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Mediterranean Diet Linked with Lower Risk of Hip Fracture

Scandinavia has 2 to 3 times the rate of hip fracture compared to Southern Europe. To assess the role of diet in this geographic discrepancy, researchers analyzed two large Swedish cohorts totaling 71,333 people (average age 60) over 15 years, to determine the rate of hip fracture in people with different adherence levels to the Mediterranean diet. Most closely following a Mediterranean diet was associated with 22% lower hip fracture rate, and a 1 year higher age at hip fracture, compared to not following a Mediterranean diet.
Journal of Bone & Mineral Research. 2016 Dec;31(12):2098-2105. (L Byberg et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Shows Better Antioxidant Effect

The Mediterranean diet is a gold standard of healthy eating, and now scientists are learning more about the reasons behind its health benefits. Researchers randomly selected 75 adults (ages 55 to 80) with metabolic syndrome from one of three groups from the PREDIMED trial: a low-fat control diet, a Mediterranean diet with olive oil, or a Mediterranean diet with nuts. All participants had either type 2 diabetes or three or more risk factors for heart disease (smoking, high blood pressure, overweight or obesity, or family history of heart disease). Blood sample analysis revealed that both Mediterranean diet groups had better plasma antioxidant defenses and decreased xanthine oxidase activity (an enzyme linked with oxidative stress and health problems), but no difference in oxidative damage was found between the three groups. The researchers conclude that this antioxidant effect “could at least partially account for the previously reported beneficial effects of [the Mediterranean diet].”
Molecular Nutrition & Food Research. 2016 Dec;60(12):2654-2664. (A Sureda et al.)

Mediterranean Diet and Lifestyle Linked with Less Depression

A Mediterranean lifestyle encompasses much more than just red wine and olive oil; physical movement and social connection are also important as well. To this point, researchers followed 11,800 Spanish adults for 8.5 years monitoring their eating patterns, lifestyle, and health outcomes. Those most closely following a Mediterranean Diet were 18% less likely to develop depression over the 8.5-year study. Similarly, those with the most physical activity and social activity were 19% and 23% less likely to develop depression, respectively. However, a Mediterranean lifestyle, which encompasses diet, physical activity, and social activity, seemed to be most effective, as it was linked with a 50% lower risk of depression. 
Clinical Psychological Science. 2016 Nov. 4(6):1085-10093. (Sanchez-Villegas A et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Lower Risk of Heart Disease & Death from Heart Disease

Even if you don’t live in the Mediterranean, you can still benefit from a Mediterranean style diet. To see how the Mediterranean diet relates to heart disease in England, European researchers analyzed the eating habits and health outcomes of 23,902 adults (age 40-79) in Eastern England. Those most closely following a Mediterranean diet were significantly less likely to develop heart disease. Based on these data, the researchers estimate that 1-6% of all heart disease cases, and 2-14% of all stroke cases can be prevented by following a Mediterranean diet.
BMC Medicine. 2016 Sep 29;14(1):135. (Tong TY et al.)

More Fish, Less Meat, Moderate Alcohol Intake Linked with Lower Heart Failure Risk

The Mediterranean diet is well known for its role in heart health, so researchers wanted to know if the foundations of a Mediterranean diet specifically reduced the risk of heart failure. German researchers analyzed the diets of 24,008 middle aged European adults, and followed their health outcomes for 8 years. While a strong adherence to a Mediterranean diet was not significantly related to lower heart failure risk after adjusting for other risk factors, many components of the Mediterranean diet were linked with a lower risk of heart failure, including high fish intake, moderate alcohol intake, and low meat intake. The researchers conclude that “Minor dietary changes could be valuable primary prevention measures, particularly the increase of fish consumption while reducing the intake of meat.”
European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2016 Sep;70(9):1015-21. (Wirth J et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Lower Death Risk in Those with History of Heart Disease

The Mediterranean diet is well known for its role in heart disease prevention, but new research suggests that it may also be beneficial for people who already have a history of heart disease. In a preliminary study, researchers followed 1197 Italian adults who had a history of heart disease and analyzed their eating patterns and health outcomes. Those most closely following a Mediterranean diet were 37% less likely to die during the 7-year study period than those not following a Mediterranean diet. In fact, each 2-point increase on the Mediterranean diet score (on a scale of 0-9) was linked with a 21% lower risk of death. This is greater than the risk reduction seen by taking statins (18%), common cholesterol lowering drugs.
Presentation at the European Society of Cardiology. Rome, Italy. August 28, 2016.

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Less Plaque Build Up in Arteries

Atherosclerosis, plaque build up in the arteries, can lead to dangerous blood clots, but diet can play an important role in prevention. Researchers analyzed the eating habits and heart health markers of 4,082 adults in Spain, and identified three distinct eating patterns: the Mediterranean diet, the Western diet, and the “social-business eating pattern,” a dietary pattern with more calories, red meat, pre-made foods, alcohol, sugary drinks, snacks, and lots of eating out. Those eating a Mediterranean diet had significantly less plaque than those eating a Western or social business eating pattern, with a social-business pattern appearing to be even worse than the typical, unhealthy Western diet (characterized by not enough fruits, veggies or whole grains, and too much red meat, desserts, and sugary beverages).
Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2016 Aug 23;68(8):805-14. 

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Cognitive Benefits, Less Conversion to Alzheimer’s

Research continues to tout the brain benefits of a delicious and nutritious Mediterranean diet. In a review article, Australian researchers analyzed more than a dozen longitudinal and prospective studies (where participants are observed over a long period of time) to determine the link between eating patterns and cognitive health. In the 18 studies, encompassing nearly 60,000 adults total, the scientists found that closely following a Mediterranean diet was associated with “slower rates of cognitive decline, reduced conversion to Alzheimer’s disease, and improvements in cognitive function.” More specifically, the Mediterranean diet was linked with better memory, executive function (which controls behavior, planning, and reasoning), and visual constructs.
Frontiers in Nutrition. 2016 Jul 22;3:22. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2016.00022. [Epub] (Hardman RJ et al.)

Full Fat Mediterranean Diet Linked with Good Health

A healthy diet need not restrict fat or flavor, at least in the case of the delicious and nutritious Mediterranean diet. Researchers at the Department of Veterans Affairs in the U.S. analyzed data from 56 studies (of at least 100 people in each study) to get a big picture view of the Mediterranean diet. The studies were all controlled trials (one of the strongest types of nutrition studies) and were included so long as the participants followed at least 2 of the 7 characteristics of a Mediterranean diet (such as lots of fruits and vegetables, or a preference for olive oil and other unsaturated fats). The scientists found that a Mediterranean diet (with no restriction on fat) may help prevent heart disease, breast cancer, and type 2 diabetes, but they did not find a significant reduction in mortality.
Annals of Internal Medicine. 2016 Jul 19. (Bloomfield HE et al.) [Epub ahead of print]

Mediterranean Diet May Prevent Breast Cancer Relapse

In a study of 307 Italian women with early breast cancer, who had undergone treatment and were in complete remission, researchers assigned 199 of the women to their normal diet, but with healthy advice from a dietitian, while the other 108 women were assigned to a Mediterranean diet (with lots of fruits and vegetables, fish, olive oil, and up to one glass of wine per day). After 3 years, breast cancer returned to 11 patients from the standard diet group, but none in the Mediterranean diet group relapsed. This indicates a statistically significant reduced risk of breast cancer recurrence for those following a Mediterranean diet.  
Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2016 ASCO Annual Meeting. 2016 June 3-7;34(15):Suppl:e13039. (Biasini C et al).

Avocados Can Make Up Nutrient Shortfalls During Pregnancy

Studies continue to show that eating a Mediterranean−style diet during pregnancy is linked with improved health outcomes for both the mother and infant. Because some pregnant and lactating women are falling short of dietary recommendations, researchers suggest that incorporating avocados into maternal diets is an easy way for women to get significant sources of nutrients they are currently lacking. Avocados are a Mediterranean−style food, rich in folate, potassium, carotenoids, fiber, monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) and antioxidants, all of which pregnant, lactating, and child−bearing age women need especially, in order to reduce the risk of birth complications and defects.
Nutrients. 2016 May;8(5):doi:10.3390/nu8050313. (Comerford KB et al.)

Wine Linked with Lower Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

Wine is certainly one of the most popular aspects of the Mediterranean diet, but many wonder if other adult beverages have a similar relationship with disease prevention. To see how different alcoholic drinks relate to type 2 diabetes, Chinese researchers reviewed data from 13 different studies covering 397,296 people. They found that although a moderate amount of beer and spirits was related to a slightly decreased risk of type 2 diabetes (4%, and 5%, respectively), wine was linked with a much more significant decreased risk of type 2 diabetes, at 15%. Furthermore, all levels of wine consumption (up to about 3oz per day – the highest average of the participants) showed a protective effect against type 2 diabetes, but higher levels of beer (more than 3 oz per day) and spirits (more than 23 grams per day – less than one ounce) were linked with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes.
Journal of Diabetes Investigation. 2016 May 10. [Epub ahead of print] (Huang J et al.)