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Mediterranean Diet Linked with Lower Risk of Heart Disease & Death from Heart Disease

Even if you don’t live in the Mediterranean, you can still benefit from a Mediterranean style diet. To see how the Mediterranean diet relates to heart disease in England, European researchers analyzed the eating habits and health outcomes of 23,902 adults (age 40-79) in Eastern England. Those most closely following a Mediterranean diet were significantly less likely to develop heart disease. Based on these data, the researchers estimate that 1-6% of all heart disease cases, and 2-14% of all stroke cases can be prevented by following a Mediterranean diet.
BMC Medicine. 2016 Sep 29;14(1):135. (Tong TY et al.)

More Fish, Less Meat, Moderate Alcohol Intake Linked with Lower Heart Failure Risk

The Mediterranean diet is well known for its role in heart health, so researchers wanted to know if the foundations of a Mediterranean diet specifically reduced the risk of heart failure. German researchers analyzed the diets of 24,008 middle aged European adults, and followed their health outcomes for 8 years. While a strong adherence to a Mediterranean diet was not significantly related to lower heart failure risk after adjusting for other risk factors, many components of the Mediterranean diet were linked with a lower risk of heart failure, including high fish intake, moderate alcohol intake, and low meat intake. The researchers conclude that “Minor dietary changes could be valuable primary prevention measures, particularly the increase of fish consumption while reducing the intake of meat.”
European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2016 Sep;70(9):1015-21. (Wirth J et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Lower Death Risk in Those with History of Heart Disease

The Mediterranean diet is well known for its role in heart disease prevention, but new research suggests that it may also be beneficial for people who already have a history of heart disease. In a preliminary study, researchers followed 1197 Italian adults who had a history of heart disease and analyzed their eating patterns and health outcomes. Those most closely following a Mediterranean diet were 37% less likely to die during the 7-year study period than those not following a Mediterranean diet. In fact, each 2-point increase on the Mediterranean diet score (on a scale of 0-9) was linked with a 21% lower risk of death. This is greater than the risk reduction seen by taking statins (18%), common cholesterol lowering drugs.
Presentation at the European Society of Cardiology. Rome, Italy. August 28, 2016.

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Less Plaque Build Up in Arteries

Atherosclerosis, plaque build up in the arteries, can lead to dangerous blood clots, but diet can play an important role in prevention. Researchers analyzed the eating habits and heart health markers of 4,082 adults in Spain, and identified three distinct eating patterns: the Mediterranean diet, the Western diet, and the “social-business eating pattern,” a dietary pattern with more calories, red meat, pre-made foods, alcohol, sugary drinks, snacks, and lots of eating out. Those eating a Mediterranean diet had significantly less plaque than those eating a Western or social business eating pattern, with a social-business pattern appearing to be even worse than the typical, unhealthy Western diet (characterized by not enough fruits, veggies or whole grains, and too much red meat, desserts, and sugary beverages).
Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2016 Aug 23;68(8):805-14. 

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Cognitive Benefits, Less Conversion to Alzheimer’s

Research continues to tout the brain benefits of a delicious and nutritious Mediterranean diet. In a review article, Australian researchers analyzed more than a dozen longitudinal and prospective studies (where participants are observed over a long period of time) to determine the link between eating patterns and cognitive health. In the 18 studies, encompassing nearly 60,000 adults total, the scientists found that closely following a Mediterranean diet was associated with “slower rates of cognitive decline, reduced conversion to Alzheimer’s disease, and improvements in cognitive function.” More specifically, the Mediterranean diet was linked with better memory, executive function (which controls behavior, planning, and reasoning), and visual constructs.
Frontiers in Nutrition. 2016 Jul 22;3:22. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2016.00022. [Epub] (Hardman RJ et al.)

Full Fat Mediterranean Diet Linked with Good Health

A healthy diet need not restrict fat or flavor, at least in the case of the delicious and nutritious Mediterranean diet. Researchers at the Department of Veterans Affairs in the U.S. analyzed data from 56 studies (of at least 100 people in each study) to get a big picture view of the Mediterranean diet. The studies were all controlled trials (one of the strongest types of nutrition studies) and were included so long as the participants followed at least 2 of the 7 characteristics of a Mediterranean diet (such as lots of fruits and vegetables, or a preference for olive oil and other unsaturated fats). The scientists found that a Mediterranean diet (with no restriction on fat) may help prevent heart disease, breast cancer, and type 2 diabetes, but they did not find a significant reduction in mortality.
Annals of Internal Medicine. 2016 Jul 19. (Bloomfield HE et al.) [Epub ahead of print]

Mediterranean Diet May Prevent Breast Cancer Relapse

In a study of 307 Italian women with early breast cancer, who had undergone treatment and were in complete remission, researchers assigned 199 of the women to their normal diet, but with healthy advice from a dietitian, while the other 108 women were assigned to a Mediterranean diet (with lots of fruits and vegetables, fish, olive oil, and up to one glass of wine per day). After 3 years, breast cancer returned to 11 patients from the standard diet group, but none in the Mediterranean diet group relapsed. This indicates a statistically significant reduced risk of breast cancer recurrence for those following a Mediterranean diet.  
Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2016 ASCO Annual Meeting. 2016 June 3-7;34(15):Suppl:e13039. (Biasini C et al).

Avocados Can Make Up Nutrient Shortfalls During Pregnancy

Studies continue to show that eating a Mediterranean−style diet during pregnancy is linked with improved health outcomes for both the mother and infant. Because some pregnant and lactating women are falling short of dietary recommendations, researchers suggest that incorporating avocados into maternal diets is an easy way for women to get significant sources of nutrients they are currently lacking. Avocados are a Mediterranean−style food, rich in folate, potassium, carotenoids, fiber, monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) and antioxidants, all of which pregnant, lactating, and child−bearing age women need especially, in order to reduce the risk of birth complications and defects.
Nutrients. 2016 May;8(5):doi:10.3390/nu8050313. (Comerford KB et al.)

Wine Linked with Lower Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

Wine is certainly one of the most popular aspects of the Mediterranean diet, but many wonder if other adult beverages have a similar relationship with disease prevention. To see how different alcoholic drinks relate to type 2 diabetes, Chinese researchers reviewed data from 13 different studies covering 397,296 people. They found that although a moderate amount of beer and spirits was related to a slightly decreased risk of type 2 diabetes (4%, and 5%, respectively), wine was linked with a much more significant decreased risk of type 2 diabetes, at 15%. Furthermore, all levels of wine consumption (up to about 3oz per day – the highest average of the participants) showed a protective effect against type 2 diabetes, but higher levels of beer (more than 3 oz per day) and spirits (more than 23 grams per day – less than one ounce) were linked with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes.
Journal of Diabetes Investigation. 2016 May 10. [Epub ahead of print] (Huang J et al.)

Mediterranean Diet May Help Prevent Heart Disease

Researchers analyzed the diets of more than 15,000 adults at risk of heart disease from 39 countries to see if their eating habits were more representative of the Mediterranean diet or the Western diet. In those most closely following a Mediterranean diet, each 1 point increase on the Mediterranean Diet Score was linked with a 7% lower risk of a major heart problem (heart attack, stroke, or death) over the 4 year follow up. Similarly, researchers also calculated a simplified Mediterranean Diet Score for the participants (based only on daily consumption of fruits and vegetables, and weekly consumption of fish and alcohol), and found that each 1 point increase in the simplified Mediterranean Diet Score was linked with a 10% lower risk of major heart problems. Fish and tofu/soybeans were the only individual food groups that were significantly associated with a lower risk of heart problems after adjusting for education, health, and lifestyle factors. Consumption of specific foods common to the Western diet was not significantly linked with heart disease risk in this analysis, leading the scientists to conclude that “Greater consumption of healthy foods may be more important for secondary prevention of coronary artery disease than avoidance of less healthy foods.”
European Heart Journal. 2016 April 24. [Epub ahead of print.] (Stewart RAH et al.)

Med Diet & Diets with Whole Grains May Lower Risk of High Blood Pressure After Gestational Diabetes

Women who have had gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) are at an increased risk of developing high blood pressure. To see how diet might relate to this trend, researchers monitored the eating patterns and health records of more than 3,800 women who had previously been diagnosed with gestational diabetes. After adjusting for BMI, age, and other demographic factors, the women most closely following a Mediterranean diet had a 30% lower risk of developing high blood pressure over the 18-year study. Similarly, women following other healthy eating patterns (such as the DASH diet) that emphasized fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and were low in red and processed meats, had a 24-28% lower risk of developing high blood pressure.
Hypertension. 2016 April 18. [Epub ahead of print.] (Li S et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Better than Low Fat Diet for Weight Loss, Blood Sugar Control

Those looking to drop the pounds need not eliminate fat from their diet, especially if they follow a Mediterranean diet. To evaluate the Mediterranean diet’s effect on weight loss, researchers reviewed data from 5 randomized controlled trials (one of the strongest types of research studies) encompassing a total of 998 participants. In each of the studies, overweight and obese adults (most having type 2 diabetes or heart disease) were assigned to either a Mediterranean diet, or another diet (low fat, low carbohydrate, or American Diabetes Association diets) for at least a year. Those in the Mediterranean diet groups lost between 9-22 pounds, in line with the results from the low carbohydrate or the American Diabetes Association diet. However, those in the low fat group lost significantly less weight, between 6-11 pounds total. Participants with type 2 diabetes also saw better improvements in blood sugar control on the Mediterranean diet than in other diets.
American Journal of Medicine. 2016 Apr;129(4):407-415.e4. (Mancini JG et al.)

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