Health Studies

Fat in Olive Oil Can Help Revive Ailing Hearts

We’ve long known that a Mediterranean inspired diet rich in olive oil is associated with disease prevention, but recent studies are showing promise in disease treatment as well. In an animal study at the University of Illinois, either palmitate (the dietary fat found in animal fats, dairy, and palm oil) or oleate (the dietary fat found in olive oil) was delivered directly to beating rat hearts with heart failure. The palmitate treated hearts continued failing, with depressed fat metabolism and storage. On the other hand, the oleate treated hearts greatly improved, with restored fat content in cells, improved contraction, and normalized fat metabolism genes. In fact, after observing the hearts treated with oleate, the scientists declared that the fat content, turnover, and oxidation in the failing hearts “were indistinguishable from those of the healthy heart."
Circulation. 2014 September 29, pii [Epub ahead of print] (Lahey R et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Decreases Risk of Mouth Cancer

Diets high in fruits and vegetables have long been associated with a decreased risk of many cancers. In a recent European case controlled study, scientists investigated 2 years of self-reported dietary intakes of 768 people with incident cases of mouth cancer, and 2078 people with no history of mouth cancer. The food intakes were then evaluated for adherence to the Mediterranean Diet. After analyzing the data, researchers found strong evidence that those with the highest adherence to the Mediterranean Diet had the lowest risk for mouth cancer.
British Journal of Cancer. 2014 August 26;111(5):981-6 (Filomeno M. et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Decreases Diabetes Risk

Researchers in Vienna, Austria reviewed data from over 122,000 adults to investigate the association between the Mediterranean diet and diabetes risk. After analyzing eight prospective cohort studies and one clinical controlled trial published between 2007 and 2014, the scientists found that greater adherence to a Mediterranean diet is associated with a significant reduction (19%) in the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Public Health Nutrition. 2014 Aug 22 [Epub ahead of print] (Schwingshackl L et al.)

Mediterranean Diet May Decrease Asthma in Children

Although environmental factors are related to asthma very little research exists on asthma and dietary patterns. Stanford researchers conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of 31 studies on asthma and diet. While the analysis found no association between diet and asthma prevalence in adults or of maternal diet with child asthma or wheeze, 7 of the 10 studies analyzing the Mediterranean diet showed protective effects on child asthma and/or wheeze. This research suggests that the Mediterranean diet may prevent asthma or wheeze in children.
Journal of Asthma and Allergy. 2014 Aug 12;7:105-21 (Lv N et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Decreases Risk of Frailty in Aging Adults

The Mediterranean diet stands the test of time! As part of a prospective cohort study in Spain, researchers assessed 1815 community dwelling older adults for adherence to the Mediterranean diet and measures of frailty (including exhaustion, muscle weakness, low physical activity, slow walking speed, and weight loss). The researchers found that greater adherence to the Mediterranean diet was significantly associated with a decreased risk of frailty. The study also found that reduced frailty risk was related with increased fruit consumption and fish consumption.
Journal of the American Medical Directors Association. 2014 Aug 7 (Leon-Munoz LM et al.)

Long term improvement in vascular function after Mediterranean diet

A healthy vascular system is crucial to delivering oxygen and nutrients to body tissues, and research is showing that even short-term dietary changes can provide long-term benefits. In a small study in the United Kingdom, 22 healthy older individuals (average age = 55 years) followed an 8-week exercise program, and half of the individuals were randomly assigned to a Mediterranean diet for that time period. One year later, 20 of the individuals returned for a follow-up assessment testing their vascular function. The vascular function for both groups had improved from before the original 8-week trial, but the Mediterranean diet group showed an even greater improvement than the exercise-only group.
Microvascular Research. 2014 Aug 7;95C:103-107 (Klonizakis M et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Can Protect Against Breast Cancer

In a study in Spain, scientists analyzed five years of dietary intake for 1017 women with incident cases of breast cancer, and 1017 healthy women of similar age without a history of breast cancer, and categorized their diet as Mediterranean, Western, or Prudent (low fat). Researchers found that women who consumed a Mediterranean diet pattern had a significantly lower risk of breast cancer, an association that was especially strong for triple-negative tumors (a type of breast cancer that does not respond to hormonal therapy). On the other hand, the Western diet was associated with an increased risk of breast cancer, and the Prudent diet had no association to breast cancer risk.
British Journal of Cancer. 2014 Aug 7 [Epub ahead of print] (Castello et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Reduces Risk of Cognitive Decline

Just because you don’t live in the Mediterranean, doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from the Mediterranean diet. An Australian study followed 527 healthy older adults (average age=69 years) in 3 different dietary pattern groups (Australian-style Mediterranean, Prudent/healthy, and Western) over a 3-year period. Researchers found that in participants with genetic predisposition to Alzheimers disease (APoE4 allele carriers), high adherence to the Australian-style Mediterranean diet (high in fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, and fish) was associated with better executive function, the set of mental processes used in planning, strategizing, remembering details, and managing time and space.
Molecular Psychiatry. 2014 July 29. [Epub ahead of print] (Gardener SL et al.) 

Med Diet Slows Diabetes Progression

The Mediterranean Diet slowed the progression of type 2 diabetes more than a low-fat diet, in a recent randomized controlled trial in Naples, Italy, of 215 adults recently diagnosed with diabetes. The Med Diet group ate a diet high in olive oil, vegetables and whole grains, with poultry and fish replacing most red meat, while the low-fat group concentrated on restricting fatty or sugary snacks and limiting overall fat. At the six-year mark, all the people in the low-fat group needed medication, while some in the Med group were able to delay medication for two more years. People on the Med Diet also tended to lose more weight and to stick with the diet even after the trial ended.
Diabetes Care, ePub April 10, 2014. Esposito et al.
 

Med Diet and Lower Risk of Peripheral Artery Disease

Researchers for the PREDIMED study reviewed data that followed about 7,500 adults aged 55 to 80 who had a high risk of developing heart disease. The people were divided into 3 groups: one was assigned to eat a Mediterranean Diet enriched with extra-virgin olive oil; one was assigned to eat a Mediterranean Diet enriched with nuts; and one was assigned to a control group that received advice on following a low-fat diet. Over five years a total of 89 participants developed peripheral artery disease (PAD), which deposits plaque in the arteries of the legs, restricting blood flow, and can cause pain during walking. Participants in the control group developed PAD at a rate of about 0.5% per year. The Med Diet with nuts group experienced half that rate, and the Med Diet with olive oil group experienced an even lower rate of 0.15% per year. Researchers believe this is the first randomized primary prevention trial to suggest an association between diet and reduced rates of PAD.
JAMA. 2014; 311(4):415-417 [Ruiz-Canela M, Estruch R, Corella D, Salas-Salvadó J, Martínez-González MA].

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