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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.]

Eating Fish Linked with 40% Lower Risk of Heart Disease

Fish is well recognized for its role in a heart-healthy diet. To learn more about how fish eating relates to heart disease risk in a Mediterranean population, scientists analyzed the eating patterns and health outcomes of nearly 21,000 Italian adults. Those eating fish at least 4 times per week were 40% less likely to develop coronary heart disease than those eating fish fewer than 2 times per week. This relationship is primarily driven by fatty fish, like salmon, trout, herring, mackerel, and canned fish. Strokes were also studied, but the trend toward lower stroke risk in frequent fish eaters was not statistically significant.
Nutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Diseases. 2017 Aug 23. pii: S0939-4753(17)30198-9. (Bonaccio M et al.)

Healthy Eating in Mid-Adulthood Linked with Healthier Body Composition Down the Road

It is never too late to begin the journey to healthy eating. In fact, adopting healthier habits in mid-adulthood may be especially important. To see the effect diet has on body fat distribution, researchers analyzed the eating patterns of approximately 2,000 adults (average age = 48 years), and then assessed their body composition 20 years later. Those with higher-quality diets in mid-adulthood (most closely following a Mediterranean Diet, DASH Diet, or scoring higher on the Healthy Eating Index – all of which prioritize vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes, and limit sweets and processed or red meats) had lower total body fat and a lower BMI, which are critical in chronic disease prevention. Following a high-quality diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, over a period of time is important to maintain a healthy level of body fat and to prevent fat tissue from accumulating in the liver.
Obesity. 2017 Aug;25(8):1442-1450. (Maskarinec G et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Lower Risk of Prostate Cancer

The Mediterranean diet is well known to be protective against prostate cancer, the second most common cancer in the world among men. In this paper, experts at the University of Foggia in Italy analyzed the existing research on diet and prostate cancer. They found that the Mediterranean Diet as a whole is related to a lower risk of prostate cancer and a lower risk of death from cancer and heart disease. The researchers also note that, “If the [Mediterranean Diet] is dismantled into its components, it seems that there is no single ingredient or food category mediating any favorable effects. Protective effect is instead due to the whole food pattern.”
Frontiers in Nutrition. 2017 August 24;4:38. (Capurso C et al).

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Less Obesity, Metabolic Syndrome

The Mediterranean Diet is linked with better health, even if you live thousands of miles away from the Mediterranean region. In this study researchers conducted a nationwide online survey of 24,882 Chilean adults, asking about their eating habits, weight, and other health indicators. A sub-sample of the adults (4,348) also had information on Metabolic Syndrome, a cluster of conditions (high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol, and excess fat around the waist) that can increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes if they occur together.  Those most closely following a Mediterranean Diet (using the Chilean Mediterranean Diet Index) were less likely to have metabolic syndrome, and were less likely to be overweight or obese.
Nutrients. 2017 August 11;9(8). Pii: E862. (Echeverria G et al.) 

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Improved Cognitive Performance in Elderly

As global life expectancy grows, dementia is an increasing concern. Healthy eating patterns like the Mediterranean Diet are thought to help decrease the risk of such diseases. Researchers recently analyzed the diets of 1,865 Greek adults over the age of 64 as part of The Hellenic Longitudinal Investigation of Ageing and Diet (HELIAD) study. The researchers concluded that closer adherence to the Mediterranean Diet may be associated with improved cognitive performance—particularly memory—and lower dementia rates. Fish and whole grains in particular were singled out for their association with cognitive benefits.
PLOS One. 2017 August 1. 12(8): e0182048. (Anastasiou CA et al.)

Drinking Alcohol 3-4 Days/Week Linked with Lower Risk of Diabetes

“Everything in moderation” is a favorite mantra of nutrition professionals around the world, and research helps explain why. Scientists from the University of Southern Denmark analyzed data from more than 70,000 Danish adults who were surveyed about their health and drinking habits throughout a 5-year period. The lowest type 2 diabetes risk (43% lower risk) was observed in men who drink 14 drinks per week, and in women (58% lower risk) who drink 9 drinks per week, compared with people who avoid alcohol. The frequency of drinks mattered too. Researchers found that drinking alcohol is linked with lower risk of diabetes for those drinking 3-4 days per week, even after adjusting for weekly alcohol consumption.
Diabetologia, 2017 July 27. (Holst C et al.) [Epub ahead of print]

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Lower Risk of Gallbladder Removal

Cholecystectomy, or the removal of the gallbladder, is a common treatment for gallstones, which affect 10-15% of the adult population. Some studies suggest that foods typical of the Western diet (high in calories, cholesterol, etc.) may increase the risk of gallstone disease. Researchers analyzed whether a healthful diet, like the Mediterranean diet, could potentially prevent cholecystectomy in a group of 64,052 French women. They found that those more closely following the Mediterranean diet had a lower risk of cholecystectomy. Specifically, a higher intake of legumes, fruit, vegetable oil, and whole grain bread was associated with a lower cholecystectomy risk, and a higher intake of ham was associated with a higher risk.
American Journal of Gastroenterology. 25 July 2017. [Epub ahead of print.] (Barré A et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Lowers Blood Pressure

The Mediterranean Diet is widely praised for its role in supporting heart health. To see how following a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, olive oil, and fish, and low in processed foods and red meats, affects blood pressure, researchers randomly assigned 166 elderly Australian adults to either a Mediterranean Diet or their regular habitual diet. After six months, the Mediterranean Diet group had lowered systolic blood pressure (the number on top, representing the pressure your heart uses while beating) and improved functioning of endothelial cells (which line the inside of blood vessels) as compared to the habitual Australian diet group.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2017 Jun;105(6):1305-1313. (Davis CR et al.)

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