Mediterranean diet continues to fascinate nutrition researchers

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 23rd December 2014
Mediterranean diet continues to fascinate nutrition researchers
Mediterranean diet continues to fascinate nutrition researchers

In 2014, the much-lauded Mediterranean diet continued to receive attention from nutrition researchers all over the world, with studies continuing to find a wide range of benefits associated with the diet.

The latest study, which Australian Food News reported in 2014, found that following a Mediterranean diet may extend a person’s lifespan. The study, from Brigham Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School showed that the diet appears to be associated with longer telomere length — an established marker of slower ageing.

‘Biodiverse’ more important than ‘Mediterranean’, expert

Professor Mark Wahlqvist, Emeritus Professor of Medicine at Monash University and Director of the Fuli Institute, Zhejiang University China, was one of the c0-authors on the original paper about the benefits of the Mediterranean diet, published in the British Medical Journal nearly ten years ago in 1995. The 1995 study showed that the Greek (Cretan) form of the Mediterranean diet predicted longer life expectancy better than any one nutrient or food.

Professor Wahlqvist said that while the Mediterranean diet in particular had received a lot of attention, what was important was “not that the diet is Mediterranean, but that it is biodiverse, a characteristic of successful eating patterns elsewhere as well, including North-East Asia and Australia”. He welcomed the findings of the Brigham Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School study, saying that it showed the “dietary diversity is a critical approach to long and healthy lives”.

Other Australian experts responded to that study, saying that while the study showed that many aspects of the diet might be healthful, it was important to note that the precise mechanism behind the diet’s association with good health had not yet been found.

Diet may help reverse metabolic syndrome

Australian Food News reported in October 2014 that another study had found that, for people with metabolic syndrome, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts may help reverse the condition.

About 25 per cent of adults around the world have metabolic syndrome. The syndrome exists in the presence of three or more factors such as large waist circumference, high blood pressure, low HDL-cholesterol, high levels of triglycerides and high blood sugar concentrations that can increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease and death.

However, the study, from Spanish researchers, found that the Mediterranean diets did not appear to have an effect on the number of new cases of metabolic syndrome, a finding inconsistent with some previous studies.

Impact on cognitive decline varies with race-specific populations

In July 2014, Australian Food News reported that a study from the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) in Israel, was the first to show a possible race-specific association between the Mediterranean diet and cognitive decline. The study found a strong correlation between slower cognitive decline and adherence to the Mediterranean diet in some race populations, but not others.

Mediterranean diet, obesity and hypertension

The association between the Mediterranean diet, overweight and obesity, heart health and hypertension continued to be examined in 2014.

In June 2014, Australian Food News reported that a study from the University of Gothenberg in Sweden had found that children eating a Mediterranean diet were 15 per cent less likely to be overweight or obese than those children who did not.

In May 2014, Australian Food News reported that a diet that combines unsaturated fats with nitrite-rich vegetables, such as olive oil and lettuce, such as the Mediterranean diet, can protect from hypertension (also called high blood pressure), according to a study led by King’s College London.