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Mediterranean Diet for Pregnant Moms Reduces Babies’ Wheezing

At the University of Edinburgh, researchers did a systematic review of 62 studies to determine how the diet of pregnant women may affect asthma and allergies in their babies.  The strongest connection found was between the Mediterranean Diet and asthma: babies whose mothers followed the Med Diet had a nearly 80% lower risk of wheezing. Vitamins A, D and E were also associated with reduced risk of asthma.

Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Dec. 23, 2010 [Epub ahead of print]

Med Diet Slows Brain Aging

Cognitive decline is not inevitable as we age, and in fact a new study shows that eating a Mediterranean Diet can make your mental age years younger. Researchers in Chicago studied the dietary habits of 4,000 Midwesterners aged 65 and older, and scored them for adherence to either the Med Diet or the U.S. Dietary Guidelines. They then tested the people every three years for skills including word memory and math. Those who scored highest on the MedDiet scale – by enjoying fish, legumes, vegetables, wine, fruit and olive oil regularly – had slower cognitive decline over time, while those scoring higher on the Dietary Guidelines scale showed no advantage in keeping their wits about them. (Related article).
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. December 22, 2010 [Epub ahead of print]

Med Diet Improves Longevity Markers, Insulin Sensitivity

Scientists at the University of Naples studied 192 overweight and obese men, putting half the men on a Med Diet (if overweight) or a Med Diet plus exercise and calorie restriction (if obese), while the other half followed a conventional diet. After two years, the Med Diet group had lost, on average 14 kg (31 lbs), while the control group had lost just 2 kg. Moreover, the Med Diet group showed “significant amelioration of multiple risk factors” including improved cardiovascular markers, reduced oxidative stress, and improved insulin sensitivity.
Cardiology Research & Practice
, Dec. 20, 2010; 2011:293916

Polish Scientists Advise Olive Oil in Baby Food

Scientists in Poland who are familiar with the health benefits of the olive-oil-based Mediterranean Diet reviewed 124 kinds of baby food from six suppliers. They found that corn, canola, and soybean oils were most common in jarred baby foods, and that only one brand of ready-to-eat jars with vegetables featured olive oils. The scientists concluded that medical professionals should urge manufacturers to produce baby foods with olive oil, and that parents should, in the meantime, make their own olive-oil baby foods at home.

Medical Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism. December 2010; 3(3):227-232.

Med Diet, Weight Gain and Aging

Some of us may notice a few extra pounds appear on the scale as we get older. Is this just the reality of getting older? A new study, which followed 10,376 Spanish men and women for about 6 years, has found that following the Mediterranean Diet eating pattern may slow down the weight gain normally observed with age. In fact, people with the lowest Med Diet score gained the most weight each year. (Related article). 

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. December 2010; 92(6): 1484-93 [Epub Oct 20, 2010]

Omega-3 May Reduce Risk of Dental Disease

You are told to brush, floss, and rinse every day, but has your dentist told you to consume more Omega 3 fatty acids lately? He should, according the latest study from Japan comparing levels of omega-3 fatty acids and the prevalence of dental diseases. “People with low DHA intake had an approximately 1.5 times higher incidence rate ratio of periodontal disease progression,” wrote the researchers. Omega-3 fatty acids of marine and plant origin were found to have strong anti-bacterial activity against a range of oral pathogens, which may be related to the anti-inflammatory effects of omega-3 fatty acids. “In periodontal diseases, bacteria trigger inflammatory host responses that cause destruction of the alveolar bone and periodontal connective tissue,” explained the researchers. The Mediterranean Diet features ingredients rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as fish, nuts, legumes and vegetables. This pattern of eating is already known to protect against certain kinds of cancer, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes. Now there is one more reason to try it. (Related article).

Nutrition. November-December 2010; 26(11-12):1105-9 [Epub January 25, 2010]

Mediterranean Diet and Fertility Treatment Success

Women all over the world struggle with conception, for various reasons. However, new findings point to a possible role for diet in fertility treatment success. Researchers in the Netherlands found that among 161 couples undergoing fertility treatment, women whose eating habits most closely matched the traditional Mediterranean diet were 40 percent more likely to become pregnant than those with the least Mediterranean-like diets. One potential reason adhering to a Mediterranean Diet positively affects fertility treatment is the high intake of vegetable oils, vegetables, fish, and legumes – and a low intake of snacks. (Related article).

Fertility and Sterility, November 2010; 94(6):2096-101 [Epub Mar 1, 2010]

Mediterranean Diet May Help Keep You Smarter

Reading, writing and researching can bulk up your brain, but did you know that your diet could make you smarter? Eating a Mediterranean-style diet — one rich in olive oil, whole grains, fish and fruit — may protect aging brains from damage linked to cognitive problems, new research finds. Dr. Nikolas Scarmeas, an associate professor of neurology at Columbia University Medical Center, New York City, and his colleagues have already shown that a Mediterranean Diet could help lower the risk for Alzheimer’s disease and might lengthen the life of those who have the disease. In his latest study, he may have found out why. After studying a group of male and female participants averaging 80 years of age, he determined that those who most closely followed the Mediterranean Diet had fewer incidents of stroke and brain infarcts – tissue that has died because of reduced or cut-off blood supply. Those who adhered to the Mediterranean Diet to the highest degree lowered their risk of such damage by up to 36%. (Related article).

Presentation at the American Academy of Neurology annual meeting, April 10-17, 2010.

Sunscreen for Dinner?

Skin cancer is increasing, even though we’re slathering on more sunscreen than ever. A recent study from Israel shows that our best sun protection may come from within. Whereas ultraviolet A radiation reduces antioxidants and damages cell components, a diet rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, like the diet eaten in Mediterranean regions where melanoma rates are extremely low, can help protect us from skin cancer. (Related article).

Nutrition Reviews. February 2010; 68(2):75-86.

Med Diet: Keeping Your Brain Healthy

A study conducted by the Columbia University Medical Center examined the association between adherence to the Mediterranean diet and mild cognitive impairment (MCI) among 1393 multi-ethnic participants.  Using Cox proportional hazards, the association between adherence to the Mediterranean diet (0-9 scale) and the incidence of MCI, as well as the progression of MCI to Alzheimer’s disease was assessed.  The models were all adjusted for age, sex, ethnicity, education, genotype, caloric intake, body mass index, and duration between baseline dietary assessment and baseline dietary diagnosis.  The study concludes that a higher adherence to the Mediterranean diet correlates to a reduced risk of developing mild cognitive impairment and reduced risk of MCI conversion to Alzheimer’s disease.
Archives of Neurology 2009 Feb; 66(2):216-25 (Scarmeas et al.)
 

Higher Phenols Beneficial in Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

Oxidative DNA damage is one of the metabolic precursors to cancer and coronary vascular disease and phenols are organic compounds with antioxidant properties. A study conducted in Florence, Italy measured the oxidative DNA damage in ten healthy, post-menopausal women when they consumed olive oils with different concentrations of natural phenols. Subjects replaced fats and oils habitually consumed with the study oil (50g/d), which was either a high-phenol extra virgin olive oil (592 mg total phenols/kg) or a low-phenol extra virgin olive oil (147 mg total phenols/kg) for eight weeks in each period.  The study found that during treatment of high-phenol-EVOO, the average oxidative DNA damage was 30% lower than the average during low-phenol-EVOO treatment. Though the sample size was small, the study indicated that consuming an extra-virgin olive oil rich in phenols, particularly hydroxytryosol, may reduce DNA damage.
British Journal of Nutrition 2006 Apr; 95(4): 742-51 (Salvini et al.)
 

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