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Mediterranean Diet Can Slow Progression of Atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis, the build up of fatty plaque in arteries, can be a risk factor for heart disease down the road. In a randomized controlled trial of more than 900 people with heart disease, those assigned to a Mediterranean diet improved their atherosclerosis (as measured by reduced thickness of both carotid arteries) over 5 years and maintained their baseline artery thickness at 7 years. Those assigned to a low-fat diet did not have any significant improvements in atherosclerosis.
Stroke. 2021 Aug 10;STROKEAHA120033214. doi: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.120.033214. (Jimenez-Torres J et al.)

Mediterranean Inspired MIND Diet Linked with Healthier Brain Markers in MS

The Mediterranean diet is well-known for its brain benefits, so scientists wonder how Mediterranean-inspired eating might relate to multiple sclerosis (MS), a brain and spinal cord autoimmune disease. Researchers analyzed the eating habits and brain structures of 180 adults who have had a diagnosis of MS for less than 5 years to see how closely they adhered to a version of the Mediterranean diet called the 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. In this study, people most closely following the MIND diet had significantly greater thalamic volumes. (The wasting away of the thalamus is a marker of MS disease progression and neurodegeneration, so greater thalamic volume is a good sign that MS might be advancing slower.) Additionally, when looking at specific foods and nutrients, those eating the most full-fat dairy had fewer brain lesions (as measured by lower volumes of T2 lesions) and those eating the most omega-3’s from fish had better microstructural integrity of their normal appearing white matter.
Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders. 2021 May 19;53:103031. doi: 10.1016/j.msard.2021.103031. (Katz Sand IB et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Lower Risk of Memory Decline in Elderly

The Mediterranean diet has long been studied for its link with brain health, and now researchers are starting to understand the mechanisms behind this protective relationship. In a study of 512 older adults (average age 69) who were a mixture of people both with and without a family history of Alzheimer’s, researchers found that more closely following a Mediterranean diet was linked with significantly better memory, larger gray matter volume in the area of the brain related to memory (mediotemporal), and less pTau181 (a predictor of Alzheimer’s progression) and amyloid pathology (misfolded proteins in the brain which are associated with Alzheimer’s progression).
Neurology. 2021 May 5;10.1212/WNL.0000000000012067. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000012067.(Ballarini T et al.)

Maternal Mediterranean Diet May Relate to Children’s Weight Later in Life

Childhood obesity is a rising public health concern and a strong predictor of obesity later in life. Previous studies have discovered that mothers’ diets during pregnancy can potentially impact children’s weight and their risks of developing obesity. This study evaluated how mothers’ dietary patterns during pregnancy affect their children’s BMI (body mass index). A total of 1,459 women participated in the study and completed a questionnaire about the food they ate during pregnancy. Their children were followed up for 15 years to measure their weight and height change. The findings showed that children whose mothers had closely followed the Mediterranean diet during pregnancy are more likely to grow faster and have lower BMI than their peers during childhood. However, the researchers cautioned that differences in breastfeeding might partly explain the BMI differences across the groups. Thus, more studies are needed.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2021 Mar 15;nqaa398. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqaa398. (Monthé-Drèze C et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Slower Prostate Cancer Progression, Better Survival

Many patients diagnosed with prostate cancer don’t need immediate intervention, so strictly monitoring the disease progression is critical. This study collected data from 410 men diagnosed with prostate cancer and measured how closely they were following the Mediterranean Diet. After 36 months of follow-up, those most closely following a Mediterranean diet were less likely to have significant disease progression, and were more likely to have a better rate of survival.
Cancer. 2021 Mar 1; 127(5):720-728. doi:10.1002/cncr.33182. (Gregg JR et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with 20% Lower Risk of Dementia

Dementia is an age-related disease causing memory loss and confusion, and over 50 million people suffer from dementia globally. Because there is currently no effective treatment for it, prevention is pivotal. To investigate whether the Mediterranean Diet has a protective effect on dementia, the researchers studied 16,160 middle-aged adults and followed them for over 20 years. Among all the participants, 459 were diagnosed with dementia. When comparing the dietary patterns between those with and without dementia, the researchers found that those most closely following the  Mediterranean diet,  were 20% less likely to develop dementia. However, the results were not statistically significant when looking at Alzheimer’s dementia.
Nutrients. 2021 Feb 22;13(2):700. doi: 10.3390/nu13020700. (Andreu-Reinon ME et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Healthy Gut Microbiota, Possible Lower Risk of Alzheimer’s

There are over 100 trillion microorganisms in the gut, which are thought to play a significant role in various aspects of overall health. In this review article, researchers suggest that the connection between the brain and gut may be associated with the development of Alzheimer’s disease because the gut microbiota may induce inflammation throughout the body, potentially provoking cognitive impairment. Recent studies have found that the composition of the gut microbiome significantly differs between those with and without Alzheimer’s disease. Diet also has a strong impact on the gut microbiome, hence affecting the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. In particular, following a Mediterranean diet is associated with a slower cognitive degeneration. On the other hand, the Western diet which contains high added sugar, processed meat, refined grains, and saturated fats is associated with greater inflammation.
Nutrients. 2021 Jan 25;13(2):361. Published 2021 Jan 25. doi:10.3390/nu13020361 (Leblhuber F et al.)

Plant Based Diets Can Lower Blood Pressure

Studies have shown that plant-based diets can help lower blood pressure, but researchers wonder how strict you must be with your vegetarian diet to see results. A systematic review of 41 clinical trials was performed to see how different plant-based diets, including some with low levels of animal products (the Mediterranean, Vegan, Nordic, high-fiber, and high-fruit and vegetable diets) impacted blood pressure. The results showed that even plant-based diet with limited animal products can be effective in reducing high pressure, indicating that even small steps to improve health can make a measurable difference. 
Journal of Hypertension. 2021 Jan;39(1):23-37. doi: 10.1097/HJH.0000000000002604. (Gibbs, J.et al)

Mediterranean Diet Linked to Lower Risk of Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease is one of the most common progressive nervous system disorders, and previous studies indicate a potential link between diet and the risk of Parkinson’s disease. In this study, 49,261 middle-aged Swedish women were followed up for an average of 10 years to track their eating habits and whether or not they were diagnosed with Parkinson’s. The researchers found that those most closely following a Mediterranean diet had a significantly lower risk of being diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, especially among women aged 65 years or older.
Movement Disorders. 2021 Jan;36(1):255-260. doi:10.1002/mds.28314. (Yin W et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Better Thyroid Health

Our thyroids act as internal thermostats providing our bodies with hormones that help balance our heart, muscle, and digestive function, brain development, and bone maintenance. In this study, researchers analyzed the eating habits and health of 200 people, about half with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (an autoimmune disease that attacks the thyroid) and half without. Those most closely following a Mediterranean diet were less likely to have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Eating more animal foods (like meat) and fewer plant foods (like vegetables) was also linked with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.  However, more research is needed on how diet might impact autoimmune and thyroid health.
Thyroid. 2021 Jan;31(1):96-105. doi: 10.1089/thy.2020.0299. (Ruggeri RM et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Lower Disease Activity and Health Risks in People with Lupus

Lupus, an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks its own tissues, affects an estimated 1.5 million Americans. In this study, researchers analyzed the eating patterns and health markers of 280 people with systemic lupus erythematosus, the most common type of lupus. Those most closely following a Mediterranean diet were significantly more likely to have lower lupus disease activity and damage accrual and were also significantly more likely to have fewer heart disease risk factors. Additionally the odds of having active lupus or the presence of damage was significantly lower among people who most closely followed a Mediterranean diet.
Rheumatology (Oxford). 2021 Jan 5;60(1):160-169. doi: 10.1093/rheumatology/keaa210. (Pocovi-Gerardino G et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Better Brain Health in Aging

A growing body of research demonstrates the Mediterranean diet’s relationship with healthy aging. This British study focused on 511 individuals whose average age was 79 years old. The scientists collected data on eating habits and brain health from the participants. They found that those who more closely follow a Mediterranean diet are more likely  to have overall better cognitive function, including better memory, visuospatial ability, and verbal ability. Furthermore, the study found that eating more  green leafy vegetables and lessmeat may be linked withbetter cognitive performance. 
Experimental Gerontology. 2020 Dec; 142:111117. doi:10.1016/j.exger.2020.111117. (Corley J et al.)

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