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Mediterranean Diet Linked with ¼ Lower Heart Disease Risk in Women

The Mediterranean diet is closely linked with heart health, and researchers want to learn more about the underlying mechanisms behind this connection. In this study researchers analyzed the diet and health outcomes of 25,994 women for 12 years. Those most closely following a Mediterranean diet were 28% less likely to develop heart disease than those not following a Mediterranean diet. Even those who were only moderately following a Mediterranean diet had a 23% lower risk of heart disease, indicating that even small lifestyle changes can have a meaningful impact on health. The researchers suspect that part of the heart health benefits may be related to lower inflammation, as women most closely following the Mediterranean diet had significantly lower levels of biomarkers of inflammation. Other factors shown to affect the relationship between the Mediterranean diet and heart health are the Mediterranean diet’s links to blood sugar management, BMI, blood pressure, and cholesterol.
JAMA Network Open. 2018 Dec 7;1(8):e185708. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.5708 (Ahmad S et al.)

Mediterranean Diet with Dairy May Help with Blood Pressure and Cholesterol

In a traditional Mediterranean diet, dairy was eaten often, but in small amounts (typically fermented dairy products, like artisanal cheese and Greek yogurt). Researchers wonder if a Mediterranean diet with slightly more dairy might still offer some benefits, so they randomly assigned 41 adults at risk of heart disease to a Mediterranean diet with 3-4 servings of dairy per day, or a low fat diet. Compared to a low fat diet, the Mediterranean dairy diet resulted in significantly higher HDL (good) cholesterol, lower triglycerides (a fat in the blood) and significantly lower blood pressure in the morning. However, more research is needed to see how a traditional Mediterranean diet compares with a higher dairy Mediterranean diet.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2018 Dec 1;108(6):1166-1182. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqy207. (Wade AT et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Filled with Health-Promoting Polyphenols

Polyphenols are naturally occurring antioxidants found in many foods including olive oil, fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, whole grains, and red wine; these foods are also key components of the traditional Mediterranean diet. In this review researchers analyzed the main sources of polyphenols in the Mediterranean diet and their potential health impacts. They found that the Mediterranean diet has a unique mix of polyphenols that is associated with decreased obesity; the polyphenols present in the Mediterranean diet may also promote the growth of good bacteria in the gut, which may aid in digestion and have other positive health effects.
Nutrients. 2018 Oct 17;10(10). pii: E1523. doi: 10.3390/nu10101523. (Castro-Barquero S et al)

Eating Omega-3 Fatty Acids While Pregnant May Reduce Pre-Term Births

Not many women eat fish frequently during pregnancy, but perhaps they should. In a rigorous Cochrane review of 70 randomized controlled trials (involving 19,927 women), scientists found that getting more omega-3 fatty acids (from food, like seafood, or supplements) may reduce the incidence of pre-term birth and low birthweight in babies.
The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2018 Nov 15;11:CD003402. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD003402.pub3. (Middleton P et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Better Brain Health in Adults at Risk for Alzheimer's

Numerous studies have observed a link between the Mediterranean Diet and slower cognitive decline, but researchers wonder how this might relate to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. To better understand diet’s relationship with Alzheimer’s pathology, scientists analyzed the eating patterns and buildup of Aβ (small pieces of protein that can accumulate in the brain, potentially creating plaques and causing brain cells to be destroyed) in 77 older adults who were already on the path to Alzheimer’s disease (by being flagged as being Aβ accumulators). Those most closing following a Mediterranean diet had significantly less Aβ accumulation over time, with fruit standing out as a particularly beneficial food. The authors suggest that improving your Mediterranean diet score by just 1 point (0-9 point scale) may result in a 20% decrease in Aβ accumulation over 1 year, and up to a 60% decrease over 3 years.
Translational Psychiatry. 2018 Oct 30;8(1):238. doi: 10.1038/s41398-018-0293-5. (Rainey-Smith SR et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with 33% Lower Risk of Depression

Scientists are eager to learn more about the link between a healthy diet and a healthy mind. In this study, researchers analyzed existing observational studies between healthy diets (measured by the Mediterranean Diet score, the Healthy Eating Index, the Dietary Inflammatory Index, and related scoring systems) and depression. According to the researchers, “the most compelling evidence was found for the Mediterranean diet and incident depression.” Specifically, those most closely following a Mediterranean diet were 33% less likely to develop incident depression than those not following a Mediterranean diet. People whose diets scored well on some of the other diet scores also tended to have a lower risk of depression, though there were fewer studies using those indices.
Molecular Psychiatry. 2018 Sep 26. doi: 10.1038/s41380-018-0237-8. [Epub ahead of print] (Lassale C et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with 22% Lower Risk of Stroke in Women

The Mediterranean diet has been well studied for its link to stroke prevention, but researchers wonder how the effects may differ between different types of patients. In this study, scientists monitored the eating patterns and health status of 23,232 white Europeans in the UK. After 17 years, those most closely following a Mediterranean diet had a 17% lower risk of stroke. However, the findings seem to be driven primarily by women. Women who most closely followed a Mediterranean diet had a 22% lower risk of stroke, while the trend towards lower risk in men was not statistically significant. Additionally, the findings were stronger in people who had a higher risk of heart disease (due to family history or other factors).
Stroke. 2018 Sept 20. doi: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.117.020258. [Epub ahead of print.] (Paterson KE et al.)

Cheese Production in Mediterranean May Have Helped Reduced Infant Mortality in Middle Neolithic Period

The Neolithic Period, when communities transitioned from a largely hunter-gatherer lifestyle to a largely agricultural lifestyle, began about 12,000 years ago. Cheese production in the Mediterranean was thought to have begun in the Bronze Age (after the Neolithic Period). However, newly discovered fatty acid residue on pottery from Neolithic sites in Croatia indicates that milk was fermented into cheese much earlier than had been assumed, in the Middle Neolithic period (5200 BCE). The researchers suggest that “dairying and fermentation had additional human life-history dependent advantages by reducing infant mortality,” which “helped stimulate demographic shifts that propelled farming communities to expand and provided the demographic and dietary risk buffering to allow Neolithic farming to spread to colder, temperate climates.”
PLoS One. 2018 Sep 5;13(9):e0202807. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0202807. (McClure SB et al.)

Healthy Diets (Like Mediterranean, Vegetarian) May Improve Gut Microbiome

Scientists are increasingly interested in researching the gut microbiome, the community of bacteria of our digestive tract, as studies suggest that the types of microbes we produce and carry around may impact our risk for chronic disease. In this review, researchers analyzed the existing research on diet and the gut microbiome, focusing on vegetarian diets and Mediterranean diets. Both epidemiological studies and randomized clinical trials demonstrate that healthy Mediterranean and vegetarian diets are linked with various beneficial changes to the gut microbiome (such as increased short chain fatty acid production, increases in Prevotella, and decreases in trimethylamine). They suggest that these healthy diets may lower risk of chronic disease by impacting our gut microbiome, but that more research is needed to identify the exact mechanism.
Journal of Nutrition. 2018 Sep 1;148(9):1402-1407. doi: 10.1093/jn/nxy141. (Tindall AM et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Prolonged Survival in Elderly

The Mediterranean Diet is well known for its links with longevity, but researchers wonder if this protective effect might apply to an elderly population as well. In a study of 5,200 older adults in Italy (ages 65+), researchers found that those most closely following a Mediterranean diet were significantly less likely to die over the 8-year study period. In fact, each 1-point increase in the Mediterranean Diet Score (0-9 point scale) was linked with a 4-7% lower risk of death from all causes over the 8 years.
British Journal of Nutrition. 2018 Aug 30:1-14. doi: 10.1017/S0007114518002179. [Epub ahead of print] (Bonaccio M et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Lower Risk of Age-Related Eye Disease

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of vision loss in older adults. Because there is no cure or treatment, prevention is especially important. Scientists analyzed the eye health and eating habits of nearly 5,000 older adults in the Netherlands and France for up to 21 years. Those most closely following a Mediterranean diet were 41% less likely to have incident advanced AMD.
Ophthalmology. 2018 Aug 13. pii: S0161-6420(18)30721-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ophtha.2018.08.006. [Epub ahead of print] (Merle BMJ et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Better Health in People with Type 2 Diabetes

The positive effects of the Mediterranean Diet are well-known, but more research is needed on the effects of the diet in people with type 2 diabetes. In this study, researchers looked at the diets of over 2,000 people with type 2 diabetes. Those who more closely followed the Mediterranean Diet had lower BMIs, blood lipids (cholesterol and triglycerides), blood pressure, inflammation, and better blood sugar control than those who did not. Researchers also found that each part of the Mediterranean Diet provided different benefits- eating more fish was associated with lower triglycerides while eating more vegetables was associated with better blood pressure. In other words, the overall Mediterranean Diet pattern is greater than the sum of its parts, and following the Mediterranean Diet may offer big benefits to people with type 2 diabetes.
Nutrients. 2018 Aug 10;10(8). pii: E1067. doi: 10.3390/nu10081067. (Vitale M et al.)

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