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Mediterranean Diet Linked with Lower Risk of Colorectal Cancer

While the healthfulness of the Mediterranean Diet has been recognized for decades, new studies continually build on evidence supporting the benefits of this nutritious and delicious diet. Researchers analyzed the eating patterns and DNA of 1,087 people with colon cancer and 2,409 people without colon cancer, to see how diet might relate to cancer risk. They found that closely following a Mediterranean Diet was independently linked with significantly lower risk of colorectal cancer, and that certain genes might also be protective. When looking at specific foods, vegetables and legumes, in particular, were linked with a significantly lower colorectal cancer risk. 
BMC Medical Genetics. 2017 Oct 30;18(1):122. (Alonso-Molero J et al.)

Mediterranean Diet During Pregnancy Reduces Incidence of Gestational Diabetes, Premature Birth

Expectant mothers have a unique opportunity to nurture their growing babies with a healthy diet, and some food choices can be especially beneficial. In a study of 874 healthy pregnant women in Spain, researchers randomly assigned half to a Mediterranean Diet (with olive oil and pistachios) and half to a similar healthy diet (but were told to avoid olive oil, nuts and other fat sources) early in their pregnancy (at 8-12 weeks). Those in the Mediterranean Diet group were 25% less likely to develop gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) than those in the low-fat group, and had significantly lower rates of premature deliveries and emergency C-sections. 
PLoS One. 2017 Oct 19;12(10):e0185873. (Assaf-Balut C et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Lower Risk of Blocked Arteries

As a way of testing if people might have blocked arteries (atherosclerosis), doctors compare blood pressure readings between your arm and your ankle in a test called the ankle-brachial index (ABI). To see how eating a Mediterranean Diet relates to these results, researchers analyzed the eating patterns and ABI of 425 pre-menopausal, middle-aged women in Italy. Researchers estimated that those most closely following a Mediterranean Diet were 10% less likely to develop peripheral arterial disease compared with those not following a Mediterranean Diet.
Nutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Diseases.  2017 Oct 3. pii: S0939-4753(17)30226-0. (Mattoidi AV et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Better Psychological Resilience

Psychological resilience, which measures how people are able to cope with stressors and maintain an optimistic outlook, is an important characteristic for aging healthfully. To better understand the relationship between health and well-being, researchers analyzed the eating patterns and psychological resiliency scores of 10,812 adults in Southern Italy. Those most closely following a Mediterranean Diet were significantly more likely to have better psychological resilience than those eating more of a Western-style diet. However, high alcohol intake was linked with lower psychological resilience.
European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2017 Sep 27. [Epub ahead of print.] (Bonaccio M et al.)

Pasta Eaters Tend to Get More Fiber, Potassium, Sodium

As a staple of the Mediterranean diet, pasta is traditionally enjoyed with tomatoes, herbs, olives, and other wholesome ingredients. To see how the diets of American pasta eaters compare to those who don’t eat pasta, researchers analyzed national food consumption data (from NHANES) of 10,697 adults. While there weren’t too many differences between the groups, those who ate pasta and noodles had slightly higher Healthy Eating Index scores, a measure of diet quality, while those who ate macaroni and cheese had slightly lower Healthy Eating Index scores. Pasta eaters also got about 2g more fiber per day than those who don’t eat pasta, as well as slightly higher levels of potassium and sodium. The healthfulness of a pasta dish depends on the company it keeps, so eaters would be wise to choose healthy pasta meals that incorporate vegetables, legumes, fish, and other nutritious ingredients.
Current Developments in Nutrition. 2017 September 19. [Epub ahead of print.] (Fulgoni VL et al.)

Mediterranean Diet May Help Ease Arthritis Symptoms

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes a painful swelling in your joints, but researchers wonder whether diet and lifestyle might help manage symptoms. Scientists reviewed four studies spanning thousands of people to see how the Mediterranean diet relates to the management and prevention of rheumatoid arthritis. Two of the studies documented improvement in reported pain among participants in the Mediterranean diet groups, and one study demonstrated diminished disease activity among those following a Mediterranean diet. While the authors note plenty of positive effects related to following a Mediterranean diet, they caution that there is not conclusive evidence that a Mediterranean diet can actually prevent rheumatoid arthritis.
Rheumatology International. 2017 Sep. (Forsyth, C et al.) [Epub ahead of print]

Plant-Based Mediterranean Diet Just as Effective as Drugs at Treating Silent Reflux

Laryngopharyngeal reflux, also known as “silent reflux,” a condition resulting in stomach acid entering the esophagus, is most commonly treated with medication (proton pump inhibitors), but such medications are increasingly tied to long-term side effects. To determine whether a wholly dietary approach can be as effective, researchers studied 85 patients with silent reflux who used medication and 99 patients who were treated with alkaline water (water that’s slightly less acidic than tap water), a plant-based, Mediterranean-style diet, and standard reflux dietary precautions (no coffee, chocolate, soda, greasy/fried fatty foods, or alcohol). There was no significant difference in Reflux Symptom Index, a scoring chart used to assess response to treatment, between the two treatments, indicating that the dietary approach may be just as effective as medicine.
JAMA Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery. 2017 Sep 7. (Zalvan CH et al.) [Epub ahead of print.]

Eating Fish Linked with 40% Lower Risk of Heart Disease

Fish is well recognized for its role in a heart-healthy diet. To learn more about how fish eating relates to heart disease risk in a Mediterranean population, scientists analyzed the eating patterns and health outcomes of nearly 21,000 Italian adults. Those eating fish at least 4 times per week were 40% less likely to develop coronary heart disease than those eating fish fewer than 2 times per week. This relationship is primarily driven by fatty fish, like salmon, trout, herring, mackerel, and canned fish. Strokes were also studied, but the trend toward lower stroke risk in frequent fish eaters was not statistically significant.
Nutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Diseases. 2017 Aug 23. pii: S0939-4753(17)30198-9. (Bonaccio M et al.)

Healthy Eating in Mid-Adulthood Linked with Healthier Body Composition Down the Road

It is never too late to begin the journey to healthy eating. In fact, adopting healthier habits in mid-adulthood may be especially important. To see the effect diet has on body fat distribution, researchers analyzed the eating patterns of approximately 2,000 adults (average age = 48 years), and then assessed their body composition 20 years later. Those with higher-quality diets in mid-adulthood (most closely following a Mediterranean Diet, DASH Diet, or scoring higher on the Healthy Eating Index – all of which prioritize vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes, and limit sweets and processed or red meats) had lower total body fat and a lower BMI, which are critical in chronic disease prevention. Following a high-quality diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, over a period of time is important to maintain a healthy level of body fat and to prevent fat tissue from accumulating in the liver.
Obesity. 2017 Aug;25(8):1442-1450. (Maskarinec G et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Lower Risk of Prostate Cancer

The Mediterranean diet is well known to be protective against prostate cancer, the second most common cancer in the world among men. In this paper, experts at the University of Foggia in Italy analyzed the existing research on diet and prostate cancer. They found that the Mediterranean Diet as a whole is related to a lower risk of prostate cancer and a lower risk of death from cancer and heart disease. The researchers also note that, “If the [Mediterranean Diet] is dismantled into its components, it seems that there is no single ingredient or food category mediating any favorable effects. Protective effect is instead due to the whole food pattern.”
Frontiers in Nutrition. 2017 August 24;4:38. (Capurso C et al).

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Less Obesity, Metabolic Syndrome

The Mediterranean Diet is linked with better health, even if you live thousands of miles away from the Mediterranean region. In this study researchers conducted a nationwide online survey of 24,882 Chilean adults, asking about their eating habits, weight, and other health indicators. A sub-sample of the adults (4,348) also had information on Metabolic Syndrome, a cluster of conditions (high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol, and excess fat around the waist) that can increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes if they occur together.  Those most closely following a Mediterranean Diet (using the Chilean Mediterranean Diet Index) were less likely to have metabolic syndrome, and were less likely to be overweight or obese.
Nutrients. 2017 August 11;9(8). Pii: E862. (Echeverria G et al.) 

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Improved Cognitive Performance in Elderly

As global life expectancy grows, dementia is an increasing concern. Healthy eating patterns like the Mediterranean Diet are thought to help decrease the risk of such diseases. Researchers recently analyzed the diets of 1,865 Greek adults over the age of 64 as part of The Hellenic Longitudinal Investigation of Ageing and Diet (HELIAD) study. The researchers concluded that closer adherence to the Mediterranean Diet may be associated with improved cognitive performance—particularly memory—and lower dementia rates. Fish and whole grains in particular were singled out for their association with cognitive benefits.
PLOS One. 2017 August 1. 12(8): e0182048. (Anastasiou CA et al.)