Category Archives: Mediterranean Diet

Mediterranean-diet-style eating may improve health in later life

By Linda Searing, Published: November 4

Aging

Mediterranean-style eating seems to improve health in later life
THE QUESTION Do midlife eating habits affect how healthy people will be as they age?
THIS STUDY analyzed data on 10,670 women, most in their late 50s and generally healthy. Over the next 15 years, their mental and physical functioning and dietary patterns were assessed periodically. Those whose diets most resembled Mediterranean-style eating — more plant-based foods (fruits, vegetables and nuts), whole grains and fish, less red and processed meats, and moderate amounts of alcohol — had about a 40 percent greater chance of living beyond age 70 and doing so healthily than those whose diets were least like the Mediterranean. Aging healthily meant having no major chronic diseases, no physical disabilities and no cognitive impairment.
WHO MAY BE AFFECTED? People of middle age, especially women. A Mediterranean-style diet, so-named for the region where it has been the dominant eating pattern for centuries, has been shown to improve cholesterol and blood sugar levels, protect against heart disease and possibly lower risk for cancer, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
CAVEATS Dietary data came from the women’s responses on periodic questionnaires. Most of the women were white; whether the findings apply to other races or to men remains unclear.
FIND THIS STUDY Nov. 5 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine.
LEARN MORE ABOUT the Mediterranean diet at www.heart.org.
Learn about healthy aging at www.mayoclinic.com.
The research described in Quick Study comes from credible, peer-reviewed journals. Nonetheless, conclusive evidence about a treatment’s effectiveness is rarely found in a single study. Anyone considering changing or beginning treatment of any kind should consult with a physician.

Study links diet to longevity, but with confusing findings

By Jennifer LaRue Huget

(File photo)

What you eat might well determine how long you live.

But it’s not exactly clear what the optimal diet should be.
In a study published in the January 2011 edition of theJournal of the American Dietetic Association, researchers found that among 2,500 adults ages 70 to 79, those who maintained a diet consisting largely of foods deemed “healthy” were less likely to die and more likely to remain healthy than those whose diets included more of less-healthful foods during the 10-year period examined.
Researchers divvied the study subjects into six groups according to their predominant food choices among 108 food items tallied. Here’s how the clusters fell out:
  • “Healthy foods” (374 participants)
  • “High-fat dairy products” (332)
  • “Meat, fried foods, and alcohol” (693)
  • “Breakfast cereal” (386)
  • “Refined grains” (458)
  • “Sweets and desserts” (339)

That “healthy foods” category was defined by relatively higher consumption of low-fat dairy, fruit, whole grains, poultry, fish and vegetables and lower intake of meat, fried foods, sweets, high-calorie beverages and added fat.

After all kinds of controls were applied to rule out the effects of gender, age, physical activity, smoking, race, total calorie intake and other variables, the numbers showed that the “high-fat dairy products” group had a 40 percent higher risk of mortality than the “health foods” group and that the “sweets and desserts” group had a 37 percent higher risk than the “healthy foods” group.
The study concludes:

A dietary pattern consistent with current guidelines to consume relatively high amounts of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, poultry, fish and low-fat dairy products may be associated with superior nutritional status, quality of life and survival in older adults.

But what to make of that “meat, fried foods and alcohol” group — the one that you might notice is nearly twice the size of the “healthy foods” group? That group’s not even mentioned in the news release (the study is not yet posted online) — despite the fact that, when the numbers were crunched, that group’s mortality risk was about the same as that of the healthy-eating group.
The study notes:

Unexpectedly, in this and several other studies, a pattern higher in red meat was not significantly associated with increased risk of mortality when controlled for relevant confounding factors. One suggested explanation is that plant-based diets may lower health risk because plant foods are protective, whereas diets high in animal foods may be more likely to increase risk only if the animal foods displace protective plant foods in the diet.

The study’s lead author, Amy Anderson of the University of Maryland department of nutrition and food science, was good enough to make herself available to talk on the phone over the holiday weekend and tried to help me sort things out. I couldn’t understand why the meat/fried food/alcohol group’s relative good health wasn’t singled out as helping keep folks alive longer, leaving all the credit to the “healthy foods” group.
Anderson followed up with an e-mail reviewing what she’d told me on the phone:

As mentioned on the phone, while we can’t give definite reasons for our results, Table 1 in the paper [which shows percentage of total energy intake from selected food groups each cluster’s diet] may provide some ideas for why the “meat, fried foods and alcohol” group didn’t have a statistically significantly higher risk of mortality than the “healthy foods” group after controlling for many variables including education, physical activity, and smoking — in other words, these other variables being equal. As Table 1 shows, the name of the “meat, fried foods and alcohol” group may be a bit misleading, because this group had a more similar diet to the “healthy foods” group than some of the others. We named the groups according to foods that people ate relatively more of in comparison to the other groups. The “meat, fried foods and alcohol” group ate on average about 4 percent of calories from meat, while the “healthy foods” group ate on average about 2.8 percent of calories from meat. The differences in fried food and alcohol intake between the “meat, fried foods and alcohol” group and the “healthy foods” group were also about 1 to 3 percent. In contrast, the “sweets and desserts” group ate on average about 25.8 percent of calories from sweets, while the “healthy foods” group ate on average about 6 percent of calories from sweets — a difference of almost 20 percent in this food group. The “high-fat dairy products” group ate about 17.1 percent of calories from high fat dairy products, while the “healthy foods” group ate about 3.4 percent of calories from high fat dairy products — a difference of almost 14 percent in this food group. In other words, it is not as though the “meat, fried foods and alcohol” group within this study population of 70-79 year-olds ate enormous quantities of these foods, just slightly more on average than the other groups. The “sweets and desserts” and “high-fat dairy products” groups, on the other hand, showed some more stark differences from the “healthy foods” group in their diets.

I appreciate Anderson’s taking pains to help me with this. But the cynic in me has to wonder whether the finding that people who eat a bit more meat, fried food and alcohol manage to do all right, mortality-wise, may have been too out of whack with current dietary recommendations for comfort. Especially as the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010, which are likely to promote consumption of whole grains and other plant-based foods, are about to be issued, I hope researchers will keep at it and tease this confusing situation out further.
Because if it really is okay to eat meat and fried food and enjoy alcohol after all, people should know about it.

Comments


The Longevity diet: The missing link is blood sugar. Blood sugar is the cause of aging,Diabetes,Obesity,Alzheimers..etc
(you do not have to be a diabetic to have this problem)
A popular diabetes diet in Europe was shown to reverse aging markers as the diabetes drug caused faster ageing and heart trouble. See herehttp://spirithappy.wordpress.com/2010/12/01/the-first-drug-they-give-you-to-heal-type-2-diabetes-hurts-your-cells/
Unfortunately billions of dollars are invested into diabetes and obesity drug makers so the public will never get this information
Posted by: healing1 | December 28, 2010 10:46 AM | Report abuse

It sounds to me as if the “cynic” in this article’s author is looking for someone to give her the green light to consume as much meat, fried food and alcohol as she wants. I thought the study’s lead author explained the findings quite well. It’s basically “moderation in all things.” Many studies show moderate consumption of alcohol can be a good thing. Same goes for meat, especially moderate consumption of lean meat and fish, and fried foods, as long as they are fried in good oils. I’m not aware of any scientist who claims consuming REAL servings of any of these things, while making whole grains, vegetables and fruit the bulk of your diet ever hurt anyone. The problems start when people super-size such foods to the exclusion of whole grains, fruit and veggies.
Posted by: lolly312 | December 28, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

I’m going to use this study the next time I teach an advanced statistics course, as an example of 1) how to do things right, and 2) when you do things right, people who are not statistically literate (such as the writer here) will have a hard time, even when it is clearly explained (as it was — to someone who knew statistics).
The basic methodology of the study was a clustering algorithm. That’s a procedure which produces groupings based on minimizing differences within each group, and maximizing differences between groups. Clustering does not produce evenly spaced groups, because the world isn’t evenly spaced; if you pulled a sample from Manhattan, Brooklyn, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Tokyo, and grouped by physical location, two of the groups would be very close together, and a third one would not be far away from the two close ones. If you then tried to study weather with respect to physical location, you would discover that the close-together groupings didn’t show much difference. That is what happened here. The meat/fried/alcohol group generally ate a healthy diet; they happened to indulge in some probably-not-healthy other stuff, but not very much of it. Differences were in the range of 1-3% (as differences between the location of Manhattan and Brooklyn are quite small plotted on the scale of the continent). Unsurprisingly, results in longevity were somewhere within the margin of error. (Just as the number of days it snows in Manhattan but not in Brooklyn are few and insignificant).
What the study says in terms of action is: eat a mostly healthy diet. There’s not much difference between mostly healthy and perfectly healthy.
The writer was pushing for “so these other foods are okay.” The study shows only that they don’t seem to make a statistical difference in result, if the difference isn’t very great in consumption. Apparently steak-and-eggs-with-a-beer consumers don’t have that very often, and mostly eat like the healthy people, so it’s not surprising they differ very little. Just as apparently, people who live on milkshakes really live on milkshakes, and pay the arterial consequences.
“Study shows two patterns of healthy eating and two patterns of unhealthy eating are common in general population” isn’t much of a headline, but it’s what this study shows. Period. Have a pork chop with your salad, and a glass of wine, now and then, if you like. This doesn’t mean you can live on pork chops and wine.
And never talk to a reporter who has not, at least at one point in life, derived the Gaussian distribution from the limit of the binomial distribution.
Posted by: PasserThru | December 28, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

Kind of hard to draw any conclusions from the study if the ‘groupings’ were not significantly different in their diets. To her credit, the scientist did explain that.
Unfortunately, these types of poorly constructed studies are often used by people and companies to push positions that the preponderance of science finds false. Confusion is the enemy of good advice, the friend of those who seek to deceive (or be deceived)
Posted by: mgferrebee | December 28, 2010 1:47 PM | Report abuse

The study author’s explanation for the lack of a deleterious effect of eating meat is clearly and convincingly stated. It is very interesting that the meat group got only four percent of their calories from meat. I have contended for a long time that even meat eaters eat far more vegetables than even they realize. Now if they could just cut it all out . . .
Posted by: aspenhallinn | December 28, 2010 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Doesn’t anyone ask about the quantities eaten? Not calories–quantity.
Posted by: joan10 | December 28, 2010 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps it’s the writer’s interpretation of this finding’…people who eat a bit more meat, fried food and alcohol manage to do all right, mortality-wise…’
that needs enlightenment.
A healthy lifestyle, with or without red meat, et al, means that you don’t abuse any one food group.
If balance is the key to good living, surely a good steak, few glasses of wine and yummy desert every now and then won’t hurt one’s health as long as one has his/her health in sight at all times.
So have that juicy steak and enjoy
your workout the next day, too!
Posted by: writersMAMA | December 28, 2010 3:08 PM | Report abuse

Let me assure all readers, there is no confusion in this study!
My credits: Discoverer of the cause of obesity, the disease which leaves a trail of others in its wake. I condemned the pyramid food guide after one glance in 1992. Not a studied reaction but an instinctive,immediate revulsion predicting the epidemic obesity future.
I had survived 7 years, 1939-1946 (WWII)deprived of food, starvation, but escaped with a food regimen which has left me—I will be 86 on Jan. 7th— in superior health.
I will not divulge the obesity code, I am waiting to sign a large organization to handle the recovery campaign.
That said—I will leave a hint; you are a misguided lot, greens and grains have promoted obesity ( I call it carbohydritis),you will be requested to abandon food guides and diets! You will become reacquainted with your inner ego, the gut. Needless to say, I have promoted red meat and saturated fat for ages. Why? It allows me to be well fed in small portions!
Send a BD card the address in hartsmartliving.com
Why am I so well? I have an attitude! Does it show?
————Hart———
Posted by: hart0007 | December 28, 2010 5:15 PM | Report abuse

The main problem I see is that the researchers went into the study with a deeply ingrained hypothesis on what “healthy” eating meant. They even named of one of the categories they were supposedly studying “healthy foods”! Then, when they found another category that showed similar results in health and longevity, they did not adjust their reporting accordingly.
The fact that one of their categories was named qualitatively (e.g. healthy) rather than descriptively (e.g. high-fat dairy) shows their pre-experimental bias, and they continued to report their findings within these preconceived expectations. They highlighted that the “healthy foods” consumers lived longer, but chose not to highlight that the “meat, fried foods, and alchohol” group ALSO lived longer, This displays the pre-analysis bias they began the study with and could not fully shake when publishing their findings.
Kudos to Jennifer LaRue Huget for calling them on this. Science is all about re-evaluating preconceived ideas when experimental data does not match the hypothesis. Without this, there would be no advance in scientific understanding. 
Posted by: kcastro22 | December 28, 2010 5:41 PM | Report abuse

And what about people who just plain don’t tell the truth about what they “REALLY” eat anyway?? If some so called dietetic groupie stopped me and asked what I ate, I would be tempted to tell her only the healthy things eaten, and not mention the See’s Truffles I just consumed……….just like when men are asked how often they do stuff, lol. And so it goes, nothing really is new, is it?? Yet reams are written to support a group’s existance to get research grants.
Posted by: kuchen | December 28, 2010 9:26 PM | Report abuse

Wikio

Low carb and Mediterranean diets win the health war


Dieters on the Mediterranean diet saw the best improvements in blood sugar levels. The diet wars are heating up once more after a new report by Israeli researchers suggests that low-carbohydrate and Mediterranean diets may be safer and more effective for weight loss than standard, medically prescribed low-fat diets.

In a two-year study, researchers from Ben Gurion University of the Negev (BGU), found that dieters don’t always have to give up fats if they want to lose weight or increase health benefits, but instead can opt for diets that are low in carbohydrates like bread and pasta, or rich in fruits, healthy fats, and vegetables.

In the study, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers monitored 322 moderately obese people who were assigned one of three diet regimes – a low-fat diet, a Mediterranean diet, or a low-carbohydrate diet like that popularized by Atkins.

Low carb dieters lose the most

Although all of the participants decreased the number of calories they consumed by similar amounts, those on the low-carb diet lost the most: 10.3 lbs. after one year, compared to 10 lbs for those on the Mediterranean diet in the same period, or just 6.5 lbs. for those on the low-fat diet.

“These weight reduction rates are comparable to results from physician-prescribed weight loss medications,” explains Dr. Iris Shai, the lead researcher, from the S. Daniel Abraham International Center for Health and Nutrition in the Department of Epidemiology at BGU.

Moreover, the researchers found that the low-fat diet gave the least health benefits to dieters, compared with the Mediterranean and low-carb diets. Subjects on the Mediterranean diet saw the best improvement in blood sugar levels, while those on low-carb diets saw the biggest improvement in cholesterol levels.

Among diabetic participants, the standard low-fat diet actually increased the fasting glucose levels by 12mg/dL, while the Mediterranean diet induced a decrease in fasting glucose levels by 33mg/dL.

“Clearly, there is not one diet that is ideal for everyone,” says Dr. Shai, who conceived the study with Dr. Stampfer, the senior author, while she was a Fulbright fellow at Harvard School of Public Health and Channing Laboratory in Boston, Massachusetts.

“We believe that this study will open clinical medicine to considering low-carb and Mediterranean diets as safe effective alternatives for patients, based on personal preference and the medical goals set for such intervention,” she adds.

Trial at Dimona

The trial was conducted at the Nuclear Research Center in Dimona, Israel, in collaboration with Harvard University, the University of Leipzig, Germany and the University of Western Ontario, Canada. What is remarkable about the study is not only the relatively large number of participants, but that such a large proportion of them – 85 percent – stuck with the diet for two years.

This was partly achieved because of the significant cooperation between staff, subjects and their spouses involved in the study. The cafeterias at the isolated Dimona center went through a “health revolution,” to provide healthy dishes that would fit each one of the dietary arms, and every day, foods for each diet were labeled with colored dots.

Dieters were given additional nutritional counseling, and counseled on how to stick to eating plans at home.

“The improvement in levels of some biomarkers continued until the 24-month point, although maximum weight loss was achieved by six months,” says Dr. Shai. “This suggests that healthy diet has beneficial effects beyond weight loss.”

Wikio

Nutrition: Lower Depression Risk Linked to Mediterranean Diet

October 13, 2009
Vital Signs

Eating a Mediterranean-style diet — packed with fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, olive oil and fish — is good for your heart, many studies have found. Now scientists are suggesting the diet may be good for your mental health, too.

A study of over 10,000 Spaniards followed for almost four and half years on average found that those who reported eating a healthy Mediterranean diet at the beginning of the study were about half as likely to develop depression than those who said they did not stick to the diet.

All of the participants were free of depression when they were recruited to the study, and each filled out a 136-item food frequency questionnaire when they joined. Based on their self-reported dietary habits, they were assigned a score between 0 and 9, with the highest score reflecting the closest adherence to a Mediterranean diet.

Over time, those who had scored between 5 and 9 on the Mediterranean diet were 42 percent to 51 percent less likely to develop depression, the study found, than those who scored between 0 and 2.

The study, which was funded by the Spanish government’s official medical research agency, Instituto de Salud Carlos III, does not prove a cause-and-effect relationship between the Mediterranean diet and a lower risk for depression, only an association between the two. Still, many scientists are convinced that some damaging inflammatory and metabolic processes involved in cardiovascular disease may also play a role in mental health.

“Both cardiovascular disease and depression share common mechanisms related to endothelium function and inflammation,” said Dr. Miguel Angel Martinez-Gonzalez, professor of preventive medicine at University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain, and senior author of the paper, published in the October issue of Archives of General Psychiatry.

“The membranes of our neurons are composed of fat, so the quality of fat that you are eating definitely has an influence on the quality of the neuron membranes, and the body’s synthesis of neurotransmitters is dependent on the vitamins you’re eating,” Dr. Martinez-Gonzalez added. “We think those with lowest adherence to the Mediterranean dietary plan have a deficiency of essential nutrients.”

The elements of the diet most closely linked to a lower risk of depression were fruits and nuts, legumes and a high ratio of monounsaturated to saturated fats, the study found.
Wikio

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