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Higher Quality of Life with Med Diet

While many studies assessing the benefits of the Mediterranean Diet are carried out with older adults, the SUN project in Spain studies recent university graduates largely in their middle- or late-thirties. After four years of follow-up, researchers at the University of Las Palmas found that a higher adherence to the Mediterranean Diet was significantly associated with better physical health (vitality, bodily pain, general health) and with most measures of mental health (social and emotional functioning).
European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2012 March; 66(3):360-8. [Henríquez Sánchez et al.]

Higher Med Diet Score: Lower Diabetes, CVD, Mortality

Scientists at the University of Palermo in Italy used both a 13-question Med Diet Score and a 136-item Food Frequency Questionnaire to assess the diet quality of more than 9100 subjects. They then studied correlations between the subjects’ adherence to a Mediterranean Diet and their health. They found that increased adherence to a Med Diet was associated with a decreased incidence of both diabetes and cardiovascular events, and a decrease in all-cause mortality.
Nutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Diseases. 2012 March 6 [Epub ahead of print] [Dominguez et al.]

A Little Wine May Be Protective, Post Heart Attack

While many studies have shown that moderate consumption of wine may help prevent cardiovascular disease, scientists in Dijon, France set out to see if moderate wine intake after myocardial infarction would be beneficial. Their two-week clinical intervention trial divided patients into two groups: one following a Med-inspired diet with water, and the other following the same diet with 250ml of red wine. Those drinking the red wine showed a decrease in total cholesterol and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol as well as an increase in antioxidant status and in fluidity of red blood cell membranes.
Molecular Nutrition and Food Research. 2012 February; 56(2):345-51. [Rifler et al.]

Whole Grains: Key Component of Med Diet

University of Granada (Spain) researchers evaluated studies that support the consumption of whole grain cereals and bread, key components of the Mediterranean diet, to prevent chronic diseases.  Several studies have consistently shown that subjects who ingest three or more portions of whole-grain cereal-based foods per day have a 20-30% lower risk of coronary vascular disease than subjects who ingest low quantities of cereals.  This level of protection is not observed with ingestion of refined cereals.  Similarly, high intake of whole grain cereals and their products, such as whole-wheat bread, is associated with a 20-30% reduction in the risk of type-2 diabetes.  Finally, regular consumption of whole grain cereals and derived products has shown protection against the risk of colorectal cancer and polyps, other cancers of the digestive tract, cancers related to hormones, and pancreatic cancer, as well.
Journal of Public Health Nutrition 2011 Dec; 1412A):2316-22 (Gil et al.)

Med Diet Lowers Risk of Overall Heart Disease

Researchers at the University of Miami examined the relationship between a Mediterranean diet and risk of ischemic stroke, myocardial infarction, and vascular death among 2568 participants (black, Hispanic and white). Adherence to the Mediterranean diet was assessed using a food frequency questionnaire; the higher the score the greater the adherence to the Mediterranean diet.  The relationship between the Mediterranean diet and risk of ischemic stroke, myocardial infarction, and vascular death was assessed using Cox models, with control for socio-demographic and vascular risk factors.  Over a mean follow-up of 9 years, 518 vascular events accrued (171 ischemic strokes, 133 MI’s, and 314 vascular deaths).  The results of this study showed an inverse relationship between consumption of a Mediterranean diet and decreased risk of vascular events, supporting a diet rich in fruit, vegetables, whole grains, fish and olive oil as a way to promote health and decrease cardiovascular risks. 
American Journal of Nutrition 2011 Dec; 94(6):1458-64. (Gardener et al.)

Less Inflammation, Oxidative Stress with Med Diet

Italian researchers studied the diets of 131 healthy adults, and rated each person’s diet for overall adherence to a traditional Mediterranean Diet. They compared this “Mediterranean Diet Score” to blood test results of cholesterol and triglycerides, antioxidant levels, immune system function and oxidative stress. They found that those with a higher Med Diet Score had less inflammation, reduced oxidative stress, and higher circulating levels of antioxidants, all of which are associated with reduced risk of disease.
Nutrition Journal, November 16, 2011; 10(1):125 [Epub ahead of print] (Azzini et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Reduces Expression of Inflammation Gene in Elderly

Atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, has been linked with chronic low-grade inflammation, and such inflammation has been tied, in part, to fats in the diet. Scientists at the University of Córdoba, Spain, asked 20 healthy elderly adults to follow three different diets for three weeks each, and compared their bodies’ expressions of a gene linked to inflammation under each diet. They found that consumption of a Mediterranean Diet reduced post-meal inflammation more than the other two diets (a saturated fat-rich diet or a low-fat, high-carb diet enriched with Omega 2 polyunsaturated fats). The researchers stated that “these findings may be partly responsible for the lower CVD risk found in populations with a high adherence to the Med Diet.”
British Journal of Nutrition
, November 15, 2011;1-9 [Epub ahead of print] (Camargo et al.)

Sleep Apnea Improves with Mediterranean Diet

Researchers at Greece’s University of Crete evaluated 900 patients to choose 40 obese adults with moderate to severe apnea. They divided the patients randomly into two groups, with half following the Mediterranean Diet and the other half following a “prudent diet;” everyone was encouraged to walk and exercise 30 minutes daily. After six months, the scientists found that the Mediterranean Diet group showed reduced apnea during REM sleep (about 25% of sleep) and a greater reduction in waist circumference and abdominal fat, as well as greater adherence to the diet. 

European Respiratory Journal, October 27, 2011 [Epub ahead of print] (Papandreou et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Lowers Risk of Birth Defects

Doctors in ten U.S. locations, led by a team at Stanford University, studied 9,558 women who delivered babies from 1997 to 2005, including 936 babies with neural tube defects, and 2475 with orofacial clefts. They compared the diets of the women who delivered babies with birth defects to 6147 nonmalformed controls, giving each mother a Mediterranean Diet Score and a Diet Quality Index (based on the U.S. Dietary Guidelines). The doctors found that mothers scoring in the highest quintile of either diet index significantly reduced their babies’ risk for birth defects. 

Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, October 3, 2011 [Epub ahead of print]

Heart Function and the Mediterranean Diet

Seeking better understanding of how patients with chronic heart failure could slow progression of the disease, scientists in Greece studied the diet habits of 372 patients with this condition. They found positive associations between different factors of systolic and diastolic function in both heart ventricles and various element of the Mediterranean diet, including fish intake, olive oil use, pasta intake, and moderate alcohol drinking.

Heart Vessels, September 27, 2011 [Epub ahead of print]

Protective Effects of Mediterranean Diet against Prostate Cancer

In a meta-analysis of the relationship between diet and prostate cancer, scientists in Valencia, Spain reviewed existing studies. They found that prostate cancer is reduced in men on the Mediterranean Diet compared with those on a typical Western diet. They cited several characteristics of the Med Diet, including high daily consumption of fruits, vegetables, grains, tubers and legumes; olive oil as the main source of fats; low intake of animal products; regular consumption of small fish; and small amounts of wine with meals.

Actas Urologicas Españas, September 27, 2011 [Epub ahead of print]

Med Diet More Effective Than Low-Fat Diet

Researchers at University Hospital in Basel, Switzerland systematically identified randomized controlled trials comparing Mediterranean to low-fat diets for overweight or obese subjects. Only those studies with a minimum follow-up of six month, and that included data on cardiovascular risk factors were included. The researchers concluded that, in the six studies examined, people assigned to the Med Diet group showed more weight loss, lower BMI, lower blood pressure, better blood sugar control, reduced cholesterol, and lower C-reactive protein than those following a low-fat diet in these interventions.

The American Journal of Medicine. September 2011; 124(9):841-851 e2

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