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Legumes Linked with Heart Health

Legumes, the food group that includes beans, peas, lentils, and peanuts, are central to traditional diets around the world. To see how legumes relate to heart health, scientists reviewed 14 studies with 367,000 participants in both Mediterranean and non-Mediterranean populations. They found that a high intake of legumes (roughly less than one serving per day, or three to four servings per week) was associated with a 6% lower risk of any heart disease, and a 10% lower risk of coronary heart disease specifically. However, no association was found between legume consumption and stroke risk.
Journal of Public Health Nutrition. 2017 Feb;20(2):245-254. (Marventano S et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Improves Function of Good Cholesterol

HDL is often referred to as good cholesterol, because it helps take “bad” (LDL) cholesterol from the bloodstream back to the liver for removal, protects blood vessels, and acts as an antioxidant. We used to only be able to measure the amount of HDL, but now, scientists are able to measure how well the HDL is functioning as well. To see how a Mediterranean diet affects HDL function, researchers analyzed data from 296 participants in the PREDIMED trial (a randomized, controlled study where people at risk of heart disease were assigned to either a Mediterranean diet with nuts, a Mediterranean diet with olive oil, or a low fat diet). Both Mediterranean diet groups improved cholesterol efflux capacity (how well the LDL is transported out by the HDL). However, the olive oil group also had improved HDL antioxidant properties, and improved blood vessel protection.
Circulation. 2017 Feb 14;135(7):633-643. (Hernaez A et al.) 

Mediterranean Diet May Help Improve Depression

To see how food might play a role in treating depression, Australian scientists randomly assigned 56 adults with moderate to severe depression to either 7 hours of dietitian-led counseling about a modified Mediterranean diet, or 7 hours of social support (keeping participants company, without using psychotherapy strategies) over the course of 12 weeks. The adults in the nutrition counseling group improved their diets by eating significantly more servings of whole grains, fruit, dairy, olive oil, pulses, and fish. After 12 weeks, 32% of the nutrition group and 8% of the social support group improved their depressive symptoms enough to achieve remission, and the nutrition group also scored significantly better on various markers of depression.
BMC Medicine. 2017 January 30;15:23. ( Jacka FN et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Less ADHD in Kids

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) seems to be on the rise, so health experts wonder if diet might be related. To test this hypothesis, researchers in Spain matched 60 children newly diagnosed with ADHD to 60 children without ADHD (of the same age and sex), and analyzed their eating habits based on how closely they follow a Mediterranean diet. Children most closely following a Mediterranean diet (eating a second serving of fruit daily, eating vegetables daily, and eating pasta or rice almost every day) were significantly less likely to have ADHD. Children with ADHD were also more likely to eat more fast food, soft drinks, and candy, and were more likely to skip breakfast.
Pediatrics. 2017 Jan 30. pii: e20162027. [ePub ahead of print.] (Rios-Hernandez A et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Less Diabetes After Kidney Transplant

Kidney transplants are used to help people with end stage renal disease, but the transplant also puts patients at risk for developing diabetes. To see how diet might be related, researchers followed 468 Dutch adults who had received a kidney transplant, analyzing their health outcomes and eating patterns for about 4 years. Those most closely following a Mediterranean diet were 4 times less likely to get new-onset diabetes after transplantation. Additionally, closely following a Mediterranean diet was also linked with a two times lower risk of all-cause mortality, compared with those not closely following a Mediterranean diet.
BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care. 2017 Jan 13;5(1):e000283. (Oste MCJ et al.)

Slow Cooking Sofrito with Onion Helps Improve Antioxidant Capacity

Nutrition researchers are shedding light on synergies that home cooks have intuitively known for centuries: that traditional food pairings and preparations can offer even greater benefits than the ingredients by themselves. Sofrito, a delicious tomato-based puree used in several Latin American, Caribbean, and Spanish soups, stews, and sauces, is one such example of a healthy food tradition. Simmering the sofrito slowly, over a longer period of time, and including an onion in the recipe are not just important for the development of flavor — researchers in Spain found that these steps actually improve the antioxidant capacity and bioavailability of the lycopene, a healthy plant compound found in tomatoes.
Food Research International. 2017 January 11. [Epub before print.] (Rinaldi de Alvarenga JF et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Less Age-Related Brain Shrinkage

As people age, their brains gradually shrink over time. But certain lifestyle habits may be able to slow this loss. In a study of more than 1,000 elderly Scottish adults, researchers found that those most closely following a Mediterranean diet lost significantly less total brain volume over the 3-year study period than those who didn’t eat a Mediterranean diet. The authors also found that “fish and meat consumption does not drive this change, suggesting that other components of the [Mediterranean Diet] or, possibly, all of its components in combination are responsible for the association.”
Neurology. 2017 Jan 4. pii: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000003559.[Epub ahead of print](Luciano M et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Lower Risk of Hip Fracture

Scandinavia has 2 to 3 times the rate of hip fracture compared to Southern Europe. To assess the role of diet in this geographic discrepancy, researchers analyzed two large Swedish cohorts totaling 71,333 people (average age 60) over 15 years, to determine the rate of hip fracture in people with different adherence levels to the Mediterranean diet. Most closely following a Mediterranean diet was associated with 22% lower hip fracture rate, and a 1 year higher age at hip fracture, compared to not following a Mediterranean diet.
Journal of Bone & Mineral Research. 2016 Dec;31(12):2098-2105. (L Byberg et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Shows Better Antioxidant Effect

The Mediterranean diet is a gold standard of healthy eating, and now scientists are learning more about the reasons behind its health benefits. Researchers randomly selected 75 adults (ages 55 to 80) with metabolic syndrome from one of three groups from the PREDIMED trial: a low-fat control diet, a Mediterranean diet with olive oil, or a Mediterranean diet with nuts. All participants had either type 2 diabetes or three or more risk factors for heart disease (smoking, high blood pressure, overweight or obesity, or family history of heart disease). Blood sample analysis revealed that both Mediterranean diet groups had better plasma antioxidant defenses and decreased xanthine oxidase activity (an enzyme linked with oxidative stress and health problems), but no difference in oxidative damage was found between the three groups. The researchers conclude that this antioxidant effect “could at least partially account for the previously reported beneficial effects of [the Mediterranean diet].”
Molecular Nutrition & Food Research. 2016 Dec;60(12):2654-2664. (A Sureda et al.)

Mediterranean Diet and Lifestyle Linked with Less Depression

A Mediterranean lifestyle encompasses much more than just red wine and olive oil; physical movement and social connection are also important as well. To this point, researchers followed 11,800 Spanish adults for 8.5 years monitoring their eating patterns, lifestyle, and health outcomes. Those most closely following a Mediterranean Diet were 18% less likely to develop depression over the 8.5-year study. Similarly, those with the most physical activity and social activity were 19% and 23% less likely to develop depression, respectively. However, a Mediterranean lifestyle, which encompasses diet, physical activity, and social activity, seemed to be most effective, as it was linked with a 50% lower risk of depression. 
Clinical Psychological Science. 2016 Nov. 4(6):1085-10093. (Sanchez-Villegas A et al.)

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.)