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Mediterranean Diet Linked with 33% Lower Risk of Depression

Scientists are eager to learn more about the link between a healthy diet and a healthy mind. In this study, researchers analyzed existing observational studies between healthy diets (measured by the Mediterranean Diet score, the Healthy Eating Index, the Dietary Inflammatory Index, and related scoring systems) and depression. According to the researchers, “the most compelling evidence was found for the Mediterranean diet and incident depression.” Specifically, those most closely following a Mediterranean diet were 33% less likely to develop incident depression than those not following a Mediterranean diet. People whose diets scored well on some of the other diet scores also tended to have a lower risk of depression, though there were fewer studies using those indices.
Molecular Psychiatry. 2018 Sep 26. doi: 10.1038/s41380-018-0237-8. [Epub ahead of print] (Lassale C et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with 22% Lower Risk of Stroke in Women

The Mediterranean diet has been well studied for its link to stroke prevention, but researchers wonder how the effects may differ between different types of patients. In this study, scientists monitored the eating patterns and health status of 23,232 white Europeans in the UK. After 17 years, those most closely following a Mediterranean diet had a 17% lower risk of stroke. However, the findings seem to be driven primarily by women. Women who most closely followed a Mediterranean diet had a 22% lower risk of stroke, while the trend towards lower risk in men was not statistically significant. Additionally, the findings were stronger in people who had a higher risk of heart disease (due to family history or other factors).
Stroke. 2018 Sept 20. doi: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.117.020258. [Epub ahead of print.] (Paterson KE et al.)

Cheese Production in Mediterranean May Have Helped Reduced Infant Mortality in Middle Neolithic Period

The Neolithic Period, when communities transitioned from a largely hunter-gatherer lifestyle to a largely agricultural lifestyle, began about 12,000 years ago. Cheese production in the Mediterranean was thought to have begun in the Bronze Age (after the Neolithic Period). However, newly discovered fatty acid residue on pottery from Neolithic sites in Croatia indicates that milk was fermented into cheese much earlier than had been assumed, in the Middle Neolithic period (5200 BCE). The researchers suggest that “dairying and fermentation had additional human life-history dependent advantages by reducing infant mortality,” which “helped stimulate demographic shifts that propelled farming communities to expand and provided the demographic and dietary risk buffering to allow Neolithic farming to spread to colder, temperate climates.”
PLoS One. 2018 Sep 5;13(9):e0202807. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0202807. (McClure SB et al.)

Healthy Diets (Like Mediterranean, Vegetarian) May Improve Gut Microbiome

Scientists are increasingly interested in researching the gut microbiome, the community of bacteria of our digestive tract, as studies suggest that the types of microbes we produce and carry around may impact our risk for chronic disease. In this review, researchers analyzed the existing research on diet and the gut microbiome, focusing on vegetarian diets and Mediterranean diets. Both epidemiological studies and randomized clinical trials demonstrate that healthy Mediterranean and vegetarian diets are linked with various beneficial changes to the gut microbiome (such as increased short chain fatty acid production, increases in Prevotella, and decreases in trimethylamine). They suggest that these healthy diets may lower risk of chronic disease by impacting our gut microbiome, but that more research is needed to identify the exact mechanism.
Journal of Nutrition. 2018 Sep 1;148(9):1402-1407. doi: 10.1093/jn/nxy141. (Tindall AM et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Prolonged Survival in Elderly

The Mediterranean Diet is well known for its links with longevity, but researchers wonder if this protective effect might apply to an elderly population as well. In a study of 5,200 older adults in Italy (ages 65+), researchers found that those most closely following a Mediterranean diet were significantly less likely to die over the 8-year study period. In fact, each 1-point increase in the Mediterranean Diet Score (0-9 point scale) was linked with a 4-7% lower risk of death from all causes over the 8 years.
British Journal of Nutrition. 2018 Aug 30:1-14. doi: 10.1017/S0007114518002179. [Epub ahead of print] (Bonaccio M et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Lower Risk of Age-Related Eye Disease

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of vision loss in older adults. Because there is no cure or treatment, prevention is especially important. Scientists analyzed the eye health and eating habits of nearly 5,000 older adults in the Netherlands and France for up to 21 years. Those most closely following a Mediterranean diet were 41% less likely to have incident advanced AMD.
Ophthalmology. 2018 Aug 13. pii: S0161-6420(18)30721-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ophtha.2018.08.006. [Epub ahead of print] (Merle BMJ et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with 51% Lower Arthritis Risk in Men

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that can cause painful swelling of the joints, and researchers wonder if lifestyle choices may help prevent its onset. In this study, researchers analyzed the eating habits of 1,721 patients with rheumatoid arthritis and 3,667 healthy controls in Sweden (matched for age, gender, and neighborhood). Those most closely following a Mediterranean diet had a 19% lower risk of rheumatoid arthritis. However, the findings seem to be driven primarily by men, and those with seropositive rheumatoid arthritis (a type of arthritis associated with more painful symptoms). Men who most closely followed a Mediterranean diet had a 51% lower risk of rheumatoid arthritis, while the trend towards lower risk in women was not statistically significant.
Arthritis Research & Therapy. 2018 Aug 9;20(1):175. doi: 10.1186/s13075-018-1680-2. (Johansson K et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Less Severe Psoriasis

Psoriasis is an inflammatory disease that causes itchy rashes on the skin. Since the Mediterranean diet has been known to lower inflammation, researchers wonder whether it may also help with psoriasis. In an online survey, researchers analyzed the eating habits of 35,735 French adults, and also surveyed them about psoriasis. Those most closely following a Mediterranean diet were 22-29% less likely to report having severe psoriasis than those not following a Mediterranean diet. The researchers concluded that “the Mediterranean diet may slow the progression of psoriasis.”
JAMA Dermatology. 2018 Jul 25. [Epub ahead of print.] (Phan C et al.)

Mediterranean Diet in Teens Linked with Better Sleep, Academic Performance

The Mediterranean diet is full of foods that promote brain health, so it stands to reason that this eating pattern may be especially beneficial for students. To see how the Mediterranean diet relates to sleep and brain health, researchers analyzed the eating patterns, sleep quality, sleep duration, school grades, and exam scores of 269 13-year-olds in Spain. Closely following a Mediterranean diet was linked with better sleep quality, as well as higher GPAs, and better grades in math, language, and core subjects. The researchers suggest that better sleep quality may play a role in the Mediterranean’s relationship with improved academic performance.
Acta Paediatrica. 2018 Jul 17. [Epub ahead of print.] (Adelantado-Renau M et al.)

Med Diet Linked with Less Death, Heart Attacks in People with History of Heart Disease

Even if you already have heart disease, it’s never too late to improve your health. Researchers analyzed the eating habits and health status of 3,562 adults with heart disease, to see how different eating patterns relate to further health complications down the road (like death or heart attacks). Those most closely following a Mediterranean diet were 20% less likely to die from all causes and 22% less likely to have a cardiovascular event (like a heart attack) during the 7-year follow up. On the other hand, a “Southern Diet” (lots of added fats, fried food, eggs, organ meats, processed meats, and sweetened beverages) was linked with a higher risk of death from all causes during the 7-year follow up. 
Journal of the American Heart Association. 2018 Jul 12;7(14). pii: e008078. (Shikany JM et al.)

Mediterranean Diet with Vit D Improves Neck Bone Mineral Density in Adults with Osteoporosis

A traditional Mediterranean diet has frequent but small portions of fermented dairy (like artisan cheeses or Greek yogurt), a food group widely associated with bone health. To see how a Mediterranean diet relates to bone health, researchers randomly assigned 1,142 elderly European adults to a Mediterranean diet with a vitamin D3 supplement, or a control group with pamphlets on healthy eating tips. After 1 year, the Mediterranean diet & vitamin D intervention had no effect on bone mineral density for most participants. However, in the small subset of participants (54 people) who already had osteoporosis, the Mediterranean diet & vitamin D intervention significantly reduced the rate of bone loss at the femoral neck, but had no effect on lumbar spine or whole-body bone-mineral density.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2018 Jul 11. [Epub ahead of print.] (Jennings A et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Healthy DNA in Women

If your DNA is a shoelace, telomeres are the plastic endcaps, that protect it. Shorter telomeres are linked with many age-related diseases, such as heart disease and cancer. To see how diet relates to telomere length, scientists analyzed the eating habits and telomere length of 4,758 adults in the US. Most closely following a Mediterranean diet (or other similar healthy diets, like the DASH diet or Healthy Eating Index) was associated with significantly longer telomere length in women, but not in men. 
American Journal of Epidemiology.  2018 Jun 15. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwy124. [Epub ahead of print] (Leung CW et al.)

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