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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 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.)

Improving Diet Could Save US Billions in Healthcare Costs

When it comes to good nutrition, every little bite adds up. To see how much eating healthier could impact healthcare costs, researchers analyzed the relationship between diet, health problems, and healthcare spending. They found that if Americans were to make their diets even 20% more Mediterranean, the US would save $25.7 billion dollars per year. Similarly, if Americans were to make their diets align 20% more with the Healthy Eating Index 2015 (which emphasizes healthy foods like whole grains, lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and dairy), the US could save $38.1 billion per year. If Americans’ diets were to align an impressive 80% with the Mediterranean diet or Healthy Eating Index 2015, the US could save $135 billion or $66.9 billion per year, respectively. (Note that findings presented at meetings are considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.)
Presentation at the American Society for Nutrition Scientific Sessions and Annual Meeting. Boston, MA. June 11, 2018. (Scrafford, C et al.)

Mediterranean Diet May Be Linked with Fewer Deaths Related to Air Pollution

Air pollution is a concern in many countries around the world, so researchers wonder whether a healthy diet may offset some of these risks. To test this theory, researchers followed more than half a million people across 6 states in the US, estimating their exposure to air pollutants and assessing their eating patterns. Those most closely following a Mediterranean diet were significantly less likely to die from all causes and heart disease specifically over the 17-year study period than those not following a Mediterranean diet, even at the same level of air pollution exposure. The researchers suspect that the antioxidants in the healthy foods of the Mediterranean diet may play a role in this relationship. (Note that findings presented at meetings are typically viewed as preliminary until they’ve been published in a peer-reviewed journal.)
Presented at the American Thoracic Society International Conference. San Diego, California. May 21, 2018

Traditional Mediterranean and Japanese Diets Linked with Lower Risk of Death from Heart Disease

At first glance, Japanese and Mediterranean cuisines might seem worlds apart. However, the overall eating patterns share more similarities than one might think. Researchers analyzed the diets and long-term (50-year) data on death from heart disease in 12,763 men in the Seven Countries Study from the 1960s. The researchers noted a very similar eating pattern between the Mediterranean group and the Japanese group, with lots of seafood and vegetables, and low amounts of animal foods and animal fat. They also found that eating more vegetables and starch, and more closely following a “Mediterranean” diet (as the Mediterranean and Japanese groups did) were linked with significantly lower risks of death from heart disease. Sweets, animal foods, and hard fats (like butter or lard) were linked with increased risk.
European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2018 May 17. (Kromhout D et al.) [Epub ahead of print.]

Olive Oil and Fruit Linked with Less Depression in Elderly

Study after study links a healthy body with a healthy mind, especially in aging populations. To see if diet relates to depressive symptoms, researchers evaluated the eating habits and mental health of nearly 400 Italian adults in their 90s. Those consuming more olive oil and fruit were significantly less likely to have depression than those not getting much olive oil or fruit, though the relationship between higher Mediterranean diet scores and lower risks of depression was not strong enough to be statistically significant.
Journal of Nutrition, Health, & Aging. 2018 May;22(5):569-574. (Pagliai et al.)

Following a Mediterranean-Inspired Diet Linked with 30% Lower Risk of Hearing Loss in Women

Hearing loss is the third most common health problem in the US, so scientists wonder if there might be a relationship between diet and hearing over time. To test this relationship, researchers followed more than 81,000 women for 2 decades, tracking their eating patterns and health outcomes. Those most closely following a Mediterranean-inspired diet were 30% less likely to develop hearing loss over the 20-year study than those not following a Mediterranean diet. Similarly, people whose diets closely adhered to a DASH diet or the Alternative Healthy Eating Index (both of which also prioritize vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, and limit red meat and sweets), were also less likely to develop hearing loss over time.
Journal of Nutrition. 2018 May 11. (Curhan SG et al.) [Epub ahead of print]

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