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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

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]

Low GI Pasta Meals Can Lead to Weight Loss

Keep the pasta, lose the pounds! Pasta is a low Glycemic Index food, meaning that it doesn’t spike your blood sugar. To see how low glycemic diets with pasta relate to weight, researchers analyzed 32 randomized clinical trial comparisons involving 2,448 adults (who were mostly middle aged and overweight or obese). Compared with high Glycemic Index diets, the low Glycemic Index diets with pasta (about three ½ cup servings per week) were linked with modest weight loss (0.63 kg, or 1.4 pounds), even without cutting calories.
BMJ. 2018 April 4;8(3):1-13. (Chiavaroli L et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Less Fat in Liver

Fatty liver is most commonly associated with alcoholism, but obesity and excess body fat can be risk factors for fatty liver as well (which can eventually develop into liver disease). In a study of 1,521 adults, those most closely following a Mediterranean diet were significantly less likely to have fatty liver in the following year. Specifically, each 1-point increase on the Mediterranean diet score was linked with 26% lower odds of developing fatty liver the next year. Diets reflecting the Alternative Healthy Eating Index (another diet scoring tool that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and limits red meat and sweets) were also linked with a smaller, but still significantly lower risk of fatty liver.
Gastroenterology. 2018 Mar 28. [Epub ahead of print]. (Ma J et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Healthier Bones and Muscles After Menopause

Women lose bone mass during menopause, so strategies to prevent osteoporosis in this population are of utmost importance. In a study of 103 post-menopausal women (average age 55), researchers analyzed their diet and body composition. Most closely following a Mediterranean diet was linked with better muscle mass and greater spine bone mineral density than those not eating Mediterranean foods like olive oil, fish, and grains. (Note that findings presented at meetings are typically viewed as preliminary until they’ve been published in a peer-reviewed journal.)
Presented at ENDO 2018: The Endocrine Society Annual Meeting. Chicago, Illinois. March 20, 2018.

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Lower Risk of Agility and Mobility Problems in Aging

Maintaining healthy physical function is important to help seniors live comfortably and independently as they age. To see if diet relates to physical function, researchers analyzed the eating patterns and physical function of 1,630 seniors (ages 60+) in Spain. Those most closely following a Mediterranean Diet (as measured by MEDAS, the Mediterranean Diet Adherence Screener) were 33% less likely to have problems with agility, 31% less likely to have problems with mobility, and 40% less likely to have decreased overall physical function. Note that when eating patterns were analyzed by MDS (the Mediterranean Diet Score, which is less thorough then MEDAS, as it covers fewer foods and doesn’t have specific cut-off points for each food group), the relationship was only statistically significant for physical functioning.
The Journals of Gerontology. 2018 Mar 2;73(3):333-339. (Struijk EA et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Healthy Aging

When it comes to aging healthfully, no eating pattern quite stacks up to the Mediterranean diet. In this study, researchers analyzed the eating patterns of more than 3,000 middle-aged French adults who were free of chronic disease and monitored their health over the next 15 years. Those most closely following a Mediterranean diet in middle age were significantly more likely to age healthfully, meaning that they were free of chronic disease, depression and pain, were able to live independently.
The Journals of Gerontology: Series A.  2018 Mar 2;73(3):347-354. (Assmann KE et al.)

More Research Needed on Mediterranean Diet & Cognition

To get a better understanding of how the Mediterranean diet relates to brain health, researchers analyzed existing randomized controlled trials (the “gold standard” of nutrition research, where participants are randomly assigned to one diet or another, so that researchers can look for causal relationships). Thus far only 5 randomized controlled trials on the Mediterranean diet and cognition have been published, with mostly insignificant results. However, the researchers did note that the most well-designed studies (using PREDIMED data) are the studies that found a protective effect on dementia risk and cognition, indicating that the Mediterranean diet might hold promise in these areas. More research is needed.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2018 Mar 1;107(3):389-404. (Radd-Vagenas S et al.)

Both Mediterranean and Vegetarian Diets Effective for Weight Loss

From Mediterranean to vegetarian, many of the world’s healthiest diets actually have more similarities than differences, so it’s not surprising to find that both these diets can be an effective path to weight loss. In this study, researchers randomly assigned 118 overweight adults who normally eat meat to either a lower calorie Mediterranean diet or a lower calorie vegetarian diet for 3 months. After a two-week assessment, the participants then switched to the other diet for 3 months. Participants lost about 4 pounds during each diet, and both diets were also effective at decreasing body fat. The only significant difference between the diets was that the vegetarian was slightly more effective in lowering bad (LDL) cholesterol, while the Mediterranean diet was slightly more effective in lowering triglycerides (a type of fat in the blood).
Circulation. 2018 Feb 26. (Sofi F et al.) [Epub ahead of print]

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Lower Risk of Aggressive Prostate Cancer

Lifestyle habits, like diet, are an important part of a cancer-protective strategy. To see if diet relates to prostate cancer risk, researchers analyzed the eating habits of 754 men with prostate cancer, and 1,277 controls without prostate cancer. Those most closely following a Mediterranean diet were 34% less likely to have an aggressive form of prostate cancer than those not following a Mediterranean diet. A Western diet (filled with fast food, sweets, and red meat) and a prudent diet (filled with low fat dairy, juice, produce, and whole grains) were not found to be linked to prostate cancer risk.
Journal of Urology. 2018 Feb;199(2):430-437. (Castello A et al.)

Mediterranean Diet May Help Improve Odds of a Successful Pregnancy in IVF

IVF, or in vitro fertilization (manually combining eggs and sperm in a lab, before transferring into the woman’s uterus) is a common treatment for couples struggling to have children, but researchers wonder whether diet might also play a role. In a study of 244 (non-obese) women in Greece who had their first in-vitro fertilization treatment, those most closely following a Mediterranean diet were significantly more likely to become pregnant and have a live birth than those not following a Mediterranean diet, but these results were only significant in women younger than 35. In fact, in women younger than 35, every 5-point increase in the Mediterranean Diet Score (0-55 scale) was linked with a nearly 3 times greater likelihood of getting pregnant and having a baby with IVF.
Human Reproduction. 2018 Jan 30. (Karayiannis D et al.) [Epub ahead of print]

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