Fresh-Pressed Olive Oil Club

Mediterranean Diet May Confer Long-Range Health Benefits to Teenagers/Adolescents

Based on the study by Giuseppina Augimeri, et al, published in Antioxidants (July 2021)

Teenagers who more closely adhered to the Mediterranean diet had lower levels of inflammatory markers in their blood serum, which may have a positive impact on preventing metabolic and chronic diseases later in life, the results of a new study show.

Researchers in Calabria also measured higher levels of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory activity in the serum of the adolescents who more closely followed the Mediterranean diet, compared to teenagers who were medium or poor adherers.

Study Design: The study used the Mediterranean Diet Quality Index for children and teenagers (KIDMED) to assess adherence to the Mediterranean diet among the 77 participants, public high school students ages 14 to 17 (36 girls and 41 boys).

Participants provided reports on their meals every 24 hours through scheduled daily telephone calls with nutritionists. A value of +1 was assigned to the intake of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, dairy products, fish, nuts, and olive oil. A value of −1 was assigned to skipping breakfast, eating fast food, and consuming baked goods or sweets. Data on the methods of food preparation, ingredients used in prepared dishes, and serving size were also collected.

Daily nutrition results were scored from 0 to 12, and adherence to the Mediterranean diet was classified in 3 groups: a daily average of >8 points (“optimal”); 4 to 7 (“medium”); and <3 points (“poor”). Blood samples were taken at the study’s outset and at the 6-month point.

Results: At 6 months, 43 percent of participants scored in the “optimal” category; 48 percent scored in the “medium” category; and 9 percent scored in the “poor” category.

Among the “optimal” group, there was clear evidence of higher levels of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory activity in blood serum, compared with the “medium” and “poor” adherers. And, although all 3 groups consumed a similar daily amount of calories, the “optimal” group had a significantly higher intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs, found in olive oil and nuts), total dietary fiber, and vitamins B2 and C, compared to “poor” adherers.

These results strongly reinforce the importance of a healthy diet for adolescents. The investigators intend to continue to study the effects on young people of consuming a Mediterranean diet—future areas of focus will include the polyphenol content of various foods.

Takeaway: Greater adherence to the Mediterranean diet in adolescents is linked to higher levels of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory activity, which may help prevent metabolic and chronic diseases in adulthood.

Reference: Augimeri G, Galluccio A, Caparello G, et al. Potential antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of serum from healthy adolescents with optimal Mediterranean diet adherence: findings from DIMENU cross-sectional study. Antioxidants. 2021;10:1172. doi:10.3390/antiox10081172

The Effects of the MIND and Mediterranean Diets on Parkinson’s Disease

Adapted from an article by Dr. Rebecca Gilbert, American Parkinson’s Disease Association, May 4, 2021

New research into the best diets for Parkinson’s Disease (PD) reveals the Mediterranean and MIND diets may be associated with later age of onset of PD. Components of a Mediterranean diet include vegetables; fruits; whole grains; legumes such as beans, peas, and lentils; nuts; low-fat proteins, such as fish and poultry; and olive oil.

Another diet, known as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, was designed to help treat and prevent high blood pressure and emphasizes many of the same principles as the Mediterranean diet. More recently, experts suggested a combination of the Mediterranean and DASH diets, meant to maximize cognitive benefits. It is entitled the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) diet. Components of the MIND diet include green, leafy vegetables; all other vegetables; berries; whole grains; beans; nuts; poultry; fish; red wine; and olive oil.

The principles of the MIND diet are very similar to the Mediterranean diet, with some notable additions. The MIND diet recommends green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale as the first choice over other vegetables. Berries (such as blueberries) are specifically promoted, as opposed to fruit in general. A small amount of red wine daily is also encouraged. (Please discuss this with your doctor.)

Why do these diets work?

The scientific underpinnings as to why these diets affect brain health are not fully understood and likely consist of a combination of different positive benefits—some of which have been established and others that have not. It is possible that the established heart benefits of the diets drive some of the brain health benefits. That is, the diets promote healthy hearts and clean blood vessels and therefore support excellent blood flow to the brain. It is well established that vascular disease in the brain can contribute to cognitive decline as well as the motor symptoms of Parkinsonism. Therefore, ensuring that the brain achieves good blood flow has positive benefits on brain health for everyone, especially those who have a disease such as PD.

In addition, specific components of the foods encouraged in these diets may work on the cellular level to protect neurons from cell death or decrease neuroinflammation. But knowing which elements are conferring the benefit is not straightforward. To date, researchers have not been able to identify a specific nutritional supplement that achieved the type of benefits in clinical trial demonstrated in this diet study. Currently, therefore, the best way to ingest the nutrients that protect the brain is through a comprehensive dietary plan and not by taking a defined group of supplements.

Takeaways

  • A new study has demonstrated that the MIND and Mediterranean diets are associated with a delay in onset of PD symptoms
  • Both of these diets emphasize vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and olive oil
  • The MIND diet adds green leafy vegetables and berries as important elements

Reference: Metcalfe-Roach A, Yu A, Golz E, et al. MIND and Mediterranean diets associated with later onset of Parkinson’s Disease. Mov Disord. 2021;36(4):977-984. doi: 10.1002/mds.28464.

Does eating a Mediterranean diet protect against memory loss and dementia?

Adapted from an article from the American Academy of Neurology, May 6, 2021

Eating a Mediterranean diet that is rich in fish, vegetables, and olive oil may protect your brain from protein buildup and shrinkage that can lead to Alzheimer’s disease, according to a new study. The research is published in the May 5, 2021, online issue of Neurology.

The study looked at abnormal proteins called amyloid and tau. Amyloid is a protein that forms into plaques, while tau is a protein that forms into tangles. Both are found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease but may also be found in the brains of older people with normal cognition.

The Mediterranean diet includes high intake of vegetables, legumes, fruits, cereals, fish, and monounsaturated fatty acids such as olive oil, and low intake of saturated fatty acids, dairy products, and meat.

“Our study suggests that eating a diet that’s high in unsaturated fats, fish, fruits and vegetables, and low in dairy and red meat may actually protect your brain from the protein buildup that can lead to memory loss and dementia,” said study author Tommaso Ballarini, PhD, of the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE) in Bonn, Germany. “These results add to the body of evidence that show what you eat may influence your memory skills later on.”

The study involved 512 people. Of those, 169 were cognitively normal, while 343 were identified as being at higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers looked at how closely people followed the Mediterranean diet based on their answers to a questionnaire asking how much they ate of 148 items over the previous month. People who often ate healthy foods typical of the Mediterranean diet, like fish, vegetables, and fruit, and only occasionally ate foods not typical of the Mediterranean diet like red meat, received the highest scores, for a maximum score of nine.

Cognitive skills were assessed with an extensive test set for Alzheimer’s disease progression that looked at five different functions, including language, memory, and executive function. All the participants had brain scans to determine their brain volume. In addition, the spinal fluid of 226 study participants was tested for amyloid and tau protein biomarkers.

Researchers then looked at how closely someone followed the Mediterranean diet, and the relationship to their brain volume, tau and amyloid biomarkers, and cognitive skills. After adjusting for factors like age, sex, and education, researchers found that in the area of the brain most closely associated with Alzheimer’s disease, each point lower people scored on the Mediterranean diet scale equated to almost one year of brain aging.

When looking at amyloid and tau in people’s spinal fluid, those who did not follow the diet closely had higher levels of biomarkers of amyloid and tau pathology than those who did. When it came to a test of memory, people who did not follow the diet closely scored worse than those who did.

“More research is needed to show the mechanism by which a Mediterranean diet protects the brain from protein buildup and loss of brain function, but findings suggest that people may reduce their risk for developing Alzheimer’s by incorporating more elements of the Mediterranean diet into their daily diets,” Ballarini said.

Reference: Ballarini T, van Len DM, Brunner J, et al. Mediterranean diet, Alzheimer disease biomarkers and brain atrophy in old age. Neurology. 2021; doi.org/10.1212/WNL.0000000000012067

Heart health: Mediterranean versus low-fat diet

Adapted from an article by Timothy Huzar in Medical News Today, December 15, 2020

In a recent study, scientists compared the effects of a Mediterranean diet with those of a low-fat diet on key biological processes linked to heart health.

The researchers found that a Mediterranean diet could improve endothelial function in people with coronary heart disease. The endothelium is a thin membrane that coats the inside of blood vessels and the heart. It plays a number of roles that are important for the functioning of the cardiovascular system.

Heart disease

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report, heart disease accounts for around 1 in 4 deaths in the United States, making it the leading cause of death. Modifying the diet is a keyway to reduce the risk of heart disease. For many years, researchers have demonstrated the benefits of a Mediterranean diet on heart health. It includes olive oil, vegetables, nuts, legumes, fruits, and whole grains, with small amounts of dairy and meat and a moderate amount of fish and red wine. Health experts, including the American Heart Association (AHA), have also linked low-fat diets with improvements in heart health. This type of diet contains reduced amounts of all types of fat and increased amounts of complex carbohydrates.

The team behind the present study set out to test the effects of each type of diet on the endothelium because endothelial dysfunction is a predictor of cardiovascular disease. According to Prof. José López-Miranda, the corresponding author of the study and coordinator of the Nutritional Genomics and Metabolic Syndrome research group at the Maimonides Biomedical Research Institute of Córdoba, in Spain:

The degree of endothelial damage predicts the occurrence of future cardiovascular events, as in acute myocardial infarctions. If we can take action at the initial stages, prompting endothelium regeneration and better endothelial function, we can help prevent heart attacks and heart disease from reoccurring.

The researchers analyzed data gathered as part of the Coronary Diet Intervention with Olive Oil and Cardiovascular Prevention study, an ongoing, single-blind, randomized, controlled study. The study included 1,002 people with coronary heart disease who had not had a coronary event in the past 6 months. The researchers determined a baseline level of endothelial dysfunction among the participants. They then assigned the participants to two groups: one followed a Mediterranean diet for 1 year, and the other followed a low-fat diet for 1 year.

At the end of the year, the team measured the participants’ endothelial function again. In total, 805 participants completed the study.

Compared with the low-fat diet, the Mediterranean diet significantly improved the participants’ endothelial function—no matter how severe the dysfunction had been.

The researchers also found that the Mediterranean diet resulted in improved levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and reductions in fasting glucose and C-reactive protein (a marker of inflammation) among the participants, compared with the low-fat diet.

The findings suggest that switching to a Mediterranean diet could help reduce the known risk of endothelial damage, coronary heart disease, and future coronary events.

Reference: Yubero-Serrano EM, Fernandez-Gandara C, Garcia-Rios A, et al. Mediterranean diet and endothelial function in patients with coronary heart disease: an analysis of the CORDIOPREV randomized controlled trial. PLOS Med. 2020;17(9):e1003282. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1003282