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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.)

Frequent Olive Oil Consumption May Be Linked with Making Blood Less Likely to Clot

Olive oil is a well-known heart healthy food, and new research sheds light on a potential explanation behind this benefit. In this study, researchers analyzed the eating habits of 63 obese but otherwise healthy adults, and also analyzed the platelet activity in their blood. (Platelets are the building blocks of blood clots when they stick together.) Those eating olive oil at least once per week had significantly lower platelet activation, indicating that their blood may be less likely to clot. (Note that findings presented at meetings are considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.)
Presentation at American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention | Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health Scientific Sessions. Houston, TX. March 7, 2019 (Heffron SP et al.)

Mediterranean Diet in Young Adulthood Linked with Healthier Brain in Middle Age

Eat a nutritious diet while you’re young, and your brain may thank you later. Scientists analyzed the diets of 2,621 young adults (average age: 25) and then assessed their brain health 25 & 30 years later (average ages: 50 & 55, respectively). Those most closely following a Mediterranean diet in young adulthood had a significantly lower decline in cognitive function than those not following a Mediterranean diet.
Neurology. 2019 Mar 6. pii: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000007243. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000007243. [Epub ahead of print] (McEvoy CT et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Better Bone Mass in Women

A traditional Mediterranean diet includes frequent, but low-to-moderate amounts of dairy products, mostly in the form of artisanal cheeses and yogurts. In this study, researchers analyzed the eating habits and bone density in 442 pre-menopausal women in Spain. Following a Mediterranean diet was linked with significantly better bone mass.
Nutrients. 2019 Mar 5;11(3). pii: E555. doi: 10.3390/nu11030555. (Pérez-Rey J et al.)

Mediterranean Diet May Improve Athletic Performance

Proper nutrition is increasingly becoming an important aspect of athletic training, and it is easy to see why. In a small study, 11 young adults ran a 5K after 4 days of eating a Mediterranean diet, and after 4 days of eating a typical Western diet. The 5K time after the Mediterranean diet was about 2 minutes faster than the race time after eating a Western diet. However, there were no significant differences in vertical jump height or hand grip strength between the 2 diets.
Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2019 Feb 13:1-9. doi: 10.1080/07315724.2019.1568322. [Epub ahead of print] (Baker ME et al.)

Combining Statins with Mediterranean Diet Linked with Lower Risk of Death from Heart Disease

Statins are a type of cholesterol lowering medication often prescribed to patients with heart disease. To see how diet might impact the effectiveness of statins, researchers analyzed the eating habits and health outcomes of 1,180 older adults with heart disease for 8 years. Those most closely following a Mediterranean Diet were 30% less likely to die from heart disease over the study period. However, statins only reduced heart disease death risk when taken in combination with the Mediterranean diet. Furthermore, the patients taking statins in combination with a Mediterranean diet had a 50% lower risk of dying of heart disease than those just using one approach (diet or medicine). The researchers suspect that this synergistic effect may be due to the anti-inflammatory effects of the Mediterranean Diet. 
International Journal of Cardiology.  2019 Feb 1;276:248-254. doi: 10.1016/j.ijcard.2018.11.117. (Bonaccio M et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Lower Risk of Parkinson's Disease

Parkinson’s disease is a disorder of the nervous system that can cause stiffness and tremors, and make movement difficult. In a study of 1,731 elderly adults, those most closely following a Mediterranean Diet had a 21% lower probability of showing early signs of Parkinson’s Disease (prodromal Parkinson’s disease) than those not following a Mediterranean diet.
Movement Disorders. 2019 Jan;34(1):48-57. doi: 10.1002/mds.27489. (Maraki MI et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with ¼ Lower Heart Disease Risk in Women

The Mediterranean diet is closely linked with heart health, and researchers want to learn more about the underlying mechanisms behind this connection. In this study researchers analyzed the diet and health outcomes of 25,994 women for 12 years. Those most closely following a Mediterranean diet were 28% less likely to develop heart disease than those not following a Mediterranean diet. Even those who were only moderately following a Mediterranean diet had a 23% lower risk of heart disease, indicating that even small lifestyle changes can have a meaningful impact on health. The researchers suspect that part of the heart health benefits may be related to lower inflammation, as women most closely following the Mediterranean diet had significantly lower levels of biomarkers of inflammation. Other factors shown to affect the relationship between the Mediterranean diet and heart health are the Mediterranean diet’s links to blood sugar management, BMI, blood pressure, and cholesterol.
JAMA Network Open. 2018 Dec 7;1(8):e185708. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.5708 (Ahmad S et al.)

Mediterranean Diet with Dairy May Help with Blood Pressure and Cholesterol

In a traditional Mediterranean diet, dairy was eaten often, but in small amounts (typically fermented dairy products, like artisanal cheese and Greek yogurt). Researchers wonder if a Mediterranean diet with slightly more dairy might still offer some benefits, so they randomly assigned 41 adults at risk of heart disease to a Mediterranean diet with 3-4 servings of dairy per day, or a low fat diet. Compared to a low fat diet, the Mediterranean dairy diet resulted in significantly higher HDL (good) cholesterol, lower triglycerides (a fat in the blood) and significantly lower blood pressure in the morning. However, more research is needed to see how a traditional Mediterranean diet compares with a higher dairy Mediterranean diet.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2018 Dec 1;108(6):1166-1182. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqy207. (Wade AT et al.)

Eating Omega-3 Fatty Acids While Pregnant May Reduce Pre-Term Births

Not many women eat fish frequently during pregnancy, but perhaps they should. In a rigorous Cochrane review of 70 randomized controlled trials (involving 19,927 women), scientists found that getting more omega-3 fatty acids (from food, like seafood, or supplements) may reduce the incidence of pre-term birth and low birthweight in babies.
The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2018 Nov 15;11:CD003402. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD003402.pub3. (Middleton P et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Better Brain Health in Adults at Risk for Alzheimer's

Numerous studies have observed a link between the Mediterranean Diet and slower cognitive decline, but researchers wonder how this might relate to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. To better understand diet’s relationship with Alzheimer’s pathology, scientists analyzed the eating patterns and buildup of Aβ (small pieces of protein that can accumulate in the brain, potentially creating plaques and causing brain cells to be destroyed) in 77 older adults who were already on the path to Alzheimer’s disease (by being flagged as being Aβ accumulators). Those most closing following a Mediterranean diet had significantly less Aβ accumulation over time, with fruit standing out as a particularly beneficial food. The authors suggest that improving your Mediterranean diet score by just 1 point (0-9 point scale) may result in a 20% decrease in Aβ accumulation over 1 year, and up to a 60% decrease over 3 years.
Translational Psychiatry. 2018 Oct 30;8(1):238. doi: 10.1038/s41398-018-0293-5. (Rainey-Smith SR et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with 33% Lower Risk of Depression

Scientists are eager to learn more about the link between a healthy diet and a healthy mind. In this study, researchers analyzed existing observational studies between healthy diets (measured by the Mediterranean Diet score, the Healthy Eating Index, the Dietary Inflammatory Index, and related scoring systems) and depression. According to the researchers, “the most compelling evidence was found for the Mediterranean diet and incident depression.” Specifically, those most closely following a Mediterranean diet were 33% less likely to develop incident depression than those not following a Mediterranean diet. People whose diets scored well on some of the other diet scores also tended to have a lower risk of depression, though there were fewer studies using those indices.
Molecular Psychiatry. 2018 Sep 26. doi: 10.1038/s41380-018-0237-8. [Epub ahead of print] (Lassale C et al.)

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