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Mediterranean Diet Linked with 44% Lower Risk of Heart Disease

Prospective studies, which follow groups of people over long periods of time, help researchers to identify patterns for chronic diseases like heart disease that often appear later in life. In this prospective study, nearly 2,000 adults were followed for 20 years to see if their diet had any relationship with developing heart disease down the road. Those most closely following a Mediterranean diet were 44% less likely to develop cardiovascular disease during the 20-year study, even after adjusting for family history, smoking, physical activity, and other risk factors. The authors also suggested that inflammation and kidney function may play a role in this relationship.
Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2024 Jan;34(1):153-166. doi: 10.1016/j.numecd.2023.09.019. (Georgoulis M et al.)

Eating Whole Grains Linked with Slower Cognitive Decline

Good nutrition can help support brain health and healthy aging, and it’s increasingly clear that whole grains are an important part of the equation. In a study of 3,326 older adults (average age 75), those eating three or more servings of whole grains per day had a slower rate of decline in global cognition, perceptual speed, and episodic memory compared to those who ate fewer than one serving per day. These results were statistically significant for the group as a whole and for African American participants (who made up 60% of the study population), but did not quite reach statistical significance for white participants (who made up a smaller proportion of the study population).
Neurology. 2023 Nov 22:10.1212/WNL.0000000000207938. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000207938. (Liu X et al.)

Whole Grains Linked with Lower Risk of Weight Gain

Carbohydrate foods from different sources have different impacts on the body, meaning that it is important to choose quality carbohydrates like whole grains. In this study, researchers analyzed the eating patterns and weight changes of 136,432 adults for more than 2 decades. Eating more whole grains, fruit, and non starchy vegetables was linked with a lower risk of weight gain, while eating more refined grains and starchy vegetables (peas, corn, potatoes) was linked with a higher risk of weight gain.
BMJ. 2023 Sep 27:382:e073939. doi: 10.1136/bmj-2022-073939. (Wan Y et al.)

Mediterranean Diet in Pregnancy May Improve Neurodevelopment in Children

Lifestyle habits during pregnancy can support healthy growth and development for babies and children. To measure prenatal interventions on neurodevelopment, more than 600 pregnant mothers were randomly assigned to a Mediterranean diet (receiving free olive oil and walnuts), a mindfulness-based stress relief program, or a control group that received their usual prenatal care. When the children they delivered were 24 months old, they were then assessed for neurodevelopment outcomes. Compared with the control group, children in the Mediterranean diet group scored higher in the cognitive and social-emotional domain, and children in the mindfulness group also scored higher in the social-emotional domain.
JAMA Network Open. 2023 Aug 1;6(8):e2330255. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.30255. (Crovetto F et al.)

School Meals with More Whole Grains Can Prevent 10,600 Deaths and $19.3B in Healthcare Costs

Nutritious school meals can support children’s health in the short term, and new research suggests that these benefits can extend into adulthood as well. In this study, researchers used comparative risk assessment frameworks to estimate the short-term and long-term health impacts of fully aligning the U.S. National School Lunch program with the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. If all school meals were to fully comply with the Dietary Guidelines, researchers estimate improved BMI and blood pressure in the short term, as well as 10,600 fewer deaths from heart disease, diabetes, and cancer in adulthood. These health improvements would save an estimated 355,000 disability-adjusted life-years and an estimated $19.3 billion in medical costs each year. While many aspects of the current and proposed school nutrition standards are aligned with the Dietary Guidelines, stronger school meal standards for whole grains, added sugars, and sodium are needed to be able to fully realize these health benefits.  
Am J Clin Nutr. 2023 Jul 18;S0002-9165(23)65959-3. doi: 10.1016/j.ajcnut.2023.05.031. (Wang L et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Lower Risk of Death in Women with Breast Cancer

To see if diet might relate to breast cancer survival, researchers analyzed the pre-diagnosis eating habits of 13,270 women with breast cancer and followed them for more than 8 years after diagnosis. Low compared with medium adherence to a Mediterranean diet before breast cancer diagnosis was linked with a 13% higher risk of all-cause mortality, while each 3-unit increase in the 16-point Mediterranean diet score was linked with an 8% reduced risk of mortality. The results were especially strong in cases of metastatic breast cancer.
BMC Medicine. 2023 Jun 26;21(1):225. doi: 10.1186/s12916-023-02934-3. (Castro-Espin C et al.)

No Need to Avoid Pasta on Weight Loss Diets

Pasta is low-glycemic index food, meaning that it has a gentler impact on blood sugar than many other carbohydrate foods. However, many people are confused about how pasta fits into a healthy diet. In this review, researchers analyzed 38 studies to better understand how pasta intake relates to body weight. Some studies found no relationship between eating pasta and body weight, while other studies found that eating pasta was related to a lower risk of overweight and obesity. Overall, the evidence suggests that pasta does not cause weight gain, especially when pasta is eaten in the context of an overall healthy diet.
Nutrients. 2023 Jun 9;15(12):2689. doi: 10.3390/nu15122689. (Sanders LM et al.)

Mediterranean Diet May Be Linked with Improved Fertility, More Research is Needed

A Mediterranean diet includes many of the foods and food groups that are recommended for fertility, so researchers set out to measure if the Mediterranean diet itself had any relationship on fertility markers. In a systematic review and meta-analysis of 11 studies, researchers found that following a Mediterranean diet is linked with live births, pregnancy rate, sperm concentration, and sperm count, but that these outcomes are inconsistent across the studies. The researchers conclude that a Mediterranean diet “indicates sperm improvement and a possibility of better pregnancy outcomes,” but that data are insufficient to make clinical recommendations.
Nutr Rev. 2023 Jun 9;81(7):775-789. doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nuac087. (Muffone ARMC et al.)

Eating More Whole Grains Linked with Better Mental Health

Whole grain’s protective effect against heart disease and diabetes is well-documented, and because these chronic conditions also relate to risk of brain health and mental health, researchers wanted to examine this relationship directly. In this study, scientists analyzed 23 studies on whole grain intake and risk of cognitive decline, depression, anxiety, and mood disorders and evaluated the strength of the evidence. They found that people who eat more whole grains are more likely to have better mood, depression, and anxiety scores. The evidence on whole grains and cognition was inconclusive, meaning that more research is needed.
Adv Nutr. 2023 Apr 19;S2161-8313(23)00288-0. doi: 10.1016/j.advnut.2023.04.003. (Ross AB et al.)

More Than 1/4 Global Cases of Type 2 Diabetes Attributed to Low Whole Grain Intake

Type 2 diabetes is one of the most prevalent chronic diseases around the world, impacting millions of people. In this study, researchers developed risk-assessment models to estimate how much various dietary habits contribute to type 2 diabetes risk in 184 countries around the world. The largest burden (26.1%) of type 2 diabetes was attributed to low whole grain intake. Other factors contributing to high type 2 diabetes burden included high intake of refined rice and wheat (24.6%) and high intake of processed meat (20.3%).
Nat Med. 2023 Apr;29(4):982-995. doi: 10.1038/s41591-023-02278-8. Epub 2023 Apr 17. (O’Hearn M et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Lower Risk of Heart Disease, Death in At-Risk Individuals

At Mediterranean diet is well-known for its link with heart health, but researchers wanted to see how this tried-and-true eating pattern stacks up against other popular diet plans, like low carb or low sodium. In this systematic review and meta-analysis, researchers analyzed 40 studies in which a total of more than 35,000 people at risk of heart disease were randomly assigned to 7 different popular diets or a minimal intervention control group, to see which popular diets are most effective of preventing heart disease and mortality. They found that Mediterranean diets reduce the risk of all-cause mortality by 28%, heart disease mortality by 45%, stroke by 35%, and nonfatal heart attacks by 52%. Mediterranean diets were more effective than any other diet studied, many of which were no better than the control group.
BMJ. 2023 Mar 29;380:e072003. doi: 10.1136/bmj-2022-072003. (Karam G et al.)

Mediterranean Diet More Affordable and Nutritious Than Typical Western Diet

Healthy eating is assumed to be more expensive, but if you actually price it out, a well-planned Mediterranean diet can be more affordable than the typical Western diet eaten today. Researchers in Australia priced out grocery baskets for 7 days worth of meals following a Mediterranean diet, a typical Western diet, and a diet based on the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating (Australia’s dietary guidelines). The groceries were also analyzed for their ability to meet recommended nutrient intakes. Both the Australian Healthy Eating basket and the Mediterranean diet basket met nearly all nutrient needs, while the typical Western diet basket did not. The Mediterranean diet basket was found to be cheaper than the Australian Healthy Eating Basket for nearly all family sizes (except $3 more per week for single-person households) and cheaper than the typical Western diet at all family sizes studied. 
Nutrients. 2023 Mar 30;15(7):1692. doi: 10.3390/nu15071692.(Bracci EL et al.)