Mediterranean Food- Health Factors

Abdominal / Visceral fat

Plant-Based Diets May Reduce Colorectal Cancer Risk

Colorectal cancer is the leading cause of cancer mortality, so learning more about dietary prevention is an important area of research. Scientists at Loma Linda University in California analyzed food patterns and health data from over 77,000 adults for an average of 7 years. After controlling for demographic and lifestyle factors (including age, smoking, physical activity, and family history), the researchers found that those who ate vegetarian diets had an approximately 20% lower risk of colorectal cancer compared with nonvegetarians. Researchers also found that pesco-vegetarians in particular (vegetarians who eat fish) had a much lower risk of colorectal cancer. These results support other studies linking the Mediterranean diet (a plant-based diet that features fish) with a decreased risk for colorectal cancer.


Antioxidant in Olive Oil has Anti-Cancer Properties

A worthy star of the Mediterranean diet, olive oil gains much of its prestige from the various antioxidants that it contains. To see how one of these antioxidants affects cancer growth, New York scientists extracted oleocanthal (OC), a compound in extra virgin olive oil, and applied it to a variety of cancer cells.  According to the scientists, “Amazingly, OC induced cell death in all cancer cells examined – as rapidly as 30 minutes after treatment,” but did not cause cell death in noncancerous cells. This finding opens up a new field in the area of cancer research, as scientists are eager to find more ways to treat and prevent this devastating disease. While guzzling olive oil is by no means a cure for cancer, these findings support existing research that enhancing your meals with olive oil is a delicious and nutritious practice to build a long and healthy life.

Aging

Leafy Greens Can Keep Your Brain Young

It is no secret that green vegetables are some of the healthiest foods for our bodies, but new research shows that they are also good for our brains. Researchers in Chicago and Boston analyzed the eating patterns and cognitive abilities of over 950 older adults for an average of five years. The scientists found a significant decrease in the rate of cognitive decline for people who ate more green leafy vegetables (like spinach, kale, collards, and mustard greens). In fact, people who ate just one to two servings of leafy greens per day had the cognitive ability of a person 11 years younger than those who ate none.


Mediterranean Diet Associated With Healthy Aging, DNA

Telomeres, DNA sequences at the end of chromosomes, can tell us a lot about aging and longevity, as shorter telomeres are associated with many age related diseases, such as heart disease and cancer. To determine the relationship between DNA and diet, Harvard researchers analyzed food intake and telomere length from over 4,600 healthy nurses using data from the Nurses’ Health Study. Researchers found that people with the greatest adherence to the Mediterranean Diet (lots of vegetables, fruits, grains (mostly unrefined), fish, legumes, and nuts, and less meat) had the longest telomeres, a good indicator of healthy aging. Additionally, the scientists pointed out that no one specific food was pinpointed as the best, reinforcing the importance of a well-rounded, healthy diet.

Alzheimer’s disease

Leafy Greens Can Keep Your Brain Young

It is no secret that green vegetables are some of the healthiest foods for our bodies, but new research shows that they are also good for our brains. Researchers in Chicago and Boston analyzed the eating patterns and cognitive abilities of over 950 older adults for an average of five years. The scientists found a significant decrease in the rate of cognitive decline for people who ate more green leafy vegetables (like spinach, kale, collards, and mustard greens). In fact, people who ate just one to two servings of leafy greens per day had the cognitive ability of a person 11 years younger than those who ate none.


Med Diet May Reduce Alzheimer’s Risk by Half

The Mediterranean diet, famous for its link with healthy aging, may also cut the risk for Alzheimer’s. Researchers studied the relationship between eating patterns and Alzheimer’s in 923 retired adults in Chicago over an average of 4.5 years.  The scientists rated participants’ diets based on how closely they adhered to the Mediterranean diet, the DASH diet (a healthy diet used to treat hypertension that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low fat dairy, and limited sweets and salt) and the MIND diet. The MIND diet is a hybrid Mediterranean-DASH diet that emphasizes foods associated with brain health, including whole grains, green leafy vegetables, berries, nuts, olive oil, and fish. Those most closely following the Mediterranean diet were 54% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s dementia (more than any other diet group). Comparatively, those most closely following the DASH diet were 39% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s dementia. The group most closely following the MIND diet (which shares many similarities with the Med diet) was 53% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s dementia than the group with the lowest MIND diet scores, and even those moderately following the MIND diet were at a 35% lower risk.

Arthritis

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil & Exercise Prevent Cartilage Degeneration

Since inflammation is one of the factors leading to cartilage degeneration in osteoarthritis, Italian researchers explored whether extra-virgin olive oil could help protect joints from the ravages of inflammation. They found that consumption of extra-virgin olive oil, coupled with mild exercise on a treadmill, lowered inflammation markers and can help prevent osteoarthritis and preserve cartilage.

Asthma / Allergies

Mediterranean Diet May Decrease Asthma in Children

Although environmental factors are related to asthma very little research exists on asthma and dietary patterns. Stanford researchers conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of 31 studies on asthma and diet. While the analysis found no association between diet and asthma prevalence in adults or of maternal diet with child asthma or wheeze, 7 of the 10 studies analyzing the Mediterranean diet showed protective effects on child asthma and/or wheeze. This research suggests that the Mediterranean diet may prevent asthma or wheeze in children.


Mediterranean Diet for Pregnant Moms Reduces Babies’ Wheezing

At the University of Edinburgh, researchers did a systematic review of 62 studies to determine how the diet of pregnant women may affect asthma and allergies in their babies.  The strongest connection found was between the Mediterranean Diet and asthma: babies whose mothers followed the Med Diet had a nearly 80% lower risk of wheezing. Vitamins A, D and E were also associated with reduced risk of asthma.

blood Pressure / Hypertension

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.

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.

Bone Health

Mediterranean Diet and Bone Health in the Elderly

A group of scientists in France looked at the relationship between following a Mediterranean diet and fractures in a group of 1,400 elderly people from Bordeaux, France. Researchers collected information on diet and used it to measure how closely they were following the Mediterranean diet. After analyzing the reported fractures and comparing this with adherence to a Mediterranean diet they found no relationship between the two.

Eat Olive Oil to Improve Bone Health

Spanish researchers seeking information on prevention of osteoporosis placed 127 elderly men on one of three different healthy diet plans – a Med Diet enriched with nuts, a Med Diet enriched with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, or a control low-fat diet – for a period of two years. Two important markers of bone health increased significantly with the olive-oil enriched Med Diet, but not with the other two diets, suggesting positive effects on bone.

Brain Health / Cognitive Function

Mediterranean Diet Reduces Risk of Cognitive Decline

Just because you don’t live in the Mediterranean, doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from the Mediterranean diet. An Australian study followed 527 healthy older adults (average age=69 years) in 3 different dietary pattern groups (Australian-style Mediterranean, Prudent/healthy, and Western) over a 3-year period. Researchers found that in participants with genetic predisposition to Alzheimers disease (APoE4 allele carriers), high adherence to the Australian-style Mediterranean diet (high in fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, and fish) was associated with better executive function, the set of mental processes used in planning, strategizing, remembering details, and managing time and space.

Med Diet Associated with Healthy Aging

A new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine demonstrates that eating a Mediterranean Diet is associated with greater health and well-being in older age. The study analyzed food frequency questionnaires collected between 1984 and 1986 from 10,670 women in their late 50s and early 60s with no major chronic diseases. Fifteen years later researchers again collected data from the same women and found that those who had adhered to a Mediterranean Diet in middle age were about 40% more likely to live past 70 and to have avoided 11 chronic diseases measured in the study including many cancers, type 2 diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease. Those who most closely followed a Med Diet also were more likely to age without physical disabilities, signs of cognitive impairment, or mental health problems.

Cancer

Plant-Based Diets May Reduce Colorectal Cancer Risk

Colorectal cancer is the leading cause of cancer mortality, so learning more about dietary prevention is an important area of research. Scientists at Loma Linda University in California analyzed food patterns and health data from over 77,000 adults for an average of 7 years. After controlling for demographic and lifestyle factors (including age, smoking, physical activity, and family history), the researchers found that those who ate vegetarian diets had an approximately 20% lower risk of colorectal cancer compared with nonvegetarians. Researchers also found that pesco-vegetarians in particular (vegetarians who eat fish) had a much lower risk of colorectal cancer. These results support other studies linking the Mediterranean diet (a plant-based diet that features fish) with a decreased risk for colorectal cancer.

Antioxidant in Olive Oil has Anti-Cancer Properties

A worthy star of the Mediterranean diet, olive oil gains much of its prestige from the various antioxidants that it contains. To see how one of these antioxidants affects cancer growth, New York scientists extracted oleocanthal (OC), a compound in extra virgin olive oil, and applied it to a variety of cancer cells.  According to the scientists, “Amazingly, OC induced cell death in all cancer cells examined – as rapidly as 30 minutes after treatment,” but did not cause cell death in noncancerous cells. This finding opens up a new field in the area of cancer research, as scientists are eager to find more ways to treat and prevent this devastating disease. While guzzling olive oil is by no means a cure for cancer, these findings support existing research that enhancing your meals with olive oil is a delicious and nutritious practice to build a long and healthy life.

.

Cholesterol / Serum Lipids

Med Diet Beneficial for Diabetes Management

Researchers in the United Kingdom reviewed results from 20 previous studies that compared the effects of seven different diets on 3,073 people with type 2 diabetes. They discovered that the Mediterranean Diet, as well as low-carbohydrate, low-glycemic index, and high-protein diets all helped subjects control blood sugar. The Mediterranean Diet also contributed to weight loss and increased levels of HDL (“good” cholesterol). Overall, researchers concluded that these four diets should be considered in the overall strategy of diabetes management.

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.

Dental / Gum Disease

Mediterranean Diet Decreases Risk of Mouth Cancer

Diets high in fruits and vegetables have long been associated with a decreased risk of many cancers. In a recent European case controlled study, scientists investigated 2 years of self-reported dietary intakes of 768 people with incident cases of mouth cancer, and 2078 people with no history of mouth cancer. The food intakes were then evaluated for adherence to the Mediterranean Diet. After analyzing the data, researchers found strong evidence that those with the highest adherence to the Mediterranean Diet had the lowest risk for mouth cancer.

Omega-3 May Reduce Risk of Dental Disease

You are told to brush, floss, and rinse every day, but has your dentist told you to consume more Omega 3 fatty acids lately? He should, according the latest study from Japan comparing levels of omega-3 fatty acids and the prevalence of dental diseases. “People with low DHA intake had an approximately 1.5 times higher incidence rate ratio of periodontal disease progression,” wrote the researchers. Omega-3 fatty acids of marine and plant origin were found to have strong anti-bacterial activity against a range of oral pathogens, which may be related to the anti-inflammatory effects of omega-3 fatty acids. “In periodontal diseases, bacteria trigger inflammatory host responses that cause destruction of the alveolar bone and periodontal connective tissue,” explained the researchers.

Depression / Mood Control

Wine Consumption and Depression

Researchers in Spain followed more than 5,500 high-risk men and women of the PREDIMED Trial ages 55 to 80 for up to seven years to assess the association between alcohol consumption and depression. Participants were free of depression or a history of depression at the beginning of the study and did not have a history of alcohol-related problems. Researchers found that participants who consumed moderate amounts of alcohol (between 2 and 7 drinks per week, most commonly wine over other types of alcoholic beverages) had lower rates of depression than participants who did not consume alcohol. However, heavy drinkers appear to be at higher risk than moderate drinkers and abstainers. Dr. Miguel Ángel Martínez-González, one of the researchers for the study, commented, “If you are not a drinker, please don’t start drinking. If you drink alcohol, please keep it in the range of one or less drinks a day and consider drinking wine instead of other alcoholic beverages.”

Aging, Depression, and the Mediterranean Diet

A group of investigators from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago conducted a study among participants of the Chicago Health and Aging Project (CHAP) into the relationship between the Mediterranean diet and depression among older adults. They found that in this large, biracial community greater adherence to a Mediterranean pattern of eating including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fish and legumes, was associated with a decreased likelihood of developing depressive symptoms over time. The link between the Mediterranean diet and mental health may be found in a number of dietary components of the diet like B-vitamins, antioxidant nutrients, and fat components.