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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]

Med Diet Trumps Weight Loss in Reducing LDL

If you improve your eating habits, lose weight, and subsequently lower your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, is it the weight loss or the healthier eating that’s responsible? That’s the question scientists at Quebec’s Laval University set out to answer when they asked 19 men with metabolic syndrome to follow a control Western diet (5 weeks), a Mediterranean diet without cutting calories (5 weeks), a calorie-restricted free-living diet (20 weeks), and then a calorie-restricted Mediterranean Diet (5 weeks). They found that the Mediterranean Diet in the absence of weight loss made the most significant reductions in unhealthy blood lipids.
British Journal of Nutrition
, July 26, 2011: 1-7 [Epub ahead of print]

Mediterranean Diet Reduces Risks from Atrial Fibrillation

In a case-controlled study at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia in Italy, scientists compared 400 subjects with known atrial fibrillation to 400 matched controls with no evidence of this type of abnormal heart rhythm. They found that those with atrial fibrillation scored lower on the Mediterranean Diet score, and had fewer antioxidants in their diets. Researchers think that the hearts of the controls, with their healthier Med-style diets, were more likely to experience “spontaneous conversion” – a quick self-correction –of any arrhythmias that did occur
Nutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Disease, July 26, 2011 [Epub ahead of print]

Risk of Diabetes Reduced with Greater Med Diet Adherence

As part of Europe’s EPIC (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition) Project, scientists based in London studied almost 12,000 cases of Type 2 diabetes and their correlation to Mediterranean Diet adherence. After scoring subjects on nine dietary components characteristic of the Med Diet, they found that those adhering most closely to the Mediterranean Diet were 12% less likely to develop Type 2 diabetes; those with medium adherence reduced their risk by 7%.

Diabetes Care, July 25, 2011 [Epub ahead of print]

Countering the Effect of Depression in Elderly Heart Attack Patients

Many studies have found links between heart disease and depression. Researchers in Greece set out to study whether elderly patients (mean age 75 years) admitted to the hospital for acute heart disease were more likely to suffer another cardiovascular incident within 30 days if they exhibited symptoms of depression. The scientists did, in fact, find that depressive symptoms heightened the risk of this type of relapse, but that higher adherence to the Mediterranean Diet erased the association.

Cardiology Research and Practice, 2011: 429487 [Epub May 9, 2011]

Cardiac Rehab Program: Med Diet Treats Metabolic Syndrome

People with any three of five common symptoms – high blood pressure, high blood sugar, large waist circumference, low HDL cholesterol and high triglycerides – are said to have Metabolic Syndrome, a condition associated with many health risks, including diabetes and heart disease. Because Metabolic Syndrome usually leads to serious disease, researchers at the University of Michigan Medical School set out to design a lifestyle program to combat Metabolic Syndrome. 126 obese over-50 adults with Metabolic Syndrome followed a program consisting of 12 weekly ninety-minute sessions, evenly divided between exercise and nutrition education focusing on the Mediterranean Diet. At the end of the program, patients had lost on average 6.2kg (13.6 lbs), with significant reductions in waist circumference, body fat, blood pressure, triglycerides, and depression. About 20% of those finishing the program no longer had Metabolic Syndrome, and 42% had lost at least one symptom, thanks to the Med Diet and exercise.

Journal of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation and Prevention, July 4, 2011 [Epub ahead of print]

Olive Oil May Be Protective Against Strokes

Older people who consume plenty of olive oil may reduce their risk of stroke by as much as 41%. That’s the conclusion of researchers from the University of Bordeaux, who followed more than 7,000 people over the age of 65, in the French cities of Bordeaux, Dijon, and Montpelier, for more than five years. Compared to those who seldom or never used olive oil, those with the heaviest self-reported use of olive oil lowered their risk of suffering a stroke during the five-year duration of the study from 2.6% to 1.5% – a 41% drop.

Neurology, June 15, 2011 [Epub ahead of print]

Metabolic Syndrome Factors Improve with Med Diet

In a 12-week randomized trial, 89 women with Metabolic Syndrome were divided into two groups, one consuming a Mediterranean-style low-glycemic-load diet and the other receiving the same diet with the addition of a “medical food” containing phytosterols, soy protein, hops and acacia. At the end of the trial, researchers at the University of Connecticut noted that both groups had similar decreases in waist circumference, blood pressure and plasma triglycerides. Cholesterol levels also improved in both groups, though slightly more in the Med Diet + medical food group.

Journal of Clinical Lipidology, May-June 2011; 5(3):188-96. Epub 2011 Mar 11.