Evidence Mounts in Support of Eating Mediterranean Diet

Dorian Martin Health Guide

    At this time of year, everyone is starting to think about resolutions. These self-promises run the gamut -- “I’m going to lose 20 pounds this year!” “I’m going to the gym every day.” “I’m going to go back to school!” “I’m going to read a book a month!” And they often go to the wayside within a month or two.


    However, I’d suggest one of the best resolutions you can make involves tweaking the foods that you regularly eat that can make a tremendous difference long-term for your health. The tweak – following a Mediterranean diet.


    Before I get into the nuts (and produce) of this diet, let me share why I think you should consider it:

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    Exhibit 1: One recent study involved a meta-analysis of 22 empirical studies that had been previously published that examined the link between eating a Mediterranean diet and the risk of four health conditions. Eleven of these studies focused on stroke while nine were on depression. Eight studies were about cognitive impairment and one pertained to Parkinson’s disease.


    The researchers’ analysis found that closely following a Mediterranean diet was consistently associated with a reduced risk for having a stroke, depression and cognitive impairment. Furthermore, eating this type of diet moderately was associated with a lower risk for depression and cognitive impairment; however, maintaining this level of diet only provided marginal protection for stroke.


    The researchers also found that closely following a Mediterranean diet specifically reduces the risk especially of Alzheimer’s disease and also provides protection against ischemic stroke, mild cognitive impairment and dementia. The analysis also suggested that the protective effect of this type of diet in preventing strokes seemed to be larger among men. Sticking closely to this diet also was found to be protective against depression, no matter what age; in comparison, partially following this type of diet seemed to prove less protective against depression as the participants aged.


    Exhibit 2 - Another study looked at the link between dietary habits and aging in women. This study involved 10,670 women who were in their late 50s and early 60s and who did not have chronic diseases when the study started. These women, who were part of the Nurse’s Health Study, were followed for an average of 15 years by researchers. During this time frame, the women were assessed in relation to “healthy” aging, which was defined as living to be 70 years of age as well as no major chronic diseases or major cognitive or physical impairments. This definition also included no major impairments of mental health.


    The researchers found that women who had a great adherence to a Mediterranean Diet while in middle age were 46 percent more likely to live to be 70 years old (and higher) and not have chronic illness or physical/mental issues. In comparison, the participants who followed the Alternative Healthy Eating Index-2010 closely had a 34-percent greater odds of healthy aging. Both of these eating plans were significantly associated with the greater likelihood of older women avoiding major limitations in physical function and mental health.


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    So let’s do a quick recap of the components of a Mediterranean diet. Harvard Health Letter’s Editor Heidi Godman describes this diet as follows:

    • Try to make the focus of every meal on fruits, vegetables, olive oil, whole grains, nuts, legumes, spices, seeds and herbs.
    • Try to eat fish at least twice weekly.
    • Consume moderate portions of cheese and yogurt daily to weekly.
    • Consume moderate portions of eggs and poultry every two days or weekly.
    • Sparingly consume red meat. Limit portions to three ounces.
    • Drink lots of water. Consume wine in moderation. That means women should drink no more than one five-ounce glass or wine a day while men can have two glasses a day.

    And it doesn’t take long to see a difference. ““Older people really can get a benefit in 30 days of cutting salt out plus eating a diet like this,” said Dr. Frank Sacks, a professor of cardiovascular disease prevention at Harvard School of Public Health, said in a Harvard News webstory. “You can reverse 30 years of aging in your blood vessels.”


    Primary Sources for This Sharepost:


    Godman, H. (2013). Adopt a Mediterranean diet now for better health later. Harvard Health Blog.


    Harvard School of Public Health. (Nd). Harvard events highlight benefits of Mediterranean diet.


    Psaltopoulou, T., et al. (2013). Mediterranean diet, stroke, cognitive impairment, and depression: A meta-analysis. Annals of Neurology.


    Samieri, C., et al. (2013). The association between dietary patterns at midlife and health in aging.  Annals of Internal Medicine.

Published On: December 19, 2013

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