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Mediterranean Diet Linked with Smaller Waists, Lower Inflammation, Lower Risk of Insulin Resistance in a Non-Mediterranean Population

Even if you don’t live in the Mediterranean, you can still follow a Mediterranean diet pattern emphasizing healthy foods like fish, whole grains, legumes, and olive oil. In a study of 1,194 Puerto Rican adults in the U.S., researchers analyzed their diets using several different health scores and also collected health measurements from the participants to look for relationships between diet and cardiometabolic health. Those whose diets most closely aligned with a Mediterranean diet were significantly more likely to have smaller waist sizes, a lower BMI, lower levels of inflammation (as measured by C-reactive protein), and lower levels of insulin resistance. The DASH Diet score and Healthy Eating Index 2005 score were not significantly associated with any health measurement, while the Alternative Healthy Eating Index was only weakly associated with some positive health markers.
The Journal of Nutrition. 2017 Apr;147(4):661-669. doi: 10.3945/jn.116.245431. Epub 2017 Mar 8. (Mattei J et al.)

School-Based Mediterranean Diet Program Linked with Less Obesity, Healthier Blood Pressure in Teens

Childhood obesity is a growing problem around the world, and in developed countries, it is estimated that ⅓ of children are overweight or obese. In a study of 1,032 Greek teenagers (average age = 14), researchers tested a 6-month school-based nutrition education intervention, based on the principles of the Mediterranean Diet. Following the intervention, the researchers found significant decreases in overweight and obesity, abdominal obesity (specifically waist circumference), and blood pressure.
European Journal of Clinical Investigation. 2017 Apr 13. [Epub ahead of print] (Bacopoulou F et al.)

Olive Oil Linked with Prevention & Management of Type 2 Diabetes

Olive oil is a staple of the Mediterranean diet, an eating pattern praised for its links to good health and wellbeing. To see how olive oil relates to type 2 diabetes, researchers in Europe analyzed data from 4 cohort studies (following people over time and monitoring their health) and 29 clinical trials (randomly assigning people to diets with or without olive oil). They found that those consuming the most olive oil had a 16% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those consuming the least olive oil, with every 2 teaspoon increase in olive oil daily linked with a 9% lower risk. For patients who already had type 2 diabetes, adding olive oil to their diet significantly lowered their HbA1c, an indicator of better blood sugar control.
Nutrition & Diabetes. 2017 Apr 10;7(4):e262. (Schwingshackl L et al.)

Healthy Diets (Such as Mediterranean Diet) Linked with Better Sperm Quality

For couples trying to get pregnant, a healthy diet may help tilt the odds in their favor. To see what types of foods are associated with better male fertility and healthy sperm quality, researchers analyzed data on eating patterns and male fertility in 35 observational studies from around the world. They found that a healthy diet (e.g. a Mediterranean diet) with lots of seafood, poultry, vegetables, fruits, low fat dairy, and grains is associated with better sperm quality. They also found that in some studies, processed meat, soy foods,  potatoes, full fat dairy, coffee, alcohol, sugary drinks, and sweets were linked with poor sperm quality and male infertility.
Human Reproduction Update. 2017 Mar 10:1-19. (Salas-Huetos A et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with up to 40% Lower Risk of Breast Cancer

About ⅓ of breast cancer cases are hormone-receptor-negative, meaning that they are unlikely to respond to hormonal therapy. To see if diet relates to breast cancer risk, researchers analyzed the eating habits and health outcomes of more than 62,500 post-menopausal Dutch women for about 20 years. Those most closely following a Mediterranean diet were 40% less likely to develop estrogen-receptor-negative breast cancer, although overall breast cancer risk and the risk for other types of breast cancer were not significantly lower. Nut intake was the only food significantly associated with a lower risk of estrogen-receptor-negative breast cancer. For total and estrogen-receptor positive breast cancer, whole grain intake contributed the most to the lower risk, although not significantly.
International Journal of Cancer. 2017 Mar 5. [Epub ahead of print] (van den Brandt PA).

Legumes Linked with Heart Health

Legumes, the food group that includes beans, peas, lentils, and peanuts, are central to traditional diets around the world. To see how legumes relate to heart health, scientists reviewed 14 studies with 367,000 participants in both Mediterranean and non-Mediterranean populations. They found that a high intake of legumes (roughly less than one serving per day, or three to four servings per week) was associated with a 6% lower risk of any heart disease, and a 10% lower risk of coronary heart disease specifically. However, no association was found between legume consumption and stroke risk.
Journal of Public Health Nutrition. 2017 Feb;20(2):245-254. (Marventano S et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Improves Function of Good Cholesterol

HDL is often referred to as good cholesterol, because it helps take “bad” (LDL) cholesterol from the bloodstream back to the liver for removal, protects blood vessels, and acts as an antioxidant. We used to only be able to measure the amount of HDL, but now, scientists are able to measure how well the HDL is functioning as well. To see how a Mediterranean diet affects HDL function, researchers analyzed data from 296 participants in the PREDIMED trial (a randomized, controlled study where people at risk of heart disease were assigned to either a Mediterranean diet with nuts, a Mediterranean diet with olive oil, or a low fat diet). Both Mediterranean diet groups improved cholesterol efflux capacity (how well the LDL is transported out by the HDL). However, the olive oil group also had improved HDL antioxidant properties, and improved blood vessel protection.
Circulation. 2017 Feb 14;135(7):633-643. (Hernaez A et al.) 

Mediterranean Diet May Help Improve Depression

To see how food might play a role in treating depression, Australian scientists randomly assigned 56 adults with moderate to severe depression to either 7 hours of dietitian-led counseling about a modified Mediterranean diet, or 7 hours of social support (keeping participants company, without using psychotherapy strategies) over the course of 12 weeks. The adults in the nutrition counseling group improved their diets by eating significantly more servings of whole grains, fruit, dairy, olive oil, pulses, and fish. After 12 weeks, 32% of the nutrition group and 8% of the social support group improved their depressive symptoms enough to achieve remission, and the nutrition group also scored significantly better on various markers of depression.
BMC Medicine. 2017 January 30;15:23. ( Jacka FN et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Less ADHD in Kids

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) seems to be on the rise, so health experts wonder if diet might be related. To test this hypothesis, researchers in Spain matched 60 children newly diagnosed with ADHD to 60 children without ADHD (of the same age and sex), and analyzed their eating habits based on how closely they follow a Mediterranean diet. Children most closely following a Mediterranean diet (eating a second serving of fruit daily, eating vegetables daily, and eating pasta or rice almost every day) were significantly less likely to have ADHD. Children with ADHD were also more likely to eat more fast food, soft drinks, and candy, and were more likely to skip breakfast.
Pediatrics. 2017 Jan 30. pii: e20162027. [ePub ahead of print.] (Rios-Hernandez A et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Less Diabetes After Kidney Transplant

Kidney transplants are used to help people with end stage renal disease, but the transplant also puts patients at risk for developing diabetes. To see how diet might be related, researchers followed 468 Dutch adults who had received a kidney transplant, analyzing their health outcomes and eating patterns for about 4 years. Those most closely following a Mediterranean diet were 4 times less likely to get new-onset diabetes after transplantation. Additionally, closely following a Mediterranean diet was also linked with a two times lower risk of all-cause mortality, compared with those not closely following a Mediterranean diet.
BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care. 2017 Jan 13;5(1):e000283. (Oste MCJ et al.)

Slow Cooking Sofrito with Onion Helps Improve Antioxidant Capacity

Nutrition researchers are shedding light on synergies that home cooks have intuitively known for centuries: that traditional food pairings and preparations can offer even greater benefits than the ingredients by themselves. Sofrito, a delicious tomato-based puree used in several Latin American, Caribbean, and Spanish soups, stews, and sauces, is one such example of a healthy food tradition. Simmering the sofrito slowly, over a longer period of time, and including an onion in the recipe are not just important for the development of flavor — researchers in Spain found that these steps actually improve the antioxidant capacity and bioavailability of the lycopene, a healthy plant compound found in tomatoes.
Food Research International. 2017 January 11. [Epub before print.] (Rinaldi de Alvarenga JF et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Less Age-Related Brain Shrinkage

As people age, their brains gradually shrink over time. But certain lifestyle habits may be able to slow this loss. In a study of more than 1,000 elderly Scottish adults, researchers found that those most closely following a Mediterranean diet lost significantly less total brain volume over the 3-year study period than those who didn’t eat a Mediterranean diet. The authors also found that “fish and meat consumption does not drive this change, suggesting that other components of the [Mediterranean Diet] or, possibly, all of its components in combination are responsible for the association.”
Neurology. 2017 Jan 4. pii: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000003559.[Epub ahead of print](Luciano M et al.)