The Mediterranean Diet, a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, olive oil, moderate wine consumption, et cetera, has been found to possess
cardiovascular benefits. Exactly how these heart-healthy benefits come to be is not exactly known, though there are many possible scenarios.
One such example is the functionality of the endothelium (the cells that line the blood vessels). It is known that poor endothelial function is linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease, though its relationship to the Mediterranean diet is not well known.
A new study published in The Journal of Nutrition aimed to examine the relationship between the Mediterranean Diet and endothelial function, as well as possible effects on low-grade inflammation, another problem that has been linked to poor cardiovascular health.
557 adults (aged 59.6 +/- 6.9years) with increased risk for cardiovascular disease were recruited for this study.
Diet information was collected via self-reported questionnaire.
The following indicators for endothelial health were measured for each participant and taken at the beginning of the study, and again after 7 years: von Willenbrand factor, soluble vascular cell adhesion molecule 1, soluble endothelial selectin, soluble thrombomodulin, and soluble intercellular adhesion molecule 1.
The following indicators for low-grade inflammation were measured for each participant and taken at the beginning of the study, and again after 7 years: C-reactive protein, serum amyloid A, interleukin-6, interleukin-8, tumor necrosis factor α, and soluble intercellular adhesion molecule 1.
Other information collected and/or measured included: sex, glucose metabolism, energy intake, BMI, physical activity, alcohol consumption, and smoking habits.
Higher consumption of fish was associated with better endothelial function after 7 years.
Total consumption of vegetables, fruit, alcohol, dairy, or meat had no effect on endothelial function after 7 years.
There were no associations between the Mediterranean diet, or component there-in, and low-grade inflammation after 7 years.
Higher consumption of lean fish, raw vegetables, and fewer dairy products were associated with better endothelial function after 7 years.
Higher consumption of fresh fruit, poultry, fewer high-fat dairy products, and moderate consumption of wine was associated with less low-grade inflammation.
The results of this study indicate that adhering to the Mediterranean diet, specifically increased consumption of lean fish, raw vegetables, moderate consumption of wine and low consumption of dairy products are associated with better
endothelial function and lower low-grade inflammation in adults with a high risk of cardiovascular disease.
These results indicate that endothelial function and inflammation may be at least one of the explanations why those adhering to a Mediterranean-style diet have improved cardiovascular health than those consuming other diets.
There have been many studies showing both positive and negative benefits of alcohol consumption, with more of the beneficial studies centering around moderate consumption compared with heavier consumption. Depending upon the definition of “moderate”, even within the moderate consumption “level”, studies have been inconsistent in terms of their findings in relation to human health.
The exact mechanism for supposed health benefits of moderate alcohol consumption is so far unknown, though theories do exist.
Some observed health benefits of moderate alcohol consumption
include: reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases, and in general all-cause mortality. High levels of the antioxidant bilirubin have been observed in people with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality, begging the question whether or not moderate alcohol consumption could be at least partially responsible for this increase.
A new study accepted into the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence aimed to examine bilirubin levels after alcohol consumption, in an attempt to create a possible mechanistic link between moderate alcohol consumption and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality.
18 healthy adults (8 smokers) were given alcohol to achieve blood alcohol levels of 20, 80, and 120mg/dL in random order during three sessions separated by one week each time.
Serum bilirubin levels were measured in the morning before the drinking session, at 2pm the day of the drinking session, and in the morning the day after the drinking session.
Serum bilirubin levels increased from baseline to 24 hours post drinking in non-smokers.
Serum bilirubin levels DID NOT increase after drinking in smokers.
The results of this study suggest a possible mechanism for reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality after moderate alcohol consumption in non-smokers. For non-smokers, serum bilirubin levels increased, resulting in possible anti-oxidant protection properties for these improved health benefits.
Smokers, on the other hand, were not so lucky, as serum bilirubin levels remained unchanged after moderate alcohol consumption.
Smoking somehow prevented serum bilirubin levels from increasing, thus negating any possible health benefit of moderate alcohol consumption caused by increased bilirubin levels in the blood.
This study only followed 18 adults, therefore follow up studies with larger sample sizes are required to confirm or refute this possible mechanistic link between moderate alcohol consumption, increased serum bilirubin levels, and reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases and all-cause mortality.
Healthy aging is a concern of almost everyone, considering barring any unforeseen circumstances, we all grow older. Metabolism is one focus of healthy aging researchers, with variations in metabolism
resulting in various ailments among the elderly. Additionally, outside factors that can influence metabolism, like diet and lifestyle choices, are of interest to researchers, as changes in these habits could lead to improved aging and reduced risk of disease and injury in the elderly.
A new study in the Journals of Gerontology: Medical Sciences looked at the effect of diet on the metabolic profile of elderly, by comparing the Mediterranean diet, the Mediterranean diet supplemented with Co-enzyme Q10, the Western diet rich in saturated fat, and a low-fat/high-carb diet rich in n-3 polyunsaturated fat.
This study followed 10 participants, with each participant consuming each of the four diets for a four week period each (16 weeks total).
Metabolic profile of urine of each participant was measured at the start of each diet, and again after a 12 hour fast at the completion of each diet.
Comparing the Mediterranean & CO-Q (Med&CO-Q) diet with the Western/Saturated fat diet, women consuming the saturated fat diet had higher levels of phenylacteylglycine in their urine than those women consuming the Med&CO-Q diet.
The Med&CO-Q diet was positively associated with B-carotene plasma levels.
The Med&CO-Q diet was negatively associated with Nrf2, thioredoxin, superoxide dismutase 1, and the gp91phox subunit of NADPH oxidase gene expression.
The Western/Saturated fat diet was positively associated with isoprostane levels in urine.
The Western/Saturated fat diet was negatively associated with CO-Q plasma levels.
These results suggest that the Mediterranean Diet supplemented with Co-enzyme Q10 may be beneficial for healthy aging in elderly. The specific metabolic findings mentioned above indicate that the
Mediterranean Diet supplemented with Co-enzyme Q10 could reduce the risk of disease caused by chronic oxidative stress, cardiovascular diseases, and neurodegenerative diseases.
It is important to note the sample size in this study was very small (only 10 individuals), so more research is required to further support or refute these claims.
While heart disease is one of the top killers of Americans, the number of cases has actually been on the decline recently. Despite this supposed downward trend, cases of heart disease in young women have stabilized. One possible explanation for this lack of
further decline in heart disease cases in young women could be related to lifestyle choices.
A new study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology explored this issue by evaluating the proportion of heart disease cases and cardiovascular risk factors among young women that may be related to poor diet and other lifestyle choices.
88,940 younger women between the ages of 27 and 44 were followed between 1991 and 2011.
Lifestyle habits were determined by self-reported questionnaires.
A “healthy lifestyle” was defined by: 1) non-smoker; 2) “normal” BMI; 3) being physically active for at least 2.5 hours per week; 4) watching TV for less than 7 hours per week; 5) eating a healthy diet (i.e. in the top 40% of Alternative Healthy Eating Index-2010 scores); and 6) consuming between 0.1 and 14.9g/day of alcohol.
Proportion of heart disease and risk factors (inc. diabetes, hypertension, and hypercholesterolemia) were calculated.