February 11th, 2011
By: Steven Reinberg
Children who eat three or more hamburgers a week may raise their odds for asthma and wheeze, a new study suggests.
However, eating the so-called “Mediterranean diet” — rich in fruits, vegetables and fish — could cut kids’ respiratory risk, the researchers say.
“Our results support previous reports that the adherence to a Mediterranean diet, which is characterized by a high intake of fruit, vegetables and fish and a low intake of meat, burger and fizzy drinks, may provide partial protection against asthma in childhood,” said lead researcher Dr. Gabriele Nagel, from the Institute of Epidemiology at Ulm University in Germany.
The report is published in the June 3 issue of Thorax.
For the study, Nagel’s team collected data on about 50,000 children from 20 rich and poor countries. Parents were asked about their children’s typical diet and whether they had asthma or not. In addition, almost 30,000 of the children were tested for allergies.
While diet did not appear to influence allergies, it was associated with the risk of asthma and wheeze, the researchers found.
Children in both rich and poorer countries who ate a lot of fruit had lower rates of wheeze.
Eating lots of fish seemed to protect children in rich countries, and a diet high in cooked green vegetables protected children in less developed countries from wheeze, Nagel’s group found.
Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidant vitamins and biologically active agents, and the omega 3 fatty acids prevalent in fish have anti-inflammatory properties, which might explain these findings, the researchers said.
“Overall, a Mediterranean diet was associated with a lower lifetime prevalence of asthma and wheeze,” Nagel said.
On the other hand, children who ate a lot of burgers had a higher lifetime prevalence of asthma and wheeze, the researchers found. The finding was especially true for allergy-free children from more affluent countries.
But the burger finding could be a marker for other lifestyle factors that could boost a child’s for asthma, the researchers note. Meat in general was not seen to increase the risk of wheeze, the study found.
Pulmonologist Dr. Michael Light, a professor of medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, agreed that diet can influence asthma.
“The data is fairly consistent that antioxidants and unsaturated fatty acids play a role in the big picture,” Light said. “This doesn’t mean if you change your diet today you are going to cure your asthma. All the study is saying is that one of the explanations for asthma is probably related to diet,” he said.
Echoing these findings, results of a study presented May 16 at the American Thoracic Society International Conference in New Orleans showed that fatty meals were linked to impaired lung function.
In that study, Australian researchers tested people with asthma before and after a high-fat meal or after a low-fat meal. They found that the high-fat meal increased inflammation and reduced lung function.
“If these results can be confirmed by further research, this suggests that strategies aimed at reducing dietary fat intake may be useful in managing asthma,” the study’s lead author, Lisa Wood, a lecturer in biomedical sciences and pharmacy at the Hunter Medical Research Institute in New Lambton, said at the time.
January 4th, 2011
By: Jonathan Benson
Italian researchers have confirmed that diets rich in leafy green vegetables and olive oil are vital for heart health. Dr. Domenico Palli from the Cancer Research and Prevention Institute in Florence and his colleagues discovered that women who eat at least one serving of leafy greens a day are 46 percent less likely to develop heart disease than women who eat less. And those who consume at least three tablespoons of olive oil a day earn roughly the same benefit.
“Probably the mechanisms responsible for the protective effect of plant-origin foods on cardiovascular diseases involve micronutrients such as folate, antioxidant vitamins and potassium, all present in green leafy vegetables,” explained Palli to Reuters Health, confirming what previous studies on the “Mediterranean Diet” have already found.
Published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the study collected data from about 30,000 Italian women and tracked their health over the course of eight years. They then correlated cases of heart disease to dietary habits and found that the amount of olive oil and leafy green vegetables consumed is directly correlated to heart health.
Besides improving heart health, eating a diet rich in vegetables and olive oil has been shown to prevent and treat type-2 diabetes, reduce the risk of breast cancer, maintain healthy weight and prevent obesity, prevent and treat prostate cancer, prevent and treat Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, and even lengthen lifespan.
“It appears that the various components of the Mediterranean Diet do promote lower inflammation, oxidative stress, and serum protein levels, which in turn lower risk for vascular problems that can contribute to brain aging — hypertension, cardiovascular disease, stroke, dyslipidemia, and diabetes,” explain Peter J. Whitehouse and Daniel George in their book The Myth of Alzheimer’s: What You Aren’t Being Told About Today’s Most Dreaded Diagnosis.
November 1st, 2010
By: Ethan A. Huff
You may want to drizzle a little extra olive oil on your next salad, according to findings from a new study out of the University of Monastir in Tunisia and King Saud University in Saudi Arabia. Researchers there found that extra virgin olive oil provides powerful antioxidant protection against toxins that cause oxidative stress and damage to the liver.
“Olive oil is an integral ingredient in the Mediterranean diet,” explained Mohamed Hammami, author of the study. “There is growing evidence that it may have great health benefits including the reduction in coronary heart disease risk, the prevention of some cancers, and the modification of immune and inflammatory responses.”
Hammami and his team tested the effects of olive oil on a group of rats exposed to a toxic herbicide called ’2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid’ that causes severe liver damage. Compared to control group rats who received no olive oil, the rats that consumed extra virgin olive oil in the presence of the herbicide experienced significantly increased antioxidant enzyme activity and a decrease in the biomarkers of liver damage.
“The hydrophilic fraction of olive oil seems to be the effective one in reducing toxin-induced oxidative stress, indicating that hydrophilic extract may exert a direct antioxidant effect on hepatic (fat-storing) cells,” added Hammami.
Besides providing a powerful antioxidant effect, olive oil is a highly effective anti-cancer food. It is also responsible for regulating gene expression for nearly 100 different genes throughout the body. Olive is also beneficial for maintaining a healthy weight, lowering bad cholesterol, improving heart health, and prolonging life.
July 27, 2010
By: S.L. Baker
Research has been steadily accumulating that olive oil, a main component of the Mediterranean diet, has extensive health-protective properties. For example, phytonutrient components of olive oil have been found to be effective against breast cancer cells (http://www.naturalnews.com/025633_c…) and studies suggest the abundance of olive oil in the Mediterranean style of eating may be the reason that diet helps prevent depression (http://www.naturalnews.com/027265_d…). Now scientists have discovered that phenolic compounds in olive oil directly repress genes linked to inflammation.
This could be especially important in halting the dangerous effects of metabolic syndrome. Characterized by excess abdominal fat, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and high blood glucose levels, metabolic syndrome is linked to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and early death.
Research published in the journal BMC Genomics investigated changes in genes mediated by olive oil phenols (which are most abundant in the extra-virgin varieties of olive oil). The double-blind, randomized study, headed by Francisco Perez-Jimenez from the University of Cordoba, involved 20 research subjects, all with metabolic syndrome. For six weeks, the patients did not take any supplements or drugs and they were all placed on similar low-fat, carbohydrate-rich diets. Then, for breakfast, they ate either a breakfast containing virgin olive oil with a high content of phenolic compounds or a similar breakfast with low phenol content.
The research team took blood samples after the meals to check for the expression of over 15,000 human genes. The results? The high phenol olive oil clearly impacted the regulation of almost 100 genes — many of which have been linked to obesity, high blood fat levels, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
“We identified 98 differentially expressed genes when comparing the intake of phenol-rich olive oil with low-phenol olive oil. Several of the repressed genes are known to be involved in pro-inflammatory processes, suggesting that the diet can switch the activity of immune system cells to a less deleterious inflammatory profile, as seen in metabolic syndrome,” Dr. Perez-Jimenez said in a statement to the press. “These findings strengthen the relationship between inflammation, obesity and diet and provide evidence at the most basic level of healthy effects derived from virgin olive oil consumption in humans.”
The ability of olive oil’s phenolic compounds to reduce or prevent inflammation also provides a molecular basis for the reduction of heart disease observed in Mediterranean countries, where virgin olive oil represents a main source of dietary fat.
April 13, 2010
By: Todd Neale
A diet rich in fruits and vegetables as well as omega-3 fatty acids may not only be good for your heart — it may also reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Looking at more than 2,000 dementia-free adults ages 65 and older, researchers revealed that persons who consumed a Mediterranean-type diet regularly were 38 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease over the next four years, according to Dr. Nikolaos Scarmeas of Columbia University in New York and colleagues.
The findings were published online in the journal Archives of Neurology.
The dietary pattern is characterized by eating more salad dressing, nuts, tomatoes, fish, poultry, cruciferous vegetables, fruits, and dark and green leafy vegetables and lesser quantities of red meat, organ meat, butter, and high-fat dairy products.
“Our findings provide support for further exploration of food combination-based dietary behavior for the prevention of this important public health problem,” Scarmeas and colleagues wrote.
A Mediterranean-style diet has already been linked to improved cardiovascular health, and this latest study joins a growing literature linking diet and Alzheimer’s disease, according to the researchers.
Scarmeas and his colleagues reported in 2006 that the Mediterranean diet, characterized by high intakes of fruits, vegetables, and cereals and low intakes of meat and dairy products, lowered Alzheimer’s disease risk in participants in the Washington Heights-Inwood Columbia Aging Project (WHICAP).
Commenting on the study, Dr. David Knopman of the Mayo Clinic questioned whether it added much to previous analyses by Scarmeas’ group, pointing out that the current study used the same data set in the same population.
“What’s really needed are more instances of validation in independent populations,” he told MedPage Today.
In an e-mail, Dr. Samuel Gandy of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York said what the diet identified in this study shares with other diets linked to decreased Alzheimer’s disease risk is that it is heart healthy.
“This may explain their apparent ability to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, since heart disease increases the risk for Alzheimer’s disease,” he said.
“In any event, the diets do no harm and may have some benefits, hence their frequent recommendation by physicians,” he wrote, noting that proof of which foods and the appropriate quantities have effects on disease risk remain to be clarified.
In the current study, the researchers further explored dietary patterns in this cohort of Medicare beneficiaries living in northern Manhattan.
They asked 2,148 dementia-free individuals 65 and older to provide dietary information at baseline. Cognitive testing was performed about every 1.5 years.
Seven different dietary patterns emerged based on their ability to explain the variation in seven nutrients most often reported in previous studies to be related either positively or inversely to Alzheimer’s disease risk.
The nutrients were saturated fatty acids, monounsaturated fatty acids, omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, vitamin E, vitamin B12, and folate.
Through an average follow-up of nearly four years, 253 of the participants developed Alzheimer’s disease.
Only one of the dietary patterns evaluated was associated with Alzheimer’s disease risk, after adjustment for demographic factors, smoking, body mass index, caloric intake, comorbidities and genetic risk factors.
The diet, which was rich in omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, vitamin E, and folate but poor in saturated fatty acids and vitamin B12, was similar to the Mediterranean diet.
Although the study could not prove a causal relationship, Scarmeas and his colleagues said that there are several ways the diet could protect against Alzheimer’s disease.
Folate reduces circulating homocysteine levels, vitamin E has a strong antioxidant effect, and “fatty acids may be related to dementia and cognitive function through atherosclerosis, thrombosis, or inflammation via an effect on brain development and membrane functioning or via accumulation of beta-amyloid,” they wrote.
November 2, 2009
Eating a diet high in processed food increases the risk of depression, research suggests.
What is more, people who ate plenty of vegetables, fruit and fish actually had a lower risk of depression, the University College London team found.
Data on diet among 3,500 middle-aged civil servants was compared with depression five years later, the British Journal of Psychiatry reported.
The team said the study was the first to look at the UK diet and depression.
“The UK population is consuming less nutritious, fresh produce and more saturated fats and sugars”
Dr Andrew McCulloch, Mental Health Foundation
They split the participants into two types of diet – those who ate a diet largely based on whole foods, which includes lots of fruit, vegetables and fish, and those who ate a mainly processed food diet, such as sweetened desserts, fried food, processed meat, refined grains and high-fat dairy products.
After accounting for factors such as gender, age, education, physical activity, smoking habits and chronic diseases, they found a significant difference in future depression risk with the different diets.
Those who ate the most whole foods had a 26% lower risk of future depression than those who at the least whole foods.
By contrast people with a diet high in processed food had a 58% higher risk of depression than those who ate very few processed foods.
Although the researchers cannot totally rule out the possibility that people with depression may eat a less healthy diet they believe it is unlikely to be the reason for the findings because there was no association with diet and previous diagnosis of depression.
Study author Dr Archana Singh-Manoux pointed out there is a chance the finding could be explained by a lifestyle factor they had not accounted for.
“There was a paper showing a Mediterranean diet was associated with a lower risk of depression but the problem with that is if you live in Britain the likelihood of you eating a Mediterranean diet is not very high.
“So we wanted to look at bit differently at the link between diet and mental health.”
It is not yet clear why some foods may protect against or increase the risk of depression but scientists think there may be a link with inflammation as with conditions such as heart disease.
September 1, 2009
By Shahreen Abedin
In the longest-term study of its kind, researchers pitted two popular diets head-to-head — a low-fat American Heart Association-style diet and a carb-controlled Mediterranean diet, each combined with regular physical activity — in a population of overweight patients diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
Researchers found that over the four-year study, patients who adhered to the Mediterranean-style eating plan maintained lower blood sugar levels for a longer time than those in the low-fat-diet group. Based on their findings, the study’s authors suggest that some diabetes patients may be able to substitute diet and exercise for blood-sugar-lowering medications.
The study involved 215 overweight adults in Naples, Italy, who were newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Patients were randomly divided into two diet groups: The low-fat eaters were instructed to follow a regimen rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and low in additional fats, sweets or high-fat snacks; no more than 30% of daily calories were to come from fat, and no more than 10% from saturated fat. The Mediterranean-diet group was taught to eat lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and “healthy” fat, including olive oil, with an emphasis on lean protein sources such as fish, chicken and nuts. Mediterranean dieters were instructed to limit carbohydrate intake to less than 50% of their daily calories.
All dieters were encouraged to exercise regularly, and received regular nutrition counseling throughout the course of the four-year study. Regardless of the specific eating plan, the study’s participants were required to restrict their daily caloric intake: 1,800 calories maximum per day for men, and 1,500 calories daily for women — a significant reduction from what the average American eats daily (about 2,600 calories for men and 1,800 calories for women, according to government statistics).
By the end of the study, which was published in the September 1 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine, 56% of patients following the Mediterranean diet were able to control their blood sugar without medication, compared with 30% of those on the low-fat regimen. The Mediterranean dieters were also able to maintain slightly more weight loss than the low-fat group — 8.4 lb. versus 7.1 lb. — and showed small improvements in triglyceride and HDL cholesterol (the good kind) levels, both risk factors for heart disease.
“A Mediterranean-style diet is a very important part in the treatment of diabetes. We knew that,” says Dr. Loren Greene, a New York University Medical Center endocrinologist, who was not involved in the study. “But there just hasn’t been a good study to confirm this before.” Some past studies have suggested that eating fewer carbohydrates can help diabetes patients lower their blood sugar; other research has shown that intake of monounsaturated fats like olive oil can improve patients’ insulin sensitivity, allowing the body to naturally control blood sugar more effectively.
The current study does not make clear, however, whether diet alone can reduce blood sugar enough to eliminate the use of diabetes medication, or whether it is even advisable to forgo medication at all. Participants in the new study were kept off drugs when their A1C levels — a measurement that indicates a patient’s blood-sugar levels over the previous three months — were below 7%, the standard cutoff for what is considered controlled blood sugar. But “we don’t know for sure if people with A1C levels under 7% still need to be on drugs,” says Greene. “The research just hasn’t answered that question yet.” Recent studies suggest that using blood-sugar-controlling medication even among the 57 million Americans who have prediabetes — meaning they have elevated, but not dangerously high blood sugar, and are at very high risk of developing diabetes — may prevent the future development of heart disease and stroke.
While diabetes doctors generally agree that the first line of defense against type 2 diabetes should always be exercise and diet, many recommend also using drugs. For its part, the American Diabetes Association advises patients with type 2 diabetes to make appropriate lifestyle changes, and to start a drug regimen immediately upon diagnosis. Dr. R. Paul Robertson, spokesperson for the organization, says that for people with diabetes, “the goal should not be to avoid drugs. It is to do everything you can to keep your sugar levels down.”
Still, many doctors acknowledge patients’ aversion to chronic drug-taking. “Almost universally, people don’t want to make medicine if they can avoid it,” says Greene. And physicians, including internist Dr. Christine Laine, who is the editor of the Annals of Internal Medicine, point out that the direct and indirect costs associated with taking a drug — even one as widely prescribed as the generic diabetes medication metformin — can serve as a barrier for many patients, especially among disadvantaged populations and those without health insurance.
Whether or not avoidance of medication in certain cases proves to be reasonable, for now it can at least be used as an effective incentive to improve lifestyle habits, says Greene: “If you are told, ‘If you don’t want to go on medicine, stick to this diet,’ then that’s a pretty valuable tool at least for patient compliance.”
August 11, 2009
By David Gutierrez
A pill made from tomatoes may do more to help treat heart disease and high cholesterol than many pharmaceutical products currently on the market, according to preliminary trials carried out by researchers from Cambridge University.
The pill, known as Ateronon, contains a version of the tomato phytonutrient lycopene, which gives the fruits their bright red color. Lycopene has been shown in a number of studies to help relieve the symptoms of heart disease and to help prevent cancer
The chemical is poorly absorbed by the human body, however, so researchers from a Cambridge spinoff company have refined it into a more accessible form. In preliminary trials, Ateronon reduced the oxidation of harmful fats in the blood to zero after only eight weeks of treatment in 150 people, a more significant result than that observed in statin drugs.
The preliminary study results were announced at the pill’s launch, at a meeting of the British Cardiovascular Society.
“If you think that this can reduce the damage to the arteries, which is the damage that ends up causing heart attacks and strokes — this can potentially extend life but also saves lives on a global basis,” TV doctor Rob Hicks said. “The potential impact is enormous — we might see a fall in the number of people suffering heart attacks, strokes and other problems relating to arterial damage and the clogging up of the arteries. That has to be welcomed.”
Peter Weissberg of the British Heart Foundation noted that it could be some time before Ateronon undergoes enough studies to be considered clinically proven. Until then, he advised patients to “aim to get the benefits of the Mediterranean diet by eating plenty of fresh fruits and [vegetables].”
The Mediterranean diet, which has been proven to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, is heavy on fruits, vegetables, beans and nuts, light on meat, and uses olive oil as its primary fat source.