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More Exposure to Nutritious, Bitter Staples of Med Diet May Improve Consumer Acceptability

Many bitter foods, such as green vegetables, contain a wealth of antioxidants and essential vitamins and minerals. In this review, scientists analyzed existing research on consumer opinions of two bitter-tasting, healthful essentials of the Mediterranean diet: extra virgin olive oil and brassicaceae vegetables (the family of vegetables that includes broccoli and arugula). They found the most important factor in influencing someone’s perception of these bitter foods is exposure, meaning the more often someone tries these foods, the more likely they’ll be to like them. They also note that music and certain food pairings can make these bitter foods appear to taste less bitter to consumers. In certain demographics (women and elderly consumers), promoting the healthfulness of these bitter foods can also improve acceptability.
Nutrients. 2019 May 24;11(5). pii: E1164. doi: 10.3390/nu11051164. (Cavallo C et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Better Cognitive Function in Adults with Well-Controlled Type 2 Diabetes

Healthy diets are known to support brain health in a general population, so researchers wonder if this benefit also extends to patients with diabetes. Scientists analyzed the eating habits, blood sugar control, and brain function in 913 adults, nearly half of whom had type 2 diabetes. In patients who had good blood sugar control, those most closely following a Mediterranean diet significantly improved their cognitive function over the 2-year study. However, the results were not statistically significant in patients without diabetes or patients with poor blood sugar control.
Diabetes Care. 2019 May 23. pii: dc190130. doi: 10.2337/dc19-0130. [Epub ahead of print] (Mattei J et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Lower Risk of Diagnosed Depression

Good food is one of life’s greatest pleasures, and emerging research suggests that certain food choices might ward off depression as well. Researchers analyzed the diets and mental health of 154 older adults in Greece, to see how a Mediterranean diet might relate to depression. Eating a Mediterranean diet was not linked with a change in risk of depressive symptoms. However, those most closely following a Mediterranean diet were significantly less likely to be diagnosed with depression. When looking at individual foods, eating more vegetables, more poultry, and less alcohol was also linked with a lower risk of depression. (Note that findings presented at meetings are considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.)
Presentation at American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting. San Francisco, CA. May 19, 2019

Following Mediterranean Diet During Pregnancy Linked with Healthy Outcomes for Mothers and Children

Pregnant mothers have a special opportunity to impact not only their own health, but the health of their babies as well, and researchers wonder what some of the short-term and long-term impacts of maternal diet might be. In this article, researchers analyzed 22 studies of pregnant mothers following a Mediterranean diet. They found that, compared with children of mothers who aren’t following a Mediterranean diet, children of mothers who follow a Mediterranean diet during pregnancy are significantly less likely to have depressive behaviors or aggression, and are significantly less likely to have birth defects (such as dangerous heart defects). Allergic disorders (including eczema and asthma) are less likely in children when mothers follow a Mediterranean diet during pregnancy, and an even stronger association is found when children continue with a Mediterranean diet. The researchers also found benefits for the mothers themselves, as those following a Mediterranean diet during pregnancy were less likely to develop diabetes during pregnancy.
Nutrients. 2019 May 17;11(5). pii: E1098. doi: 10.3390/nu11051098. (Amati F et al.)

High Fat Mediterranean Diet Good for Weight Loss and Waistline

Although it is still widely feared that high fat diets could lead to weight gain, high fat Mediterranean style diets are actually a helpful tool for weight loss. Using data from the republished PREDIMED study (where adults at risk of heart disease were randomly assigned to a low fat diet, a Mediterranean diet with nuts, or a Mediterranean diet with olive oil for nearly 5 years), scientists analyzed the waist circumference and weight of the participants at baseline and again at the end of the study. While all 3,985 participants with follow up data increased their waist size slightly with aging – even as they lost weight – the Mediterranean diet groups had significantly smaller increases in their waistline compared to the low fat control group. Similarly, the Mediterranean diet with olive oil group lost significantly more weight than the low fat group, at nearly 1 pound more, but the greater weight loss seen in the nut group was not statistically significant. The scientists conclude that “the fear of weight gain from high-fat foods need no longer be an obstacle to adherence to a dietary pattern such as the Mediterranean diet,” and that these results “lend support to not restricting intake of healthy fats in advice for bodyweight maintenance and overall cardiometabolic health.”
The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology. 2019 May. [Epub ahead of print] (Estruch R et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Improved Quality of Life in Crohn's Disease

Crohn’s Disease is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease that causes stomach pain and severe diarrhea. Diet is a major factor in the management of Crohn’s disease, however there are no international guidelines on diet for the management of this disease. In this study, researchers evaluated the diet, quality of life, disease severity, and inflammation of 86 patients with Chron’s disease. They found that the patients whose Crohn’s disease was in remission had the highest quality of life, and that those patients had a higher adherence to the Mediterranean diet. This may be due in part to the high concentration of antioxidants and other nutrients in the Mediterranean diet, which may reduce inflammation and improve the symptoms of Crohn’s disease. This study shows that the Mediterranean diet may play an important role in managing the symptoms and improving the quality of life of patients with Crohn’s disease.
European Journal of Nutrition.  2019 Apr 20. doi: 10.1007/s00394-019-01972-z. (Papada E, et al)

Tomato Sofrito Linked with Lower Inflammation

Sofrito is a sauce of tomatoes, onion, and olive oil, commonly eaten in Mediterranean cuisine. In a recent study, researchers investigated to potential health benefits of this sauce. A group of 22 healthy men were fed sofrito after following a low-antioxidant and tomato-free diet; blood and urine samples were taken before and after eating the sofrito. The researchers found a significant increase in the amount of carotenoids and polyphenols (healthy compounds with antioxidant properties) in the 24 hours after eating the sofrito; they also found that inflammation was significantly lower following the intervention. This result suggests that consumption of sofrito, a staple of the Mediterranean diet, may have anti-inflammatory health benefits.
Nutrients.  2019 Apr 15;11(4). pii: E851. doi: 10.3390/nu11040851. (Hurtado-Barroso S, et al.)

Mediterranean Diet in Adulthood Linked with Healthier Brain in Midlife

While there is much to learn about preventing dementia and cognitive decline, the Mediterranean diet seems to show promise in protecting brain health across the lifespan. In this study, scientists analyzed the eating habits of 2,621 adults at ages 25, 32, and 45 years, then analyzed their brain function at ages 50 and 55. Those most closely following a Mediterranean diet had a 46% lower risk of having poor cognitive function. Those whose diets scored highly on the A Priori Diet Quality Score (a measure of how nutritious your diet is) also had a reduced risk of poor cognitive function, while the DASH diet (a healthy diet to prevent high blood pressure) did not show a significant relationship with brain health.
Neurology. 2019 Apr 2;92(14):e1589-e1599. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000007243. (McEvoy CT et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Improvements in Cardiodiabesity

“Cardiodiabesity” is an umbrella term which refers to the relationship between obesity, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes. Researchers analyzed over 50 studies to answer several key questions about the impact of the Mediterranean diet on cardiodiabesity. The researchers found strong evidence that following the Mediterranean diet reduces obesity, blood pressure, and the risk of cardiovascular disease in healthy and at-risk people. They also found moderate evidence that the Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of developing metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes, and can reduce the symptoms of type 2 diabetes in diabetics.
Nutrients. 2019 Mar 18;11(3). pii: E655. doi: 10.3390/nu11030655. (Franquesa M. et al)

Mediterranean Diet Has Long History of Health Benefits

Mediterranean diet first rose to prominence in the 1950’s and since that time has become one of the most-studied diets in the world. In this study, researchers summarize the Mediterranean diet’s scientific history and key takeaways, including its benefits for weight loss and the prevention of heart disease and type II diabetes. The Mediterranean diet has also been linked with the possible prevention of certain types of cancer and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. The authors note that the erosion of tradition threatens the Mediterranean diet in its place of birth, and that more populations could benefit from adopting a more Mediterranean inspired diet.
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2019 Mar 15;16(6). pii:E942. doi: 10.3390/ijerph16060942. (Lăcătușu C-M et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Lower Rates of Obesity; More Research Needed on Korean Diets and Obesity

The Mediterranean diet is a well-studied cultural model of healthy eating, but less is known about other dietary patterns around the world. In this article, researchers analyzed the relationship between obesity and traditional Mediterranean and Korean diets. The researchers found considerable evidence on the Mediterranean diet’s protective effect against obesity. However, there was no significant association between a traditional Korean diet (a higher carb, lower fat diet with rice, vegetables, fish, and moderate amounts of meat, as well as fermented foods) and obesity. The researchers note that more research is needed on traditional Korean diets and their impacts on health, and that the research could be improved with a standard way of measuring and defining Korean diets. The researchers also noted that many of the Korean diets included in this analysis had higher levels of sodium, and lower levels of fruit and dairy, suggesting that healthier alternatives to some Korean dietary patterns may have a more beneficial impact on health.
Journal of Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome. 2019 Mar;28(1):30-39. doi: 10.7570/jomes.2019.28.1.30. (Choi E et al.)

Mediterranean Diet May Help Prevent Heart Disease

Cochrane reviews are some of the most rigorous reviews in scientific research. In this Cochrane review, researchers analyzed 30 existing randomized controlled trials (the “gold standard” of nutrition research) and 7 ongoing trials of the Mediterranean diet and its impact on heart disease risk. The study found small to moderate evidence for benefits of the Mediterranean diet for preventing heart disease, but note that more research is needed to better understand the benefits, particularly in patients who already have heart disease.
The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2019 Mar 13;3:CD009825. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD009825.pub3. (Rees K et al.)

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