Tag Archives: predimed

Mediterranean Diet Prevents Diabetes – Again

Spanish researchers report that the Mediterranean diet reduced the risk of developing diabetes by 50% in middle-aged and older Spaniards, compared with a low-fat diet. 

Over 400 people participated in a trial comparing two Mediterranean diets and a low-fat diet.  Over the course of four years, 10 or 11% of the Mediterraneans developed type 2 diabetes, compared to 18% of the low-fatters.  One of the Mediterranean diets favored olive oil, the other promoted nut consumption.

We’ve seen previously that the Mediterranean diet prevents diabetes—not all cases, of course—in folks who have had a heart attack.  It also reduced the risk of diabetes in younger, generally healthy people in Spain.

So What?

The study at hand is not ground-breaking.  It enhances the body of evidence that the Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest around.  I suppose another way to look at this study would be to say that the low-fat diet caused diabetes.

Learn how to move your diet in a Mediterranean direction at Oldways or the Advanced Mediterranean Diet website. 

Diabetics and prediabetics should consider the Low-Carb Mediterranean Diet; otherwise look into the Advanced Mediterranean Diet if you need to lose weight.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Reference:  Salas-Salvado, Jordi, et al.  Reduction in the incidence of type 2 diabetes with the Mediterranean diet: Results of the PREDIMED-Reus Nutrition Intervention Randomized Trial.  Diabetes Care, epub ahead of print, October 7, 2010.  doi: 10.2337/dc150-1288

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Filed under Causes of Diabetes, Health Benefits, Mediterranean Diet, Prevention of T2 Diabetes

Basic Science: Mediterranean Diet Boosts Antioxidant Power

Compared to the low-fat American Heart Association diet, the traditional Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil has more capacity to counteract potentially harmful “free radicals” and “reactive oxygen species” in our bodies, according to researchers at the University of Navarra in Spain.

Our tissues normally contain free radicals and reactive oxygen species, which are intrinsic to cell metabolism.  They serve useful purposes.  In excessive amounts, however, many believe they cause “oxidative damage” and thereby contribute to chronic degenerative conditions such as atherosclerosis, aging, dementia, and cancer.

Antioxidants are thought to neutralize free radicals and reactive oxygen species, which may lead to better health.

The PREDIMED study is an ongoing Spanish project testing the heart-protective effects of the Mediterranean diet in high-risk people over the course of four years.  The three intervention groups are 1) Medi diet plus supplemental virgin olive oil, 2) Medi diet plus extra tree nuts, and 3) low-fat American Heart Association diet.

After three years of follow-up, the researchers measured “total antioxidant capacity” in the bloodstream of a subset of the PREDIMED participants.

They found that the two Mediterranean diet groups had significantly greater total antioxidant capacity, about 50% more than the low-fat control group.  Within the Medi + olive oil group, the participants with the highest levels of antioxidant capacity actually tended to lose weight, an association not seen in the other groups.

The Researchers’ Conclusions

Mediterranean diet, especially rich in virgin olive oil, is associatied with higher levels of plasma antioxidant capactiy.  Plasma total antioxidant capacity is related to a reduction in body weight after three years of intervention in a high cardiovascular risk population with a Mediterranean-style diet rich in virgin olive oil.

In other words, the Mediterranean diet with virgin olive oil may help you keep your weight under control, and the antioxidant capacity may contribute to the well-documented health benefits of the diet.

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS:  It’s impossible to tell from this report just how much weight loss was seen in the high-TAC Medi+olive oil subjects.  I doubt it was much.  Baseline body mass index for all participants was around 29, so they were overweight and just a shade under obese.

PPS:  Both the Ketogenic Mediterranean and Diabetic Mediterranean Diets mandate minimal amounts of olive oil consumption, with no upper limit.

Reference: Razquin, C., et al. A 3 year follow-up of a Mediterranean diet rich in virgin olive oil is associated with high plasma antioxidant capacity and reduced body weight gain.  European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 63 (2009): 1,387-1,393.  doi 10.1038/ejcn.2009.106

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Filed under Fat in Diet, Health Benefits, Mediterranean Diet, Weight Loss

Mediterranean Diet + Nuts = Reversal of Metabolic Syndrome

MPj04031620000[1]An article published December 8, 2008, by Bloomberg.com presents results of a recent scientific study in Spain that showed reduction in “metabolic syndrome” by the Mediterranean diet supplemented with nuts.  CBSnews.com, Reuters, and others helped spread the news.  The Bloomberg article was written by Nicole Ostrow.

Metabolic syndrome is a constellation of clinical factors that are associated with increased risk of type 2 diabetes and atherosclerotic complications such as heart attack and stroke.  [Sometimes metabolic sydrome is called Syndrome X, which I sorta like.  Oh, the mystery!]  One in six Americans have the syndrome.  Diagnosis requires at least three of the following five conditions:

  • High blood pressure (130/85 or higher, or using a high blood pressure medication)
  • Low HDL cholesterol:  under 40 mg/dl in a man, under 50 in a women (or either sex taking a cholesterol-lowering drug)
  • Triglycerides over 150 mg/dl (or taking a cholesterol-lowering drug)
  • Abdominal fat:  waist circumference 40 inches or greater in a man, 35 inches or greater in a woman
  • Fasting blood glucose over 100 mg/dl

The scientific study at hand is part of the PREDIMED study being conducted in Spain.  For this portion of the study, 1,224 participants at high risk for cardiovascular disease were randomized to follow a 1) low-fat diet (considered the control group), 2) Mediterranean diet plus 1 liter virgin olive oil per week, or 3) Mediterranean diet plus 30 gm daily of mixed nuts.

Note that the nuts used in this study were walnuts, almonds, and hazelnuts.  Half of all nuts were walnuts; a quarter of the nuts were almonds and a quarter were hazelnuts.

Participants were 55-80 years old, and 61% had metabolic syndrome at baseline.  Participants could eat all they wanted, and there was no increase in physical activity for any of the groups.  Participants were given instructions at baseline and quarterly.

After one year of intervention, the prevalence of metabolic syndrome  was reduced by 14% in the Mediterranean diet plus nuts group compared to the control, low-fat diet group.  The Mediterranean diet plus extra olive oil group reduced prevalence of metabolic syndrome by 7%, but this did not reach statistical significance (P=0.18).

New cases of metabolic syndrome continued to develop at about the same rate in all three groups.  I.e., incident rates were not significantly different.  So, the lower prevalence of metabolic syndrome after one year reflected reversion or clearing of the syndrome in many people who had it at baseline.  Compared to the control group, people in the nutty group were 70% more likely to resolve their metabolic syndrome.  Individuals in the oily group were 30% more likely than controls to resolve the condition.

[Feel free to consult a dictionary for definitions of “prevalence” and “incidence.”]

The researchers conclude that:

A traditional Mediterranean diet enriched with nuts could be a useful tool in the management of the metabolic syndrome. 

My Comments:

Thirty grams (daily) of nuts is a decent-sized snack of about 180 calories.  Thirty grams of almonds formed a heap in the palm of my hand, not touching my fingers.  This is more than the “two tablespoons” reported by CBSnews.com December 9.

If you have metabolic syndrome, you might want to try reversing it with all the usual methods (e.g., lose excess fat weight, exercise more) along with a traditional Mediterranean diet enriched with 30 gm of mixed nuts daily.  As usual, check with your personal healthcare provider first.  Be aware that many of them won’t know about this study.

The puzzling thing to me is:  If the Mediterranean diet plus extra nuts is so effective in reversing metabolic syndrome, why didn’t that study cohort see fewer new cases of metabolic syndrome?

Steve Parker, M.D., author of The Advanced Mediterranean Diet

Additional reference:  Salas-Salvado, Jordi, et al.  Effect of a Mediterranean Diet Supplemented With Nuts on Metabolic Syndrome Status: One-Year Results of the PREDIMED Randomized Trial.  Archives of Internal Medicine, 168 (2008): 2,449-2,458.

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Filed under Causes of Diabetes, Mediterranean Diet