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Healthy Diets (Like Med Diet) Associated with Longer Lives

Can an apple a day keep the grim-reaper away – at least for a while? To find out how diet relates to mortality, researchers analyzed the diets of 47,994 women and 25,745 men. They used scores from the Alternate Healthy Eating Index, the Alternate Mediterranean Diet, and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet to determine diet quality. They found that a 20-percentile increase in any of these three diet-quality scores was associated with a reduced risk of death from any cause. Specifically, a 20-percentile increase in diet-quality score was associated with a 25% reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease when assessed by the Alternate Healthy Eating Index, 7% when assessed by the Mediterranean Diet score, and 4% when assessed by the DASH score. Overall, a healthful diet full of whole grains, vegetables, fruit, and fish is linked with a longer life.
New England Journal of Medicine. 3 July 2017;377(2):143-153. (Sotos-Prieto M et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Fewer Signs of Pre-Cancerous Colorectal Polyps

The Mediterranean Diet is known to be protective against chronic diseases and certain cancers, but researchers wonder if certain elements of the Mediterranean diet are especially protective. In a study of 808 adults undergoing routine colonoscopies, researchers found that those who reported more closely following a Mediterranean diet were more likely to have clear (healthy) colonoscopies, noting a dose-response relationship (meaning the more elements of a Mediterranean diet that people followed, the lower the risk of having advanced colorectal polyps in their colonoscopies — a risk factor for colorectal cancer). When looking at individual food groups, the researchers noted that having more fruit and fish, and fewer sodas appeared to be the most important factors, as each of these factors was linked with more than a 30% lower risk of pre-cancerous polyps. Taken together, eating more fruit and fish, and drinking fewer sodas is linked with 86% reduced odds of pre-cancerous polyps. (Note that findings presented at meetings are typically viewed as preliminary until they’ve been published in a peer-reviewed journal.)
Presented at the European Society for Medical Oncology’s 19th World Congress on Gastrointestinal Cancer. Barcelona, Spain. June 30, 2017. (Fliss Isakov N et al.)

Workplace Mediterranean Diet Program Improves Food Choices among Workers

Even in Italy, workers are starting to opt for unhealthy Western food choices, in place of traditional Mediterranean meals. To combat this trend, researchers in Italy piloted a health program within worksite cafeterias of a large industrial corporation. Handouts, posters, and other promotional material decorated the cafeteria to encourage consumption of healthy foods like vegetables and whole grains. Nutritionists also worked with the food service staff to modify recipes to make them healthier. At the end of the pilot, after analyzing food choices from 738 employees (half office workers, half plant workers) there was a higher purchase rate of dishes based on whole grains, legumes, fish, and poultry and a lower purchase rate of dishes based on refined grains, red meats, eggs and cheese. This trend persisted up to three years after the intervention. There was also better adherence to the national Italian recommendations for saturated fat, cholesterol, sugars and fiber after the study. The authors conclude that this could be a good model for other workplace nutrition programs, especially given that it cost the employer very little, and did not take up too much of the foodservice employees’ time.
International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition. 2017 Jun;69(1):117-124. (Vitale M et al.)

Butter isn’t “back,” according to the American Heart Association

In order to clear up confusion about how different dietary fats relate to heart health, the American Heart Association published a Presidential Advisory on Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease. In this paper, the researchers reviewed randomized controlled trials (the gold standard of nutrition research) as well as prospective observational studies (following large groups of people over long periods of time and noting their health outcomes). After reviewing all of the evidence, they concluded that replacing saturated fat (the types of fats found in red meat, butter, and milk) with polyunsaturated fat (found in fish, nuts, and seeds) can lower the risk of heart disease by 30%, which is on par with what cholesterol lowering medications can achieve. Similarly, they found that eating more monounsaturated fat (found in avocados, olive oil, and canola oil), more polyunsaturated fat, and less saturated fat is linked with lower rates of heart disease. Saturated fat is also linked with higher rates of “bad cholesterol” (LDL), which is thought to build up in artery walls and pose a risk for heart disease. These findings are in line with healthy dietary patterns around the world, including the Mediterranean diet.
Circulation. 2017 Jun 15. [Epub ahead of print.] (Sacks FM et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Is Linked with Specific Patterns in Gut Microbiota

Although the science is still young, researchers are finding that the foods we eat may influence the bacteria that inhabit our gut. To see how the Mediterranean Diet relates to the gut microbiome, researchers analyzed the diet and gut microbiome of 120 Greek adults. Participants most closely following the Mediterranean diet had lower E.coli levels and a higher bifidobacteria: E. coli ratio, among other favorable microbiome characteristics.
British Journal of Nutrition. 2017 June 5;117(12):1645-1655. (Mitsou EK et al.) 

Pasta Meals Linked with Better Blood Sugar Response

Many are surprised to learn that pasta has a low glycemic index, meaning that it doesn’t spike your blood sugar as much as some other carbohydrate foods, like bread or potatoes. To see how pasta meals relate to health in a broader context, researchers analyzed 18 studies comparing the effects of pasta meals to other types of meals. They found that pasta meals are linked with a lower post-meal blood sugar response than bread- or potato-based meals. However, more research is needed to study how different types of meals relate to cardio-metabolic disease.
Nutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Diseases. 2017 Jul 18. pii: S0939-4753(17)30160-6. (Huang M et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Associated with Reduced Risk of Frailty

The Mediterranean diet is well known for its ties to healthy aging, but researchers wonder how the Mediterranean diet relates to frailty. In this study, frailty was defined as having at least three of these characteristics: unintentional weight loss, exhaustion, slowness, weakness, and low physical activity. Of the 560 participants, the researchers found that closely following a Mediterranean diet was linked with a 68% lower risk of incident frailty over time and 62% decreased risk of frailty two years later, compared with those not closely following a Mediterranean diet. Following a Mediterranean diet was also linked with a significantly lower risk of poor muscle strength, slowness, and low physical activity.
Clinical Nutrition. 2017 May. [Epub ahead of print.] (Rahi B et al.)

Mediterranean-Based Diets Associated with Better Cognitive Function

Dementia is a serious neurological disease, so preventive measures are an important area of research.  In a study of 5,907 adults, researchers analyzed whether the Mediterranean diet and/or the MIND diet  (a diet similar to the Mediterranean diet, full of “brain-healthy” foods like leafy greens, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, seafood, poultry, olive oil, and wine) have an effect on cognitive performance. Researchers found that those most closely following the Mediterranean Diet had 35% lower odds of having poor cognitive performance (assessed through tests of memory and attention), when compared to those not following a Mediterranean Diet. Results were similar for the MIND diet, probably because there is so much overlap in these two eating patterns.
Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. 25 April 2017. [Epub ahead of print.]  (McEvoy CT, et al.)

Mediterranean Diet & Healthy Nordic Diet Linked with Better Survival in Colorectal Cancer

Although food traditions vary from country to country, many traditional healthy diets are rooted in wholesome plant foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. In a study of 1404 people who had been diagnosed with colorectal cancer at least six years prior, researchers analyzed their eating patterns based on how closely they aligned with a Mediterranean diet (fruits, vegetables, grains, unsaturated fats, legumes, moderate alcohol) and a healthy Nordic diet (fish, root vegetables, whole grain bread and oatmeal, apples, pears, cabbage). Those who most closely followed a Mediterranean diet were significantly less likely to die during the study period than those not following a Mediterranean diet. Similarly, each 1-point increase on the Modified Mediterranean Diet Score or the Healthy Nordic Food Index was linked with improved survival.
Journal of Nutrition. 2017 Apr;147(4):636-644. (Ratjen I et al.)

School-Based Mediterranean Diet Program Linked with Less Obesity, Healthier Blood Pressure in Teens

Childhood obesity is a growing problem around the world, and in developed countries, it is estimated that ⅓ of children are overweight or obese. In a study of 1,032 Greek teenagers (average age = 14), researchers tested a 6-month school-based nutrition education intervention, based on the principles of the Mediterranean Diet. Following the intervention, the researchers found significant decreases in overweight and obesity, abdominal obesity (specifically waist circumference), and blood pressure.
European Journal of Clinical Investigation. 2017 Apr 13. [Epub ahead of print] (Bacopoulou F et al.)

Olive Oil Linked with Prevention & Management of Type 2 Diabetes

Olive oil is a staple of the Mediterranean diet, an eating pattern praised for its links to good health and wellbeing. To see how olive oil relates to type 2 diabetes, researchers in Europe analyzed data from 4 cohort studies (following people over time and monitoring their health) and 29 clinical trials (randomly assigning people to diets with or without olive oil). They found that those consuming the most olive oil had a 16% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those consuming the least olive oil, with every 2 teaspoon increase in olive oil daily linked with a 9% lower risk. For patients who already had type 2 diabetes, adding olive oil to their diet significantly lowered their HbA1c, an indicator of better blood sugar control.
Nutrition & Diabetes. 2017 Apr 10;7(4):e262. (Schwingshackl L et al.)

Healthy Diets (Such as Mediterranean Diet) Linked with Better Sperm Quality

For couples trying to get pregnant, a healthy diet may help tilt the odds in their favor. To see what types of foods are associated with better male fertility and healthy sperm quality, researchers analyzed data on eating patterns and male fertility in 35 observational studies from around the world. They found that a healthy diet (e.g. a Mediterranean diet) with lots of seafood, poultry, vegetables, fruits, low fat dairy, and grains is associated with better sperm quality. They also found that in some studies, processed meat, soy foods,  potatoes, full fat dairy, coffee, alcohol, sugary drinks, and sweets were linked with poor sperm quality and male infertility.
Human Reproduction Update. 2017 Mar 10:1-19. (Salas-Huetos A et al.)

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