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Women Live Longer with the Mediterranean Diet

Researchers at Maastricht University in the Netherlands followed a group of 120,852 men and women for ten years, starting when the group was 55-69 years old. They assessed each person on four factors – adherence to the Mediterranean Diet, non-smoking, normal weight, and regular physical activity – to learn which factors helped people to live longer. Scoring high on all four factors was strongly related to reduced mortality, adding an estimated 8.4 years to men’s lives and 15 years to women’s lives. Among women, adherence to the Med Diet in particular was significantly related to lower mortality.

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, July 27, 2011 [Epub ahead of print]

Med Diet Trumps Weight Loss in Reducing LDL

If you improve your eating habits, lose weight, and subsequently lower your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, is it the weight loss or the healthier eating that’s responsible? That’s the question scientists at Quebec’s Laval University set out to answer when they asked 19 men with metabolic syndrome to follow a control Western diet (5 weeks), a Mediterranean diet without cutting calories (5 weeks), a calorie-restricted free-living diet (20 weeks), and then a calorie-restricted Mediterranean Diet (5 weeks). They found that the Mediterranean Diet in the absence of weight loss made the most significant reductions in unhealthy blood lipids.
British Journal of Nutrition
, July 26, 2011: 1-7 [Epub ahead of print]

Mediterranean Diet Reduces Risks from Atrial Fibrillation

In a case-controlled study at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia in Italy, scientists compared 400 subjects with known atrial fibrillation to 400 matched controls with no evidence of this type of abnormal heart rhythm. They found that those with atrial fibrillation scored lower on the Mediterranean Diet score, and had fewer antioxidants in their diets. Researchers think that the hearts of the controls, with their healthier Med-style diets, were more likely to experience “spontaneous conversion” – a quick self-correction –of any arrhythmias that did occur
Nutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Disease, July 26, 2011 [Epub ahead of print]

Risk of Diabetes Reduced with Greater Med Diet Adherence

As part of Europe’s EPIC (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition) Project, scientists based in London studied almost 12,000 cases of Type 2 diabetes and their correlation to Mediterranean Diet adherence. After scoring subjects on nine dietary components characteristic of the Med Diet, they found that those adhering most closely to the Mediterranean Diet were 12% less likely to develop Type 2 diabetes; those with medium adherence reduced their risk by 7%.

Diabetes Care, July 25, 2011 [Epub ahead of print]

Diverticular Disease and High-Fiber Vegetarian Diet

A study conducted by the University of Oxford Cancer Epidemiology Unit examined the associations of a vegetarian diet and dietary fiber intake with risk of diverticular disease. The participants included 47,033 men and women living in England and Scotland of whom 33% consumed a vegetarian diet.  After a mean follow-up of 11.6 years, there were 812 cases of diverticular disease, 806 admissions to the hospital and six deaths. After adjusting for confounding variables, vegetarians had a 31% lower risk of diverticular disease compared with meat eaters.  Similarly, there was also an inverse association with dietary fiber intake.  Participants who consumed 25.5 grams of fiber or more a day for women and 26.1 g/day for men had a 41% lower risk of diverticular disease compared with those consuming less than 14 g/day of fiber. 
British Medical Association 2011 Jul 19; 343:d4131 (Crowe et al.)

Vegetable, Fruit, Fish Intake May Reduce Diabetes Risk in Chinese

Researchers performed a dietary assessment of a large population in China to determine common eating patterns and possible effect on the risk of diabetes.  A diet which includes more vegetables, fruits, and fish was associated with a 14% lower risk of diabetes, while a diet which includes more meat and milk products was associated with a 39% higher risk.
Public Health Nutrition. 2011 Jul;14(7):1133-1141. (Yu et al.)

Japanese and Chinese Teas Reduce Parkinson's Risk

An association between coffee intake and reduced risk of Parkinson’s Disease has been observed in Western populations, and researchers at Fukuoka University in Japan set out to see if a similar association might exist with tea in Asian populations. They compared 249 people with Parkinson’s to 368 controls. After adjusting for confounding factors, they determined there was a clear dose-response relationship between drinking more caffeine from all sources (coffee, black tea, Chinese tea, Japanese tea) and reduced risk of Parkinson’s.
Parkinsonism and Related Disorders. July 2011; 17(6):446-50 (Tanaka et al.)

Fitting In But Getting Fat

In an ingenious experiment, researchers at the University of California at Berkeley set out to learn if the desire to fit in might cause U.S. immigrant groups to eat less healthy foods. Asian Americans questioned about their ability to speak English were three times more likely to name a prototypically American food as their favorite food; when their American identity was challenged they ordered and ate more typically American dishes, with 182 additional calories and 12 extra grams of fat than when their identity was not challenged.
Psychological Science. July 2011; 22(7):959-67 (Guendelman et al.)

Traditional Lacto-Fermentation in Asian Foods

Korea University researchers explored the role of lactic acid bacteria in many traditional (non-dairy) Asian foods like kimchi. This traditional process controls pathogens and micro-organisms to preserve food safely, while contributing desirable flavors and often improving nutritional value. The authors give examples from throughout Asia and explain the process of lacto-fermentation.
Microbial Cell Factories. 2011; 10(Suppl 1): S5. Epub August 30, 2011. (Rhee et al.)

Body Image Among Latinas and African-American Women

University of Houston researchers surveyed 262 African American women and 148 Latinas to determine their actual weight and their perceived weight. In this group of middle-aged (mean 45.2 yrs), educated (44% college graduates) and obese (mean BMI 34.6) women, most women did not perceive normal weight as desirable. In fact, of those who were normal weight, 73.9% of African-Americans and 42.9% of Latinas desired to be obese.
Ethnicity and Disease. Summer 2011; 21(3):281-7. (Mama et. al.)

Countering the Effect of Depression in Elderly Heart Attack Patients

Many studies have found links between heart disease and depression. Researchers in Greece set out to study whether elderly patients (mean age 75 years) admitted to the hospital for acute heart disease were more likely to suffer another cardiovascular incident within 30 days if they exhibited symptoms of depression. The scientists did, in fact, find that depressive symptoms heightened the risk of this type of relapse, but that higher adherence to the Mediterranean Diet erased the association.

Cardiology Research and Practice, 2011: 429487 [Epub May 9, 2011]

Cardiac Rehab Program: Med Diet Treats Metabolic Syndrome

People with any three of five common symptoms – high blood pressure, high blood sugar, large waist circumference, low HDL cholesterol and high triglycerides – are said to have Metabolic Syndrome, a condition associated with many health risks, including diabetes and heart disease. Because Metabolic Syndrome usually leads to serious disease, researchers at the University of Michigan Medical School set out to design a lifestyle program to combat Metabolic Syndrome. 126 obese over-50 adults with Metabolic Syndrome followed a program consisting of 12 weekly ninety-minute sessions, evenly divided between exercise and nutrition education focusing on the Mediterranean Diet. At the end of the program, patients had lost on average 6.2kg (13.6 lbs), with significant reductions in waist circumference, body fat, blood pressure, triglycerides, and depression. About 20% of those finishing the program no longer had Metabolic Syndrome, and 42% had lost at least one symptom, thanks to the Med Diet and exercise.

Journal of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation and Prevention, July 4, 2011 [Epub ahead of print]