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Mediterranean Diet Linked with Healthier Gut Microbiome in Aging

Some of the worlds healthiest, longest lived people follow a Mediterranean diet, so researchers wonder about the mechanism behind its link with healthy aging. In this study, researchers analyzed the gut microbiome of 612 older European adults before starting a Mediterranean diet, and then after 1 year of following a Mediterranean diet. Those who followed the Mediterranean diet most closely had significant differences in their gut microbiome, including microbes associated with lower risk of frailty, better brain function, and lower inflammation.
Gut. 2020 Jul;69(7):1218-1228. doi: 10.1136/gutjnl-2019-319654. Epub 2020 Feb 17.

Healthy Lifestyle (Including Mediterranean Diet) Linked with Lower Risk of Alzheimer's

Eating a nutritious diet is one of the many daily lifestyle choices that can have an impact on our health, especially as we age. Researchers followed 2,765 adults in the Chicago area for over 5 years to see if their lifestyle choices were related to their risk of Alzheimer’s dementia. They specifically looked for these 5 healthy lifestyle factors: 1) not smoking, 2) at least 150 minutes per week of exercise, 3) low to moderate alcohol consumption, 4) following a Mediterranean-inspired healthy diet, and 5) participating in late-life “cognitive activities” like reading, crafting, playing games, and socializing. Compared with adults following 0 or 1 healthy lifestyle factor, the risk of Alzheimer’s dementia was 37% lower in those following 2 or 3 healthy lifestyle factors, and 60% lower in those following 4 or 5 healthy lifestyle factors.
Neurology. 2020 Jun 17;10.1212/WNL.0000000000009816. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000009816. (Dhana K et al.)

Spaniards Locked Down During COVID-19 Shift Back to Traditional Mediterranean Diet

Lockdowns and restaurant closures related to the global COVID-19 pandemic have swiftly changed the way people eat, leaving many people with little choice but to eat more home-cooked meals. Researchers analyzed the diets of 7,514 Spaniards during the COVID-19 pandemic, and also asked them about their eating habits before the pandemic. During the pandemic, when people were forced to eat more home-cooked meals, researchers noted that the Mediterranean diet score of these participants (a measure of how closely people follow the Mediterranean diet) significantly increased. The people who improved their diet reported eating more olive oil, vegetables, fruits, or legumes, and less fried foods, snacks, fast foods, red meat, pastries, or sweetened drinks. The authors conclude that, “this improvement, if sustained in the long-term, could have a positive impact on the prevention of chronic diseases and COVID-19-related complications.”
Nutrients. 2020 Jun 10;12(6):E1730. doi: 10.3390/nu12061730.(Rodríguez-Pérez C et al.)

Seafood and Mediterranean Diet Linked with Better Brain Health in Aging

To see how the Mediterranean diet relates to brain health, researchers analyzed the diets and health of 7,756 older adults. Those most closely following a Mediterranean diet had a significantly lower risk of cognitive impairment but did not have a significantly slower decline in cognitive function. However, those eating the most fish had both a significantly lower risk of cognitive impairment and a significantly slower decline in cognitive function.
Alzheimers Dement. 2020 Jun;16(6):831-842. doi: 10.1002/alz.12077. Epub 2020 Apr 13. (Keenan TD et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Lower Incidence of Colorectal Cancer

Healthy, higher fiber diets with whole grains can help lower the risk of colorectal cancer, so researchers wonder if overall dietary patterns, like the Mediterranean diet, might also be impactful. In an analysis of 13 studies, scientists found that most closely following a Mediterranean diet was linked with a lower frequency of new colorectal cancer cases, but there was no significant impact on the risk of death from colorectal cancer nor all-cause mortality in the study groups.
Am J Clin Nutr. 2020 Jun 1;111(6):1214-1225. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqaa083. (Zhong Y et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Improves Quality of Life, BMI in Patients with IBD

The Mediterranean diet is well known for its anti-inflammatory properties, so it stands to reason that the Mediterranean diet may be helpful in the management of inflammatory bowel diseases. In a study of 284 Italian adults with inflammatory bowel diseases (including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis) who were assigned to a Mediterranean diet for 6 months, eating a Mediterranean diet improved their quality of life, BMI, and waist circumference and reduced signs of fat in the liver, but did not significantly impact their cholesterol or liver function.
Inflamm Bowel Dis. 2020 May 22;izaa097. doi: 10.1093/ibd/izaa097. Online ahead of print. (Chicco F et al.)

Olive Oil Linked with Lower Risk of Heart Disease

Not all fats are created equal. Olive oil is a source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and polyphenols, while butter is a source of saturated fats. In this study, researchers followed more than 90,000 people for 24 years. Those eating more than ½ tablespoon of olive oil per day had a 14-17% lower risk of heart disease compared with people who didn’t eat olive oil. The scientists also found that replacing 5g/day of butter, margarine, mayonnaise, or dairy fat with the equivalent amount of olive oil was also linked with a 5-7% lower risk of heart disease.
J Am Coll Cardiol. 2020 Apr 21;75(15):1729-1739. doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2020.02.036. Epub 2020 Mar 5. (Guasch-Ferré M et al.)

Mediterranean Diet May Help Reduce Complications of Type 2 Diabetes

The Mediterranean diet is well known for helping prevent disease, and research suggests it may also be helpful for people who already have chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes. In this review, researchers analyzed existing studies (including randomized clinical trials as well as cohort studies) to see how the Mediterranean diet impacted patients with type 2 diabetes. They found that the Mediterranean diet can help reduce risk factors of diabetes complications, such as high blood pressure, inflammation, diseased blood vessels (angiopathy) and poor blood sugar control.
Adv Exp Med Biol. 2020 Apr 7. doi: 10.1007/5584_2020_513. (Gonçalves Tosatti JA et al.)

Mediterranean Diets Show Blood Pressure Reduction after 1 Year, While Benefits of Other Popular Diets Largely Fade Over Time

Diets can be difficult to stick to over extended periods of time, and the health benefits aren’t always long lasting. In this study, researchers analyzed 121 studies encompassing 21,942 people looking at the impacts of 14 popular diets (Mediterranean diet, low carb diet, low fat diet, etc.) after 6 months and 12 months. After 6 months, most of the diets resulted in a modest weight loss as well as improvements in blood pressure and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. However, after 12 months, weight loss had diminished, and only those on a Mediterranean diet continued to see lower blood pressure.
BMJ. 2020 Apr 1;369:m696. doi: 10.1136/bmj.m696. (Ge L et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Healthier Vitamin D Levels

A traditional Mediterranean diet includes frequent seafood and frequent but small portions of dairy foods, leaving some to wonder how a Mediterranean diet relates to markers of bone health. In this study, researchers analyzed the diets and vitamin D levels (using 25(OH)D blood levels) of 284 overweight and obese adults in Italy. Vitamin D levels in the blood are important to study, as they can indicate whether someone’s bones are strong or at risk of osteoporosis. Those most closely following a Mediterranean diet were significantly more likely to have higher vitamin D levels, as well as to have healthier BMI, waist size, insulin levels, and triglycerides (a type of fat in the blood). Seafood, which is abundant in the Mediterranean diet, is an important source of vitamin D, and the authors suggest that vitamin D may partially explain the Mediterranean diet’s protective effect on osteoporosis.
Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2020 Mar 29;1-7. doi: 10.1080/09637486.2020.1744533. Online ahead of print. (Zupo R et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Better Lung Function in Aging

Lung function gradually declines with aging, but certain lifestyle changes may be able preserve lung function for a longer period of time. In a study of more than 2,000 adults ages 50+, those most closely following a Mediterranean diet had better lung function (as measured by peak expiratory flow rate) than those not following a Mediterranean diet, even after adjusting for factors like age, smoking history, and physical activity. When looking at specific foods, grains, dairy foods, and fish were all linked with better lung function.
Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2020 Mar 23:1-6. doi: 10.1080/07315724.2020.1740114. [Epub ahead of print] (Papassotiriou I et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Better Outcomes in Kidney Transplant Patients

A well-balanced diet is one of the best ways to set our bodies up for good health down the road, and transplant patients are no exception. In this study of 632 adult kidney transplant recipients, those most closely following a Mediterranean diet had a 32% lower risk of graft failure and kidney function decline, and a 26% lower risk of graft loss (graft being the term for the transplanted kidney).
Clinical Journal of the American Society for Nephrology. 2020 Feb 7;15(2):238-246. doi: 10.2215/CJN.06710619. (Gomes-Neto AW et al.)

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