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Mediterranean-Inspired Diet May Slow Cognitive Decline in Stroke Survivors

Stroke survivors are twice as likely to develop dementia compared to the general population. To see how diet relates to brain health in stroke survivors, researchers analyzed the eating patterns and brain function of 106 stroke survivors for more than 4 years. Those most closely following a “MIND diet” had a slower rate of cognitive decline than those who don’t follow a MIND diet. The MIND diet is a hybrid Mediterranean-DASH diet that emphasizes foods associated with brain health, including whole grains, green leafy vegetables, berries, nuts, olive oil, and fish. The Mediterranean diet is well-known for its brain benefits, so it’s not surprising that this new diet inspired by the Mediterranean diet is also showing promise for brain health. 
Presentation at the American Heart Association Meeting. Los Angeles, California. January 25, 2018. 

Mediterranean Diet Related to Life Satisfaction, Physical Function, and Improved Health in Older Adults

The Mediterranean diet is good for our physical health, but new studies show that the Mediterranean diet might also be good for our mental health. To see how the Mediterranean diet relates to quality of life, researchers analyzed the eating patterns and health factors of 351 older Spanish adults (ages 60+). Participants who most closely followed a Mediterranean diet were more physically active and had significantly better health-related quality of life. In both men and women, following a Mediterranean diet was linked with better mental function. Among men, those most closely following a Mediterranean diet were more likely to have healthy blood sugar and cholesterol levels, as well as improved physical function. Among women, those most closely following a Mediterranean diet were more likely to have better life satisfaction. 
The Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging. 2018;22(1):89-96. (Zaragoza-Marti A et al.)

Mediterranean Diet May Reduce Dependence on Multiple Meds

Polypharmacy occurs when patients have to take many medications at once, usually more than five daily medications. Because polypharmacy can result in confusion and frustration, low medication adherence, and ultimately increased health risk, especially in elderly populations, lifestyle changes to prevent or reduce polypharmacy are of great interest. To see how the Mediterranean diet relates to polypharmacy and cardiometabolic disorders like obesity and heart disease, researchers analyzed the diet, health conditions, and medications of 476 elderly adults in Rome. Those not following a Mediterranean diet (medium-low adherence) were more likely to need multiple medications, and have high blood pressure, unhealthy cholesterol levels, and diabetes. Looking at individual food components, olive oil, vegetables, fish, legumes, and nuts were all significantly related to a lower risk of polypharmacy. The authors conclude that following a Mediterranean diet “might potentially delay the onset of age-related health deterioration and reduce the need of multiple medications.”
The Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging. 2018 Jan;22(1):73-81. (Vicinanza R et al.)

Understanding How the Mediterranean Diet May Help Prevent Colon Cancer

The Mediterranean diet’s protective effects against cancers have been extensively studied and documented, and researchers want to learn more about the mechanisms behind this relationship. Chronic inflammation in one’s intestines (such as with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis) can predispose a person to colorectal cancer, so reducing inflammation is important. In this paper, researchers suggest that bioactive components of the Mediterranean diet (such as omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and phenolic compounds) were found to decrease inflammation (as measured by fibrinogen, C-reactive protein, Interleukin-6, Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha, and homocysteine). The researchers also suggest that the Mediterranean diet’s low levels of refined sugars may be helpful in preventing colorectal cancer by improving insulin resistance and decreasing circulating levels of IGF-1, a hormone associated with cancer risk. By prioritizing fish over red meat, a Mediterranean diet may also reduce the mutagenic compounds from meat that are linked with a higher colorectal cancer risk. Lastly, compounds and antioxidants in fruits and vegetables (a predominant component to a Mediterranean diet) were studied in their protective capacity against development of colorectal cancer. In short, these results “support the adoption of a [Mediterranean Diet] to decrease risk of [colorectal cancer] irrespective of tumor site.”
Frontiers in nutrition. 2017 Dec;59(4). (Donovan MG et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Lower Risk of Colorectal Cancer Precursors

The prevalence of colorectal adenomas, cancer precursors in the large intestine, differs by race and ethnicity, with a higher prevalence among black people than among white people. To see how the Mediterranean diet relates to colorectal adenomas across different races, researchers analyzed the eating pattern and colorectal health of 41,973 men. They found that a Mediterranean diet was linked with a lower risk of colorectal adenomas among all races, but interestingly that the diet had a greater protective association among Asian and black participants than for white participants. These findings demonstrate that the use of a Mediterranean diet may be an effective way to reduce prevalence of colorectal adenomas in men, especially among black and Asian men.  
Nutrition Research. 2017, Dec;48:76-84. (Haslam A et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Less Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease in At-Risk Patients

Fatty liver disease used to be mostly associated with alcoholism, but today it’s on the rise even in those who don’t drink alcohol because of lifestyle factors like diet. Researchers analyzed the eating patterns and liver health of 584 adults (average age 56) with at least one cardiovascular risk factor (such as diabetes, obesity, or high blood pressure), to see how diet might relate to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Those most closely following a Mediterranean diet were significantly less likely to have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease than those not following a Mediterranean diet (71.4% vs. 96.5%). In patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, those most closely following a Mediterranean diet were more likely to have less insulin resistance, which indicates that their blood sugar is better managed.
American Journal of Gastroenterology. 2017 Dec;112(12):1832-1839.

Mediterranean Diet May Help Improve Depression

The Mediterranean diet is renowned for its heart-healthy properties, so researchers wonder if this eating pattern might protect mental health as well. To study this relationship, researchers randomly assigned more than 100 adults to either receive Mediterranean foods and fish oil supplements and take a Mediterranean cooking class every other week, or attend social groups every other week. After three months, the Mediterranean diet group was eating more vegetables, fruit, nuts, whole grains, and legumes, fewer unhealthy snacks, and less red meat. Additionally, participants in the Mediterranean diet group had a significantly better improvement in their depression than those attending the social groups. The improvements in diet and depressive symptoms held steady even three months after the study ended (though the Mediterranean diet group was still receiving fish oil supplements at that time). The researchers concluded that “getting back to basics by promoting cooking skills and family/group meals could be such a simple yet powerful and empowering approach to healthcare and prevention.”
Nutritional Neuroscience. 2017 Dec 7:1-14. [Epub ahead of print.] (Parlatta N et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Less Rehospitalization in Elderly Heart Failure Patients

The Mediterranean diet is well known for its role in preventing heart disease, but researchers wonder if this protective effect translates to patients who already have heart failure. In a Spanish study of 991 elderly patients admitted to the emergency room with acute heart failure, those following a Mediterranean diet were 24% less likely to be hospitalized one year later. After 2 years, those following a Mediterranean diet appeared to be less likely to die, but the results were not statistically significant, especially after adjusting for age and other health conditions.
JACC Heart Failure. 2017 Nov 27. pii: S2213-1779(17)30683-2. (Miro O et al.)

Dry Whole Wheat Pasta at Lower Temperatures for Higher Quality

Given the growing interest in whole grain pasta, researchers wonder how different processing techniques can impact the quality of the product. In this study, researchers analyzed 20 samples of whole wheat spaghetti sold in Italy for cooking behavior, markers of heat damage and protein structure, as well as taste and aroma (using an electronic nose and tongue model for a more objective measurement). They found that whole wheat pasta produced using a low or medium temperature drying cycle (rather than high temperature) has less heat damage, is more likely to taste of umami (savory), and is less likely to taste bitter. The researchers also note that the amount of protein in the pasta sample had virtually no impact on the measures of quality tested, indicating that the drying process plays a much bigger role in preserving quality.
Journal of Food Science. 2017 Nov;82(11):2583-2590. (Marti A et al.)

Heart-Healthy, Traditional Mediterranean Diets Can Work Anywhere if Properly Followed

The Mediterranean Diet gets lots of buzz, but do you know what it really means to eat like a Mediterranean? In a meta-analysis of 27 studies, researchers estimate that every 2-point increase in Mediterranean Diet Score (0-9 scale) is related to an 11% lower risk of heart disease. Additionally, the researchers also analyzed the consistency between Mediterranean Diet Scores in different studies, and clarified the importance of using a standard definition of a Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes “vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, and mainly unrefined, minimally processed cereals; an abundant fat intake from virgin olive oil… a moderate consumption of fish and shellfish, a low consumption of meat… the consumption of wine during meals… and fermented dairy products.” In order to successfully transfer Mediterranean diets outside of the Mediterranean, the researchers also note the importance of following the Mediterranean Diet eating patterns (such as drinking a moderate amount of wine with meals throughout the week, rather than binge drinking on weekends) and choosing traditional foods (such as olive oil and beans) rather than untraditional foods (such as margarine and tofu).
Nutrients. 2017 Nov 8;9(11). (Martinez-Gonalez et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Lower Risk of Colorectal Cancer

While the healthfulness of the Mediterranean Diet has been recognized for decades, new studies continually build on evidence supporting the benefits of this nutritious and delicious diet. Researchers analyzed the eating patterns and DNA of 1,087 people with colon cancer and 2,409 people without colon cancer, to see how diet might relate to cancer risk. They found that closely following a Mediterranean Diet was independently linked with significantly lower risk of colorectal cancer, and that certain genes might also be protective. When looking at specific foods, vegetables and legumes, in particular, were linked with a significantly lower colorectal cancer risk. 
BMC Medical Genetics. 2017 Oct 30;18(1):122. (Alonso-Molero J et al.)

Mediterranean Diet During Pregnancy Reduces Incidence of Gestational Diabetes, Premature Birth

Expectant mothers have a unique opportunity to nurture their growing babies with a healthy diet, and some food choices can be especially beneficial. In a study of 874 healthy pregnant women in Spain, researchers randomly assigned half to a Mediterranean Diet (with olive oil and pistachios) and half to a similar healthy diet (but were told to avoid olive oil, nuts and other fat sources) early in their pregnancy (at 8-12 weeks). Those in the Mediterranean Diet group were 25% less likely to develop gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) than those in the low-fat group, and had significantly lower rates of premature deliveries and emergency C-sections. 
PLoS One. 2017 Oct 19;12(10):e0185873. (Assaf-Balut C et al.)

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