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Mediterranean Diet Linked with Less Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease in At-Risk Patients

Fatty liver disease used to be mostly associated with alcoholism, but today it’s on the rise even in those who don’t drink alcohol because of lifestyle factors like diet. Researchers analyzed the eating patterns and liver health of 584 adults (average age 56) with at least one cardiovascular risk factor (such as diabetes, obesity, or high blood pressure), to see how diet might relate to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Those most closely following a Mediterranean diet were significantly less likely to have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease than those not following a Mediterranean diet (71.4% vs. 96.5%). In patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, those most closely following a Mediterranean diet were more likely to have less insulin resistance, which indicates that their blood sugar is better managed.
American Journal of Gastroenterology. 2017 Dec;112(12):1832-1839.

Mediterranean Diet May Help Improve Depression

The Mediterranean diet is renowned for its heart-healthy properties, so researchers wonder if this eating pattern might protect mental health as well. To study this relationship, researchers randomly assigned more than 100 adults to either receive Mediterranean foods and fish oil supplements and take a Mediterranean cooking class every other week, or attend social groups every other week. After three months, the Mediterranean diet group was eating more vegetables, fruit, nuts, whole grains, and legumes, fewer unhealthy snacks, and less red meat. Additionally, participants in the Mediterranean diet group had a significantly better improvement in their depression than those attending the social groups. The improvements in diet and depressive symptoms held steady even three months after the study ended (though the Mediterranean diet group was still receiving fish oil supplements at that time). The researchers concluded that “getting back to basics by promoting cooking skills and family/group meals could be such a simple yet powerful and empowering approach to healthcare and prevention.”
Nutritional Neuroscience. 2017 Dec 7:1-14. [Epub ahead of print.] (Parlatta N et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Less Rehospitalization in Elderly Heart Failure Patients

The Mediterranean diet is well known for its role in preventing heart disease, but researchers wonder if this protective effect translates to patients who already have heart failure. In a Spanish study of 991 elderly patients admitted to the emergency room with acute heart failure, those following a Mediterranean diet were 24% less likely to be hospitalized one year later. After 2 years, those following a Mediterranean diet appeared to be less likely to die, but the results were not statistically significant, especially after adjusting for age and other health conditions.
JACC Heart Failure. 2017 Nov 27. pii: S2213-1779(17)30683-2. (Miro O et al.)

Dry Whole Wheat Pasta at Lower Temperatures for Higher Quality

Given the growing interest in whole grain pasta, researchers wonder how different processing techniques can impact the quality of the product. In this study, researchers analyzed 20 samples of whole wheat spaghetti sold in Italy for cooking behavior, markers of heat damage and protein structure, as well as taste and aroma (using an electronic nose and tongue model for a more objective measurement). They found that whole wheat pasta produced using a low or medium temperature drying cycle (rather than high temperature) has less heat damage, is more likely to taste of umami (savory), and is less likely to taste bitter. The researchers also note that the amount of protein in the pasta sample had virtually no impact on the measures of quality tested, indicating that the drying process plays a much bigger role in preserving quality.
Journal of Food Science. 2017 Nov;82(11):2583-2590. (Marti A et al.)

Heart-Healthy, Traditional Mediterranean Diets Can Work Anywhere if Properly Followed

The Mediterranean Diet gets lots of buzz, but do you know what it really means to eat like a Mediterranean? In a meta-analysis of 27 studies, researchers estimate that every 2-point increase in Mediterranean Diet Score (0-9 scale) is related to an 11% lower risk of heart disease. Additionally, the researchers also analyzed the consistency between Mediterranean Diet Scores in different studies, and clarified the importance of using a standard definition of a Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes “vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, and mainly unrefined, minimally processed cereals; an abundant fat intake from virgin olive oil… a moderate consumption of fish and shellfish, a low consumption of meat… the consumption of wine during meals… and fermented dairy products.” In order to successfully transfer Mediterranean diets outside of the Mediterranean, the researchers also note the importance of following the Mediterranean Diet eating patterns (such as drinking a moderate amount of wine with meals throughout the week, rather than binge drinking on weekends) and choosing traditional foods (such as olive oil and beans) rather than untraditional foods (such as margarine and tofu).
Nutrients. 2017 Nov 8;9(11). (Martinez-Gonalez et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Lower Risk of Colorectal Cancer

While the healthfulness of the Mediterranean Diet has been recognized for decades, new studies continually build on evidence supporting the benefits of this nutritious and delicious diet. Researchers analyzed the eating patterns and DNA of 1,087 people with colon cancer and 2,409 people without colon cancer, to see how diet might relate to cancer risk. They found that closely following a Mediterranean Diet was independently linked with significantly lower risk of colorectal cancer, and that certain genes might also be protective. When looking at specific foods, vegetables and legumes, in particular, were linked with a significantly lower colorectal cancer risk. 
BMC Medical Genetics. 2017 Oct 30;18(1):122. (Alonso-Molero J et al.)

Mediterranean Diet During Pregnancy Reduces Incidence of Gestational Diabetes, Premature Birth

Expectant mothers have a unique opportunity to nurture their growing babies with a healthy diet, and some food choices can be especially beneficial. In a study of 874 healthy pregnant women in Spain, researchers randomly assigned half to a Mediterranean Diet (with olive oil and pistachios) and half to a similar healthy diet (but were told to avoid olive oil, nuts and other fat sources) early in their pregnancy (at 8-12 weeks). Those in the Mediterranean Diet group were 25% less likely to develop gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) than those in the low-fat group, and had significantly lower rates of premature deliveries and emergency C-sections. 
PLoS One. 2017 Oct 19;12(10):e0185873. (Assaf-Balut C et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Lower Risk of Blocked Arteries

As a way of testing if people might have blocked arteries (atherosclerosis), doctors compare blood pressure readings between your arm and your ankle in a test called the ankle-brachial index (ABI). To see how eating a Mediterranean Diet relates to these results, researchers analyzed the eating patterns and ABI of 425 pre-menopausal, middle-aged women in Italy. Researchers estimated that those most closely following a Mediterranean Diet were 10% less likely to develop peripheral arterial disease compared with those not following a Mediterranean Diet.
Nutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Diseases.  2017 Oct 3. pii: S0939-4753(17)30226-0. (Mattoidi AV et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Better Psychological Resilience

Psychological resilience, which measures how people are able to cope with stressors and maintain an optimistic outlook, is an important characteristic for aging healthfully. To better understand the relationship between health and well-being, researchers analyzed the eating patterns and psychological resiliency scores of 10,812 adults in Southern Italy. Those most closely following a Mediterranean Diet were significantly more likely to have better psychological resilience than those eating more of a Western-style diet. However, high alcohol intake was linked with lower psychological resilience.
European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2017 Sep 27. [Epub ahead of print.] (Bonaccio M et al.)

Pasta Eaters Tend to Get More Fiber, Potassium, Sodium

As a staple of the Mediterranean diet, pasta is traditionally enjoyed with tomatoes, herbs, olives, and other wholesome ingredients. To see how the diets of American pasta eaters compare to those who don’t eat pasta, researchers analyzed national food consumption data (from NHANES) of 10,697 adults. While there weren’t too many differences between the groups, those who ate pasta and noodles had slightly higher Healthy Eating Index scores, a measure of diet quality, while those who ate macaroni and cheese had slightly lower Healthy Eating Index scores. Pasta eaters also got about 2g more fiber per day than those who don’t eat pasta, as well as slightly higher levels of potassium and sodium. The healthfulness of a pasta dish depends on the company it keeps, so eaters would be wise to choose healthy pasta meals that incorporate vegetables, legumes, fish, and other nutritious ingredients.
Current Developments in Nutrition. 2017 September 19. [Epub ahead of print.] (Fulgoni VL et al.)

Mediterranean Diet May Help Ease Arthritis Symptoms

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes a painful swelling in your joints, but researchers wonder whether diet and lifestyle might help manage symptoms. Scientists reviewed four studies spanning thousands of people to see how the Mediterranean diet relates to the management and prevention of rheumatoid arthritis. Two of the studies documented improvement in reported pain among participants in the Mediterranean diet groups, and one study demonstrated diminished disease activity among those following a Mediterranean diet. While the authors note plenty of positive effects related to following a Mediterranean diet, they caution that there is not conclusive evidence that a Mediterranean diet can actually prevent rheumatoid arthritis.
Rheumatology International. 2017 Sep. (Forsyth, C et al.) [Epub ahead of print]

Plant-Based Mediterranean Diet Just as Effective as Drugs at Treating Silent Reflux

Laryngopharyngeal reflux, also known as “silent reflux,” a condition resulting in stomach acid entering the esophagus, is most commonly treated with medication (proton pump inhibitors), but such medications are increasingly tied to long-term side effects. To determine whether a wholly dietary approach can be as effective, researchers studied 85 patients with silent reflux who used medication and 99 patients who were treated with alkaline water (water that’s slightly less acidic than tap water), a plant-based, Mediterranean-style diet, and standard reflux dietary precautions (no coffee, chocolate, soda, greasy/fried fatty foods, or alcohol). There was no significant difference in Reflux Symptom Index, a scoring chart used to assess response to treatment, between the two treatments, indicating that the dietary approach may be just as effective as medicine.
JAMA Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery. 2017 Sep 7. (Zalvan CH et al.) [Epub ahead of print.]

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