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Med Diet Lowers Risk of Overall Heart Disease

Researchers at the University of Miami examined the relationship between a Mediterranean diet and risk of ischemic stroke, myocardial infarction, and vascular death among 2568 participants (black, Hispanic and white). Adherence to the Mediterranean diet was assessed using a food frequency questionnaire; the higher the score the greater the adherence to the Mediterranean diet.  The relationship between the Mediterranean diet and risk of ischemic stroke, myocardial infarction, and vascular death was assessed using Cox models, with control for socio-demographic and vascular risk factors.  Over a mean follow-up of 9 years, 518 vascular events accrued (171 ischemic strokes, 133 MI’s, and 314 vascular deaths).  The results of this study showed an inverse relationship between consumption of a Mediterranean diet and decreased risk of vascular events, supporting a diet rich in fruit, vegetables, whole grains, fish and olive oil as a way to promote health and decrease cardiovascular risks. 
American Journal of Nutrition 2011 Dec; 94(6):1458-64. (Gardener et al.)

Less Inflammation, Oxidative Stress with Med Diet

Italian researchers studied the diets of 131 healthy adults, and rated each person’s diet for overall adherence to a traditional Mediterranean Diet. They compared this “Mediterranean Diet Score” to blood test results of cholesterol and triglycerides, antioxidant levels, immune system function and oxidative stress. They found that those with a higher Med Diet Score had less inflammation, reduced oxidative stress, and higher circulating levels of antioxidants, all of which are associated with reduced risk of disease.
Nutrition Journal, November 16, 2011; 10(1):125 [Epub ahead of print] (Azzini et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Reduces Expression of Inflammation Gene in Elderly

Atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, has been linked with chronic low-grade inflammation, and such inflammation has been tied, in part, to fats in the diet. Scientists at the University of Córdoba, Spain, asked 20 healthy elderly adults to follow three different diets for three weeks each, and compared their bodies’ expressions of a gene linked to inflammation under each diet. They found that consumption of a Mediterranean Diet reduced post-meal inflammation more than the other two diets (a saturated fat-rich diet or a low-fat, high-carb diet enriched with Omega 2 polyunsaturated fats). The researchers stated that “these findings may be partly responsible for the lower CVD risk found in populations with a high adherence to the Med Diet.”
British Journal of Nutrition
, November 15, 2011;1-9 [Epub ahead of print] (Camargo et al.)

Sleep Apnea Improves with Mediterranean Diet

Researchers at Greece’s University of Crete evaluated 900 patients to choose 40 obese adults with moderate to severe apnea. They divided the patients randomly into two groups, with half following the Mediterranean Diet and the other half following a “prudent diet;” everyone was encouraged to walk and exercise 30 minutes daily. After six months, the scientists found that the Mediterranean Diet group showed reduced apnea during REM sleep (about 25% of sleep) and a greater reduction in waist circumference and abdominal fat, as well as greater adherence to the diet. 

European Respiratory Journal, October 27, 2011 [Epub ahead of print] (Papandreou et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Lowers Risk of Birth Defects

Doctors in ten U.S. locations, led by a team at Stanford University, studied 9,558 women who delivered babies from 1997 to 2005, including 936 babies with neural tube defects, and 2475 with orofacial clefts. They compared the diets of the women who delivered babies with birth defects to 6147 nonmalformed controls, giving each mother a Mediterranean Diet Score and a Diet Quality Index (based on the U.S. Dietary Guidelines). The doctors found that mothers scoring in the highest quintile of either diet index significantly reduced their babies’ risk for birth defects. 

Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, October 3, 2011 [Epub ahead of print]

Heart Function and the Mediterranean Diet

Seeking better understanding of how patients with chronic heart failure could slow progression of the disease, scientists in Greece studied the diet habits of 372 patients with this condition. They found positive associations between different factors of systolic and diastolic function in both heart ventricles and various element of the Mediterranean diet, including fish intake, olive oil use, pasta intake, and moderate alcohol drinking.

Heart Vessels, September 27, 2011 [Epub ahead of print]

Protective Effects of Mediterranean Diet against Prostate Cancer

In a meta-analysis of the relationship between diet and prostate cancer, scientists in Valencia, Spain reviewed existing studies. They found that prostate cancer is reduced in men on the Mediterranean Diet compared with those on a typical Western diet. They cited several characteristics of the Med Diet, including high daily consumption of fruits, vegetables, grains, tubers and legumes; olive oil as the main source of fats; low intake of animal products; regular consumption of small fish; and small amounts of wine with meals.

Actas Urologicas Españas, September 27, 2011 [Epub ahead of print]

Med Diet More Effective Than Low-Fat Diet

Researchers at University Hospital in Basel, Switzerland systematically identified randomized controlled trials comparing Mediterranean to low-fat diets for overweight or obese subjects. Only those studies with a minimum follow-up of six month, and that included data on cardiovascular risk factors were included. The researchers concluded that, in the six studies examined, people assigned to the Med Diet group showed more weight loss, lower BMI, lower blood pressure, better blood sugar control, reduced cholesterol, and lower C-reactive protein than those following a low-fat diet in these interventions.

The American Journal of Medicine. September 2011; 124(9):841-851 e2

Med Diet Successful Against Metabolic Syndrome

In a study conducted by the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Connecticut, twenty-five women with Metabolic Syndrome and elevated plasma LDL (“bad”) cholesterol followed a Mediterranean-style low-glycemic-load diet for 12 weeks.  All women experienced favorable impacts on metabolic syndrome factors, with decreases in waist circumference, plasma triglycerides, and systolic blood pressure compared with baseline.  Participants also saw reductions in LDL cholesterol, in plasma insulin and in expression of the HMG-CoA reductase gene – a key regulatory gene in cholesterol.
Nutrition Research 2011 Sep; 31(9): 659-64 (Jones et al.)

Elderly Women Stay Independent Longer, with Med Diet

We all want to live to a ripe old age, without pain and disability. While previous studies have shown that greater adherence to a Mediterranean Diet is linked to longer life and reduced risk for cognitive problems, scientists in France set out to study whether the Med Diet could also contribute to seniors’ ability to fend off physical disability and live independently longer. To do so, they followed 1410 elderly adults for more than five years. While they did not find a link for men, the researchers found that women eating a diet closest to the traditional Med pattern enjoyed a 50% lower risk of being unable to take care of their own daily needs.

European Journal of Epidemiology, August 28, 2011 [Epub ahead of print]

Quality of Life Is Better with Mediterranean Diet

Spanish scientists analyzed data from 11,015 university graduates to study associations between Health Related Quality of Life (HRQL) and adherence to the Mediterranean Diet. They found a significant direct association between following the Med Diet and improved vitality and general health, both among those who initially ate the Med way, and those whose adherence to the Med Diet improved over the four year follow-up of the study.
European Journal of Clinical Nutrition
, August 17, 2011 [Epub ahead of print]

Women Live Longer with the Mediterranean Diet

Researchers at Maastricht University in the Netherlands followed a group of 120,852 men and women for ten years, starting when the group was 55-69 years old. They assessed each person on four factors – adherence to the Mediterranean Diet, non-smoking, normal weight, and regular physical activity – to learn which factors helped people to live longer. Scoring high on all four factors was strongly related to reduced mortality, adding an estimated 8.4 years to men’s lives and 15 years to women’s lives. Among women, adherence to the Med Diet in particular was significantly related to lower mortality.

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, July 27, 2011 [Epub ahead of print]