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Mediterranean Diet Linked with Less Fat in Liver

Fatty liver is most commonly associated with alcoholism, but obesity and excess body fat can be risk factors for fatty liver as well (which can eventually develop into liver disease). In a study of 1,521 adults, those most closely following a Mediterranean diet were significantly less likely to have fatty liver in the following year. Specifically, each 1-point increase on the Mediterranean diet score was linked with 26% lower odds of developing fatty liver the next year. Diets reflecting the Alternative Healthy Eating Index (another diet scoring tool that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and limits red meat and sweets) were also linked with a smaller, but still significantly lower risk of fatty liver.
Gastroenterology. 2018 Mar 28. [Epub ahead of print]. (Ma J et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Healthier Bones and Muscles After Menopause

Women lose bone mass during menopause, so strategies to prevent osteoporosis in this population are of utmost importance. In a study of 103 post-menopausal women (average age 55), researchers analyzed their diet and body composition. Most closely following a Mediterranean diet was linked with better muscle mass and greater spine bone mineral density than those not eating Mediterranean foods like olive oil, fish, and grains. (Note that findings presented at meetings are typically viewed as preliminary until they’ve been published in a peer-reviewed journal.)
Presented at ENDO 2018: The Endocrine Society Annual Meeting. Chicago, Illinois. March 20, 2018.

Suggested Mechanisms Behind the Health Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet

While the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet are well-known, the precise mechanisms behind these benefits are unclear. In this review, researchers identified 5 mechanisms which may explain the benefits of the Mediterranean diet. Due to the high consumption of healthy fats and fiber, the Mediterranean diet improves cholesterol and decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease. The Mediterranean diet is naturally high in antioxidants, which can help decrease the inflammation associated with heart disease, cancer, and dementia. The Mediterranean diet is also naturally lower in calories but higher in vitamins and minerals than the typical western diet, which may lower the production of hormones and growth factors that are involved in the development of cancer. The emphasis of plant proteins over animal proteins in the Mediterranean diet may help explain why this diet is associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. Finally, researchers found that the high fiber content of the Mediterranean diet promotes the growth and diversity of good bacteria in the gut.
Journals of Gerontology: Biological Sciences. 2018 Mar 2;73(3):318-326. doi: 10.1093/gerona/glx227. (Tosti, V. et al)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Lower Risk of Agility and Mobility Problems in Aging

Maintaining healthy physical function is important to help seniors live comfortably and independently as they age. To see if diet relates to physical function, researchers analyzed the eating patterns and physical function of 1,630 seniors (ages 60+) in Spain. Those most closely following a Mediterranean Diet (as measured by MEDAS, the Mediterranean Diet Adherence Screener) were 33% less likely to have problems with agility, 31% less likely to have problems with mobility, and 40% less likely to have decreased overall physical function. Note that when eating patterns were analyzed by MDS (the Mediterranean Diet Score, which is less thorough then MEDAS, as it covers fewer foods and doesn’t have specific cut-off points for each food group), the relationship was only statistically significant for physical functioning.
The Journals of Gerontology. 2018 Mar 2;73(3):333-339. (Struijk EA et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Healthy Aging

When it comes to aging healthfully, no eating pattern quite stacks up to the Mediterranean diet. In this study, researchers analyzed the eating patterns of more than 3,000 middle-aged French adults who were free of chronic disease and monitored their health over the next 15 years. Those most closely following a Mediterranean diet in middle age were significantly more likely to age healthfully, meaning that they were free of chronic disease, depression and pain, were able to live independently.
The Journals of Gerontology: Series A.  2018 Mar 2;73(3):347-354. (Assmann KE et al.)

More Research Needed on Mediterranean Diet & Cognition

To get a better understanding of how the Mediterranean diet relates to brain health, researchers analyzed existing randomized controlled trials (the “gold standard” of nutrition research, where participants are randomly assigned to one diet or another, so that researchers can look for causal relationships). Thus far only 5 randomized controlled trials on the Mediterranean diet and cognition have been published, with mostly insignificant results. However, the researchers did note that the most well-designed studies (using PREDIMED data) are the studies that found a protective effect on dementia risk and cognition, indicating that the Mediterranean diet might hold promise in these areas. More research is needed.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2018 Mar 1;107(3):389-404. (Radd-Vagenas S et al.)

Both Mediterranean and Vegetarian Diets Effective for Weight Loss

From Mediterranean to vegetarian, many of the world’s healthiest diets actually have more similarities than differences, so it’s not surprising to find that both these diets can be an effective path to weight loss. In this study, researchers randomly assigned 118 overweight adults who normally eat meat to either a lower calorie Mediterranean diet or a lower calorie vegetarian diet for 3 months. After a two-week assessment, the participants then switched to the other diet for 3 months. Participants lost about 4 pounds during each diet, and both diets were also effective at decreasing body fat. The only significant difference between the diets was that the vegetarian was slightly more effective in lowering bad (LDL) cholesterol, while the Mediterranean diet was slightly more effective in lowering triglycerides (a type of fat in the blood).
Circulation. 2018 Feb 26. (Sofi F et al.) [Epub ahead of print]

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Lower Risk of Aggressive Prostate Cancer

Lifestyle habits, like diet, are an important part of a cancer-protective strategy. To see if diet relates to prostate cancer risk, researchers analyzed the eating habits of 754 men with prostate cancer, and 1,277 controls without prostate cancer. Those most closely following a Mediterranean diet were 34% less likely to have an aggressive form of prostate cancer than those not following a Mediterranean diet. A Western diet (filled with fast food, sweets, and red meat) and a prudent diet (filled with low fat dairy, juice, produce, and whole grains) were not found to be linked to prostate cancer risk.
Journal of Urology. 2018 Feb;199(2):430-437. (Castello A et al.)

Mediterranean Diet May Help Improve Odds of a Successful Pregnancy in IVF

IVF, or in vitro fertilization (manually combining eggs and sperm in a lab, before transferring into the woman’s uterus) is a common treatment for couples struggling to have children, but researchers wonder whether diet might also play a role. In a study of 244 (non-obese) women in Greece who had their first in-vitro fertilization treatment, those most closely following a Mediterranean diet were significantly more likely to become pregnant and have a live birth than those not following a Mediterranean diet, but these results were only significant in women younger than 35. In fact, in women younger than 35, every 5-point increase in the Mediterranean Diet Score (0-55 scale) was linked with a nearly 3 times greater likelihood of getting pregnant and having a baby with IVF.
Human Reproduction. 2018 Jan 30. (Karayiannis D et al.) [Epub ahead of print]

Mediterranean-Inspired Diet May Slow Cognitive Decline in Stroke Survivors

Stroke survivors are twice as likely to develop dementia compared to the general population. To see how diet relates to brain health in stroke survivors, researchers analyzed the eating patterns and brain function of 106 stroke survivors for more than 4 years. Those most closely following a “MIND diet” had a slower rate of cognitive decline than those who don’t follow a MIND diet. The MIND diet is a hybrid Mediterranean-DASH diet that emphasizes foods associated with brain health, including whole grains, green leafy vegetables, berries, nuts, olive oil, and fish. The Mediterranean diet is well-known for its brain benefits, so it’s not surprising that this new diet inspired by the Mediterranean diet is also showing promise for brain health. 
Presentation at the American Heart Association Meeting. Los Angeles, California. January 25, 2018. 

Mediterranean Diet Related to Life Satisfaction, Physical Function, and Improved Health in Older Adults

The Mediterranean diet is good for our physical health, but new studies show that the Mediterranean diet might also be good for our mental health. To see how the Mediterranean diet relates to quality of life, researchers analyzed the eating patterns and health factors of 351 older Spanish adults (ages 60+). Participants who most closely followed a Mediterranean diet were more physically active and had significantly better health-related quality of life. In both men and women, following a Mediterranean diet was linked with better mental function. Among men, those most closely following a Mediterranean diet were more likely to have healthy blood sugar and cholesterol levels, as well as improved physical function. Among women, those most closely following a Mediterranean diet were more likely to have better life satisfaction. 
The Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging. 2018;22(1):89-96. (Zaragoza-Marti A et al.)

Mediterranean Diet May Reduce Dependence on Multiple Meds

Polypharmacy occurs when patients have to take many medications at once, usually more than five daily medications. Because polypharmacy can result in confusion and frustration, low medication adherence, and ultimately increased health risk, especially in elderly populations, lifestyle changes to prevent or reduce polypharmacy are of great interest. To see how the Mediterranean diet relates to polypharmacy and cardiometabolic disorders like obesity and heart disease, researchers analyzed the diet, health conditions, and medications of 476 elderly adults in Rome. Those not following a Mediterranean diet (medium-low adherence) were more likely to need multiple medications, and have high blood pressure, unhealthy cholesterol levels, and diabetes. Looking at individual food components, olive oil, vegetables, fish, legumes, and nuts were all significantly related to a lower risk of polypharmacy. The authors conclude that following a Mediterranean diet “might potentially delay the onset of age-related health deterioration and reduce the need of multiple medications.”
The Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging. 2018 Jan;22(1):73-81. (Vicinanza R et al.)

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