug 14] [Martinez-González et al.]

Eat Olive Oil to Improve Bone Health

Spanish researchers seeking information on prevention of osteoporosis placed 127 elderly men on one of three different healthy diet plans – a Med Diet enriched with nuts, a Med Diet enriched with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, or a control low-fat diet – for a period of two years. Two important markers of bone health increased significantly with the olive-oil enriched Med Diet, but not with the other two diets, suggesting positive effects on bone.
The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. 2012 August 1. [Epub ahead of print] [Fernández-Real et al.]

Virgin Olive Oil & Med Diet Turn Off Pro-Inflammatory Genes in Elderly

In the elderly, chronic low-grade inflammation can accelerate atherosclerosis. Scientists in Córdoba, Spain carried out a study to determine how dietary fats change the expression of genes involved with this kind of inflammation. In the study, twenty healthy elderly people followed three different diets for three weeks each: a Mediterranean Diet high in monounsaturated fat from virgin olive oil (VOO), a diet rich in saturated fat, and a low-fat, high-carb diet. They found that the diet featuring virgin olive oil reduced postprandial inflammation in cells.
British Journal of Nutrition. 2012 Aug;108(3):500-8. Camargo et al.

Med Diet Early; Less Arterial Stiffness Later

Starting a good diet early makes a difference in one’s later years. That’s the conclusion of researchers in Maastricht, the Netherlands. As part of the Amsterdam Growth and Health Longevity Study, they assessed the Mediterranean Diet adherence during adolescence and young adulthood, and compared this to arterial stiffness measured by ultrasonography at age 36. They found that the women (all were women) who followed the Med Diet most closely had the healthiest arteries, with the least evidence of stiffening.
Journal of Internal Medicine. 2012 July 19. [Epub ahead of print] [van de Laar et al]

Avocado, Olive Oil Improve Fertility

Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health found that women who regularly eat avocados, olive oil, and other monounsaturated fats were 3.4 times more likely to conceive a child when undergoing IVF (in vitro fertilization). After studying the fat intake of 147 women, they found that those consuming the most saturated fat produced fewer good eggs.
Preliminary results presented at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (Istanbul) – not yet published in a peer-reviewed journal. 2012 July.

Virgin Olive Oil and Nuts Lower Inflammatory Markers

researchers involved with the PREDIMED trial compared inflammatory markers in three groups of adults involved in an intervention trial where one group’s diet was supplemented with virgin olive oil (VOO), the second group’s diet was supplemented with nuts, and the third group ate a low fat diet. After three months, both the VOO group and the nuts group had lower levels of several inflammation markers.
Pharmacological Research. 2012 Jun;65(6):577-83. Urpi-Sarda et al.

Polyphenol-rich Med Diet Foods Benefit Cognition

As part of the PREDIMED Trial, scientists in Spain studied 447 elderly men and women at high cardiovascular risk to find possible associations between polyphenol-rich foods common to the Mediterranean Diet and better cognitive function. They found that overall consumption of anti-oxidant-rich foods was associated with better cognitive performance, and that olive oil, coffee, and walnuts were especially associated with cognitive health.
Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. 2012 April; 29(4):773-82. [Valis-Pedret et al.]

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