Health Studies

Mediterranean Diet, Cognitive Function and Dementia

A group in the UK conducted a systematic review of the literature currently available concerning the possible relationship between the Mediterranean diet, cognitive function and dementia. After analyzing the available research they found that most published studies (9 out of 12) suggest greater adherence to a Mediterranean diet is associated with slower mental decline and decreased risk for Alzheimer’s disease. More research is needed to clarify the relationship of the Med Diet with vascular dementia and mild cognitive impairment.
Epidemiology. 2013; 24(4):479-489. (Lourida et al.)

Med Diet Healthy and Affordable

A study published in the Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition helps debunk the myth that the Mediterranean Diet is cost prohibitive for families on tight budgets. The Rhode Island Community Food Bank sponsored a six-week cooking program focused on plant-based cooking with olive oil. Study authors followed the 63 participants for six months to determine whether their grocery shopping and cooking habits changed as a result of the program. At the end of the study participants had decreased their total food expenses, purchases of meat, and consumption of "junk" food. Results also suggest that eating 2 to 3 vegetarian meals per week increases fruit and vegetable consumption and helps with weight control.
Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition. March 2013; 8(1). [Epub 2013 March 14] [Flynn, Reinert & Schiff]

Med Diet Beneficial for Diabetes Management

Researchers in the United Kingdom reviewed results from 20 previous studies that compared the effects of seven different diets on 3,073 people with type 2 diabetes. They discovered that the Mediterranean Diet, as well as low-carbohydrate, low-glycemic index, and high-protein diets all helped subjects control blood sugar. The Mediterranean Diet also contributed to weight loss and increased levels of HDL (“good” cholesterol). Overall, researchers concluded that these four diets should be considered in the overall strategy of diabetes management.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2013 March. [Epub 2013 January 30] [Olubukola et al.]

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]

Recent Blog Posts

It’s easy to think that when you embrace a vegetarian or vegan diet...
Earlier this year I had the great pleasure of attending an event at the Cu...

E-Newsletter Sign-up

Sign up for one or more of our Oldways newsletters. After you enter your email and click Submit you’ll be given a chance to choose which newsletter(s) you want.

Email: