Category Archives: Health Benefits

Mediterranean Diet Once Again Linked to Lower Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

Conquer Diabetes and Prediabetes, Steve Parker MD

Olive oil and vinegar

And eating low glycemic load helps, too, according to an article at MedPageToday. The 22,000 Greek study participants were followed for 11 years. From the article:

The findings suggest that eliminating or strictly limiting high glycemic load foods such as those high in refined sugars and grains and following the largely plant-based Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes vegetables, fruits, nuts and legumes, can have a significant impact on diabetes risk, La Vecchia said.

“The impact of the diets was synergistic,” he told MedPage Today. “The message is that eating a largely Mediterranean diet that is also low in glycemic load is particularly favorable for preventing diabetes.”

Spanish researchers found the same thing a few years ago.

The Mediterranean diet is also healthy for those who already have type 2 diabetes.

The Low-Carb Mediterranean Diet may be the ideal way of eating for diabetics.

Steve Parker, M.D.

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Filed under Glycemic Index and Load, Health Benefits, Mediterranean Diet, Prevention of T2 Diabetes

Canadian Study Finds Abdominal Obesity Health Markers Much Improved With Mediterranean Diet and High-Intensity Interval Training

…according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation. Some quotes:

The study found an average reduction in waist circumference of eight centimeters, a reduction in systolic blood pressure of 6 mm Hg and an aerobic fitness improvement of 15 per cent over the first nine months of the study.

Improvements in waist circumference, blood pressure and fitness can lead to numerous other health benefits including a reduced risk of developing high blood pressure, as well as improving osteoarthritis symptoms, quality of life, physical functioning, and cognition.

The high-intensity interval training was done two or three times a week over 20-30 minutes each session. Click for an example of HIIT on a stationary bike. More basic info on HIIT.

The classic Mediterranean diet has too many carbohydrates for many diabetics, although it’s better for them than the Standard American Diet. That’s why I devised the Low-Carb Mediterranean Diet.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Steve Parker MD, low-carb diet, diabetic diet

Olives, olive oil, and vinegar: classic Mediterranean foods

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Filed under Exercise, Health Benefits, Mediterranean Diet, Overweight and Obesity

Yet Another Study Links Long Life Span to the Mediterranean Diet

…by Johns Hopkins researchers.

Six thousand Americans were followed over eight years, with attention to heart disease and death. Significantly lower death rates were seen in nonsmokers, and those maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, and eating the Mediterranean diet. The more adherence to those healthy factors, the lower the risk of death

h/t Lyle J. Dennis, M.D.

Reminder: Conquer Diabetes and Prediabetes is now available on Kindle and other ebook formats. That’s where you’ll find the full Low-Carb Mediterranean Diet.

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Filed under Health Benefits, Longevity, Mediterranean Diet

Dietitians’ Views on Mediterranean Diet for Diabetes

An eating pattern similar to the traditional Mediterranean diet can be integrated with existing national guidelines for the management of diabetes, blood pressure, and cholesterol. Existing data suggest that the Mediterranean diet has health benefits, including improved glycemic control and reduced cardiovascular risk, and may offer benefits to diabetes patients and clinicians alike in terms of palatability, ease of explanation and use, and promotion of improved health.

Olive oil and vinegar

Olive oil and vinegar

This excerpt is from an article by three dietitians writing in Diabetes Spectrum in 2009.  Click through for details if interested.

—Steve

Reference:  doi: 10.2337/diaspect.24.1.36  Diabetes Spectrum January 1, 2011 vol. 24, no. 1, p.36-40

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Low-Carb Research Update

“What about that recent study in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition…?”

As much as possible, I base my nutrition and medical recommendations on science-based research published in the medical literature.  Medical textbooks can be very helpful, but they aren’t as up-to-date as the medical journals.

In the early 2000s, a flurry of research reports demonstrated that very-low-carb eating (as in Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution) was safe and effective for short-term weight management and control of diabetes.  I was still concerned back then about the long-term safety of the high fat content of Atkins.  But 80 hours of literature review in 2009 allowed me to embrace low-carbohydrate eating as a logical and viable option for many of my patients.  The evidence convinced me that the high fat content (saturated or otherwise) of many low-carb diets was little to worry about over the long run.

By the way, have you noticed some of the celebrities jumping on the low-carb weight-management bandwagon lately?  Sharon Osbourne, Drew Carey, and Alec Baldwin, to name a few.

My primary nutrition interests are low-carb eating, the Mediterranean diet, and the paleo diet.  I’m careful to stay up-to-date with the pertinent scientific research.  I’d like to share with you some of the pertinent research findings of the last few years.

Low-Carb Diets

  • Low-carb diets reduce weight, reduce blood pressure, lower triglyceride levels (a healthy move), and raise HDL cholesterol (another good trend).  These improvements should help reduce your risk of heart disease.  (In the journal Obesity Reviews, 2012.)
  • Dietary fat, including saturated fat, is not a cause of vascular disease such as heart attacks and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).  (Multiple research reports.)
  • If you’re overweight and replace two sugary drinks a day with diet soda or water, you’ll lose about four pounds over the next six months.  (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2012.)
  • United States residents obtain 40% of total calories from grains and added sugars.  Most developed countries are similar.  Dr. Stephan Guyenet notes that U.S. sugar consumption increased steadily “…from 6.3 pounds [2.9 kg] per person per year in 1822 to 107.7 pounds [50 kg] per person in 1999.  Wrap your brain around this: in 1822 we ate the amount of added sugar in one 12-ounce can of soda every five days, while today we eat that much sugar every seven hours.”
  • A very-low-carb diet improves the memory of those with age-related mild cognitive impairment. Mild cognitive impairment is a precursor to dementia.  (University of Cincinnati, 2012.)
  • High-carbohydrate and sugar-rich diets greatly raise the risk of mild cognitive impairment in the elderly. (Mayo Clinic study published in the Journal of Alzheimers’ Disease, 2012.)
  • Compared to obese low-fat dieters, low-carb dieters lose twice as much fat weight.  (University of Cincinnati, 2011.)
  • Diets low in sugar and refined starches are linked to lower risk of age-related macular degeneration in women.  Macular degeneration is a major cause of blindness.  (University of Wisconsin, 2011.)
  • A ketogenic (very-low-carb) Mediterranean diet cures metabolic syndrome (Journal of Medicinal Food, 2011.)
  • For type 2 diabetics, replacing a daily muffin (high-carb) with two ounces (60 g) of nuts (low-carb) improves blood sugar control and reduces LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol). (Diabetes Care, 2011.)
  • For those afflicted with fatty liver, a low-carb diet beats a low-fat diet for management. (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2011.)
  • For weight loss, the American Diabetes Association has endorsed low-carb (under 130 g/day) and Mediterranean diets, for use up to two years. (Diabetes Care, 2011.)
  • High-carbohydrate eating doubles the risk of heart disease (coronary artery disease) in women.  (Archives of Internal Medicine, 2010.)
  • One criticism of low-carb diets is that they may be high in protein, which in turn may cause bone thinning (osteoporosis).  A 2010 study shows this is not a problem, at least in women.  Men were not studied.  (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.)
  • High-carbohydrate eating increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2010.)
  • Obesity in U.S. children tripled from 1980 to 2000, rising to 17% of all children.  A low-carb, high-protein diet is safe and effective for obese adolescents.  (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2010.)

Mediterranean Diet

The traditional Mediterranean diet is well established as a healthy way of eating despite being relatively high in carbohydrate: 50 to 60% of total calories.  It’s known to prolong life span while reducing rates of heart disease, cancer, strokes, diabetes, and dementia.  The Mediterranean diet is rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, olive oil, whole grain bread, fish, and judicious amounts of wine, while incorporating relatively little meat.  It deserves your serious consideration.  I keep abreast of the latest scientific literature on this diet.

  • Olive oil is linked to longer life span and reduced heart disease.  (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2012.)
  • Olive oil is associated with reduced stroke risk.  (Neurology, 2012).
  • The Mediterranean diet reduces risk of sudden cardiac death in women.  (Journal of the American Medical Association, 2011.)
  • The Mediterranean diet is linked to fewer strokes visible by MRI scanning.  (Annals of Neurology, 2011.)
  • It reduces the symptoms of asthma in children.  (Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 2011.)
  • Compared to low-fat eating, it reduces the incidence of type 2 diabetes by 50% in middle-aged and older folks.  (Diabetes Care, 2010.)
  •  A review of all available well-designed studies on the Mediterranean diet confirms that it reduces risk of death, decreases heart disease, and reduces rates of cancer, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, and mild cognitive impairment.  (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2010.)
  • It reduces the risk of breast cancer.  (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2010.)
  • The Mediterranean diet reduces Alzheimer’s disease.   (New York residents, Archives of Neurology, 2010).
  • It slows the rate of age-related mental decline.  (Chicago residents, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2010.)
  • In patients already diagnosed with heart disease, the Mediterranean diet prevents future heart-related events and preserves heart function.  (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2010.)

Clearly, low-carb and Mediterranean-style eating have much to recommend them.  Low-carb eating is particularly useful for weight loss and management, and control of diabetes, prediabetes, and metabolic syndrome.  Long-term health effects of low-carb eating are less well established.  That’s where the Mediterranean diet shines.  That’s why I ask many of my patients to combine both approaches: low-carb and Mediterranean.  Note that several components of the Mediterranean diet are inherently low-carb: olive oil, nuts and seeds, fish, some wines, and many fruits and vegetables.  These items easily fit into a low-carb lifestyle and may yield the long-term health benefits of the Mediterranean diet.  If you’re interested, I’ve posted on the Internet a Low-Carb Mediterranean Diet that will get you started.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Disclaimer:  All matters regarding your health require supervision by a personal physician or other appropriate health professional familiar with your current health status.  Always consult your personal physician before making any dietary or exercise changes.

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Filed under Carbohydrate, Fat in Diet, Health Benefits, Heart Disease, ketogenic diet, Mediterranean Diet, nuts, olive oil, Stroke, Vegetables, Weight Loss

A Little Known Way to Reduce Your Stroke Risk Starting Today

Older adults with high olive oil consumption have a lower risk of stroke, according to French investigators.

Caprese salad: mozzarella cheese, basil, tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil

The Mediterranean diet, rich in olive oil, has long been linked to lower rates of stroke.  French researchers wondered if that might be related to higher olive oil consumption.  Triglyceride esters of oleic acid comprise the majority of olive oil, and oleic acid blood levels reflect olive oil consumption.

Have you heard of monounsaturated fatty acids?  Oleic acid is one.

Methodology

Over 7,000 older adults without history of stroke were surveyed with regards to olive oil consumption.  Oleic acid plasma levels were measured in over a thousand of the study participants.  Over the course of five years, 175 strokes occurred.

Compared with those who never used olive oil, those with the highest consumption had a 41% lower risk of stroke.  The researchers made adjustments for other dietary variables, age, physical activity, and body mass index.

In looking at the plasma oleic acid levels, those in the highest third of levels had 73% lower risk of stroke compared to those in the lowest third.

Comments

Results suggest that the olive oil in the Mediterranean diet  may help explain the diet’s protection against stroke.  The researchers didn’t suggest an amount of olive oil that would reduce stroke risk.  I suggest at least one or two tablespoons (15–30 ml) a day, on average.  Olive oil is a key component of the Low-Carb Mediterranean Diet and Advanced Mediterranean Diet.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Reference:  Samieri, C. et al.  Olive oil consumption, plasma oleic acid, and stroke incidence: the Three-City StudyNeurology, Published online before print June 15, 2011, doi: 10.1212/WNL.0b013e318220abeb

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Filed under Health Benefits, Mediterranean Diet, Stroke

Right Diet Preserves Brain Function and Size

mp9004223691.jpg  Neurology last year reported that the proper diet seems to help prevent age-related brain shrinkage and cognitive decline.

From the press release:

People with diets high in several vitamins or in omega 3 fatty acids are less likely to have the brain shrinkage associated with Alzheimer’s disease than people whose diets are not high in those nutrients, according to a new study published in the December 28, 2011, online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Those with diets high in omega 3 fatty acids and in vitamins C, D, E and the B vitamins also had higher scores on mental thinking tests than people with diets low in those nutrients. These omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin D are primarily found in fish. The B vitamins and antioxidants C and E are primarily found in fruits and vegetables.

So the dietary pattern linked to preservation of brain size and function in this study is: high omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins B, C, D, and E. I don’t know if study participants were getting these nutrients from supplements or from food or a combination. (I haven’t read the full article.)

Note that the time-honored Mediterranean diet is also associated with lower rates of dementia and slower rate of age-related mental decline.

I previously reported that a supplement cocktail of three B vitamins slowed the rate of brain shrinkage

Steve Parker, M.D.

Reference: Bowman, G.L., et al. Nutrient biomarker patterns, cognitive function, and MRI measures of brain aging. Neurology. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0b013e3182436598

h/t to Randall Parker at FuturePundit

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Filed under Dementia, Health Benefits, Mediterranean Diet

Does Olive Oil Protect Against Stroke?

Older adults with high olive oil consumption have a lower risk of stroke, according to French investigators.

The Mediterranean diet, rich in olive oil, has long been linked to lower rates of stroke and other health benefits.  The French researchers wondered stroke prevention might be attibutable to higher olive oil consumption.  Triglyceride esters of oleic acid comprise the majority of olive oil, and oleic acid blood levels reflect olive oil consumption. 

Have you heard of monounsaturated fatty acids?  Oleic acid is one.

Methodology

Over 7,000 older adults without history of stroke were surveyed with regards to olive oil consumption.  Oleic acid plasma levels were measured in over a thousand of the study participants.  Over the course of five years, 175 strokes occurred.

Compared with those who never used olive oil, those with the highest consumption had a 41% lower risk of stroke.  The researchers made adjustments for other dietary variables, age, physical activity, and body mass index.

In looking at the plasma oleic acid levels, those in the highest third of levels had 73% lower risk of stroke compared to those in the lowest third.

Comments

Results suggest that the olive oil in the Mediterranean diet  may help explain the diet’s protection against stroke.  They also support my inclusion of olive oil in the Low-Carb Mediterranean Diet and Advanced Mediterranean Diet.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Reference:  Samieri, C. et al.  Olive oil consumption, plasma oleic acid, and stroke incidence: the Three-City StudyNeurology, Published online before print June 15, 2011, doi: 10.1212/WNL.0b013e318220abeb

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Filed under Health Benefits, Mediterranean Diet, olive oil, Stroke

Mediterranean Diet Linked to Brain Preservation

 The Mediterranean diet slowed age-related mental decline in elderly Chicago residents, according to researchers at Rush University Medical Center.  The investigators noted that a Manhattan population following the Mediterranean diet also showed slower mental decline and lower rates of Alzheimers dementia.

Over 3,000 study participants (2,280 blacks, 1,510 whites) were studied for an average of eight years.  Food consumption was determined by questionnaires, and mental function was tested every three years.  Adherence to the Mediterranean diet was judged according to a Mediterranean diet score developed by Panagiotakis, et al.

The greater the adherence to the Greek-style Mediterranean diet, the lower the rate of mental decline over the course of the study.

Mental decline to some extent is a normal part of aging.  If we can avoid it or lessen it’s impact, why not?  A couple ways to do that are regular exercise and the Mediterranean diet.

Would a low-carb Mediterranean diet work just as well or better?  Nobody knows yet.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Reference:  Tangney, Christine, et al. Adherence to a Mediterranean-type dietary pattern and cognitive decline in a community population.  American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2010.  doi 10.3945/ajcn.110.007369

 

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Filed under Health Benefits, Mediterranean Diet

Mediterranean Diet Linked to Less Sudden Cardiac Death in Women

"Trust me. You don't want sudden cardiac death until you're very old!"

A Mediterranean-style diet is one of four factors helping to greatly reduce the risk of sudden cardiac death in women, as reported by Reuters on June 5, 2011. The other factors reducing risk were maintainence of a healthy weight, regular exercise, and not smoking.

The study involved women only, so we don’t know if the research, reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, applies to men.  I bet it does.

This study confirms many earlier ones linking the Mediterranean diet with longevity and reduced rates of heart disease.

Steve Parker, M.D.

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Filed under coronary heart disease, Health Benefits, Mediterranean Diet