Health Studies

Mediterranean Diet and Risk of Incident Cognitive Impairment

Researchers from Greece, the Czech Republic, and the United States collaborated to follow more than 17,000 individuals for approximately 4 years to evaluate the effects of the Mediterranean Diet on cognitive status. Using Food Frequency Questionnaires, they determined that higher adherence to the Mediterranean Diet was associated with lower likelihood of incident cognitive impairment, even after adjusting for demographic characteristics, environmental factors, vascular risk factors, depressive symptoms, and self-reported health status. Although higher adherence to the Mediterranean Diet reduced risk of incident cognitive impairment in nondiabetic individuals, it did not yield the same results in patients with diabetes.
Neurology. 2013 Apr 30; 80(18):1684-1692. (Tsivgoulis et al.)

Reduced Risk of Colorectal Cancer with Mediterranean Diet

A group of investigators in Europe looked at the relationship between risk for colorectal cancer and adherence to the Mediterranean Diet in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer (EPIC) and Nutrition study. For the EPIC study about 520,000 apparently healthy people were recruited from 1993-2000 in 23 research centers in 10 European countries. After an average follow-up of around 11 years the researchers found evidence that suggests that adherence to a Mediterranean Diet is associated with moderately reduced risk of colorectal cancer.
European Journal of Epidemiology. 2013;(28:317-328. (Bami et al.)

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.)

Vegetarian Diet and Heart Health

A group of scientists in England conducted a study that looked at 44,000 people enrolled in a study in England and Scotland. They measured factors that are related to heart health and ischemic heart disease. After comparing vegetarians to non-vegetarians they found that vegetarians were 32% less likely to develop ischemic heart disease.
Am J Clin Nutr. 2013; 97:597-603. (Crowe 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.]

Vegetarian Diets and the Incidence of Cancer

Using data from the Adventist Health Study-2 researchers from Loma Linda University in California looked at the relationship between vegetarian dietary patterns and the incidence of cancer in a low risk population. In this prospective study, vegetarian diets appeared to confer protection against cancer. A vegan diet appears to have the overall lowest risk of cancer and female-specific cancers; a lacto-ovo-vegetarian pattern provided greatest protection from gastrointestinal cancers.
Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2013; 22:286-294. (Tantamago-Bartley 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.]

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