Monthly Archives: September 2013

Mediterranean Diet Good for the Brain

Several studies have pointed to the Mediterranean diet as having a protective effect against decline of cognitive function that often comes with aging, however, until just recently, there was no systematic review of the research.
A group of researchers from the University of Exeter Medical School analyzed twelve studies that examined the relationship between cognitive function and the Mediterranean diet. The review published in the July issue of the journal Epidemiology, showed that in nine out of the twelve studies, higher adherence to the Mediterranean diet was associated with better cognitive function, lower rates of cognitive decline and a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Previous studies have shown that the consumption of foods rich in antioxidants such as olive oil, fruit, vegetables and nuts are associated with better cognitive performance. This effect is seen with a Mediterranean diet pattern as a whole, but also for specific foods independently. For example walnuts have been found to be associated with better working memory and olive oil with immediate verbal memory.
The researchers of this particular review noted that while observational studies provide suggestive evidence, randomized controlled trials are needed to confirm whether or not adherence to a Mediterranean diet protects against dementia.
By Elena Paravantes
Olive Oil Times Health Editor | Reporting from Athens

Olive Oil Beneficial for Elderly

Spanish researchers evaluated the effect of adding olive oil to the diets of healthy elderly. The results showed that extra virgin olive oil reduced total cholesterol, but also increased HDL levels also known as the good
The study, published in the Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics included 62 participants aged 65-96 years. They were divided into two groups; the control group maintained their current diet, while the olive group consumed EVOO as the only added fat and a daily dose of 50 ml, which corresponds to about three tablespoons.
After six weeks the researchers found a significant reduction of total cholesterol, but also an increase in the HDL (the “good” cholesterol). In addition, the olive group had a higher plasma Total Antioxidant Capacity compared to the control group. The researchers concluded that nutritional intervention with EVOO improves the antioxidant status in healthy elderly people.
These findings that olive oil can improve antioxidant status as well as lipid profile in the elderly adds to recent research that is pointing to the Mediterranean diet as the ideal diet for the elderly. Three new studies have shown that a Mediterranean style diet can positively affect several side effects of aging.
Researchers from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago concluded after following over 3,500 men for 7 years, that the annual rate of developing depressive symptoms was 98.6 percent lower among persons in the highest tertile of a Mediterranean-based dietary pattern compared with persons in the lowest tertile group.
Another new study published in Neurology which used information from over 17,000 individuals over the age of 45, concluded that closer adherence to a Mediterranean style diet resulted in a lower risk of memory loss, while a third study by Spanish researchers showed it improves vascular dysfunction and can play a role in the protection against the chronic diseases related to aging.

Elena Paravantes / Olive Oil Times Health Editor

Modified Mediterranean Diet May Protect from Diabetes

A new study published in the journal Diabetologia suggests that a Mediterranean diet that is low in certain carbohydrates can protect from diabetes.

Researchers from Italy, Greece, U.S. and Canada analyzed data from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC), a study that investigates the relationships between diet, nutritional status, lifestyle and environmental factors and the incidence of cancer and other chronic diseases, with participants in over 10 European countries.

The researchers assessed information from over 22,000 Greek participants who were followed for an average of eleven years. Scientists measured adherence to the Mediterranean diet and glycemic load (GL). Glycemic load is a measurement of the amount of carbohydrate in a food and its impact on blood sugar levels. Foods such as vegetables, fats (such as olive oil), high fiber fruit and beans have low glycemic loads while processed foods, such as white bread, cakes, processed breakfast cereals have a high glycemic load.
The results showed that independently a Mediterranean diet reduced the incidence of diabetes. When coupled with a low glycemic load, the protection was greater, reaching 20 percent less risk compared to those who had a low compliance to the Mediterranean diet and high glycemic load diet.
As the researchers note, it is not difficult to envision a low glycemic load Mediterranean diet, as the diet is dominated by vegetables, olive oil, beans and fruit. The model of the Greek-Mediterranean diet that these participants were most likely following, would be rich in vegetable main course dishes, consisting of vegetables cooked in olive oil resulting a moderate calorie dish with a low glycemic load score. One could modify the diet to contain fewer carbohydrates by reducing bread or pasta to achieve a lower glycemic load, while maintaining the basic components of the Mediterranean diet.

Elena Paravantes / Olive Oil Times Health Editor