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Mediterranean Diet Linked with Lower Risk of Colorectal Cancer

While the healthfulness of the Mediterranean Diet has been recognized for decades, new studies continually build on evidence supporting the benefits of this nutritious and delicious diet. Researchers analyzed the eating patterns and DNA of 1,087 people with colon cancer and 2,409 people without colon cancer, to see how diet might relate to cancer risk. They found that closely following a Mediterranean Diet was independently linked with significantly lower risk of colorectal cancer, and that certain genes might also be protective. When looking at specific foods, vegetables and legumes, in particular, were linked with a significantly lower colorectal cancer risk. 
BMC Medical Genetics. 2017 Oct 30;18(1):122. (Alonso-Molero J et al.)

Mediterranean Diet During Pregnancy Reduces Incidence of Gestational Diabetes, Premature Birth

Expectant mothers have a unique opportunity to nurture their growing babies with a healthy diet, and some food choices can be especially beneficial. In a study of 874 healthy pregnant women in Spain, researchers randomly assigned half to a Mediterranean Diet (with olive oil and pistachios) and half to a similar healthy diet (but were told to avoid olive oil, nuts and other fat sources) early in their pregnancy (at 8-12 weeks). Those in the Mediterranean Diet group were 25% less likely to develop gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) than those in the low-fat group, and had significantly lower rates of premature deliveries and emergency C-sections. 
PLoS One. 2017 Oct 19;12(10):e0185873. (Assaf-Balut C et al.)

Culturally Relevant Foods are Important in Nutrition Assistance Programs

As part of a nutrition assistance program, 277 Mexican-heritage households in California’s Central Valley were given fruit and vegetable vouchers to spend at supermarkets. Researchers analyzed which fruits and vegetables were purchased with the vouchers to look for patterns. Fruits tended to be the most popular subgroup, while dark green and red-orange vegetables were less popular. They also found that “many of the most frequently purchased items were of cultural significance (tomatillo, chayote, chili/jalapeno pepper, and Mexican squash).” The researchers conclude that “food assistance programs should continue to include culturally important foods and be aware of the cultural values of their participants.”
Journal of Community Health. 2017 Oct;42(5):942-948. (Hanbury MM et al.)

Demand for More Whole Grains in Senior Care 

Fiber is important for the elderly to help prevent constipation and improve quality of life, and yet many older adults are falling short on fiber. In this study, 681 dietitians working in long-term (elderly) care answered questionnaires exploring barriers to whole grain consumption for older adults. Overall, 89.5% of dietitians reported that they would like to serve more whole grains. Twenty seven percent of dietitians reported that cost was a barrier to serving whole grains in long term care, and yet 75% of dietitians report that their patients need fiber supplements, averaging upwards of $11-20 a month per patient. Given that whole grains are a natural source of fiber, whole grains may be able to offset some of the cost of fiber supplementation. Other factors influencing the decision to purchase whole grains included dietary needs (such as special considerations for kidney disease), existing food contracts, nutritional content, and acceptance by residents.
Journal of Nutrition in Gerontology and Geriatrics. 2017 Oct-Dec;36(4):178-188. (Coffman CA et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Lower Risk of Blocked Arteries

As a way of testing if people might have blocked arteries (atherosclerosis), doctors compare blood pressure readings between your arm and your ankle in a test called the ankle-brachial index (ABI). To see how eating a Mediterranean Diet relates to these results, researchers analyzed the eating patterns and ABI of 425 pre-menopausal, middle-aged women in Italy. Researchers estimated that those most closely following a Mediterranean Diet were 10% less likely to develop peripheral arterial disease compared with those not following a Mediterranean Diet.
Nutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Diseases.  2017 Oct 3. pii: S0939-4753(17)30226-0. (Mattoidi AV et al.)

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.)

Eating Fish Daily Linked with Lower Risk of Depression

Seafood has long been linked with better brain health, but researchers wonder if these associations stand up even in high fish-eating populations, such as Japan. In a study of 1,181 older Japanese adults (ages 63-82), people eating the most fish (4 ounces per day) were significantly less likely to develop depression 25 years later than those eating less fish. Researchers also found that eating the most DPA (docosapentaenoic acid, a type of fatty acid found in fish) was also linked with a significantly lower risk of depression.
Translational Psychiatry. 2017 September 26. 7:e1242. [Epub ahead of print.] (Matsuoka YJ 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.)

Certain Rye Products Are Especially Satiating

Rye has long been studied for its satiating properties, but researchers wonder why rye leaves you feeling fuller for longer, and whether certain rye products are more filling than others. To test these differences, researchers provided various whole grain rye products (sourdough bread, flakes, puffs, and smoothies – each with the same number of calories) to 26 participants, who resumed their usual diet and exercise routine for two days between each intake of the rye samples. The rye puffs and rye bread, which have a porous structure, were the most filling, whereas the liquid beverage was the least filling. The porous structure of the rye puffs and bread is thought to stretch and fill up the stomach, signaling to your body that you’re satisfied.
Food Quality and Preference. 2017 September;60:178-187. (Pentikainen S 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.)