Cretan Diet Medical Research

Cretan Diet Medical Research

The Seven Countries Study found that Cretan men had exceptionally low death rates from heart disease, despite moderate to high intake of fat. The Cretan diet is similar to other traditional Mediterranean diets, consisting mostly of olive oil, bread, abundant fruit and vegetables, fish, and a moderate amount of dairy foods and wine. The Lyon Diet Heart Study set out to mimic the Cretan diet, but adopted a pragmatic approach. Realizing that some of the people in the study (all of whom had survived a first heart attack) would be reluctant to move from butter to olive oil, they used a margarine based on rapeseed (canola) oil.

The dietary change also included 20% increases in vitamin C-rich fruit and bread and decreases in processed and red meat. On this diet, mortality from all causes was reduced by 70%. This study was so successful that the ethics committee decided to stop the study prematurely so that the results of the study could be made available to the public immediately.

According to a 2008 study published in the British Medical Journal, the traditional Mediterranean diet provides substantial protection against type 2 diabetes. The study involved over 13 000 graduates from the University of Navarra in Spain with no history of diabetes, who were recruited between December 1999 and November 2007, and whose dietary habits and health were subsequently tracked. Participants initially completed a 136-item food frequency questionnaire designed to measure the entire diet. The questionnaire also included questions on the use of fats and oils, cooking methods and dietary supplements. Every two years participants were sent follow-up questionnaires on diet, lifestyle, risk factors, and medical conditions. New cases of diabetes were confirmed through medical reports. During the follow-up period (median 4.4 years) the researchers from the University of Navarra found that participants who stuck closely to the diet had a lower risk of diabetes. A high adherence to the diet was associated with an 83% relative reduction in the risk of developing diabetes.

A 2008 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine examined the effects of three diets: low-carb, low-fat, and Mediterranean. The study involved 322 participants and lasted for two years. The low-carb and Mediterranean diet resulted in the greatest weight loss, 12 lbs and 10 lbs, respectively. The low-fat diet resulted in a loss of 7 lbs. One caveat of the study is that 86% of the study participants were men. The low-carb and Mediterranean diets produced similar amounts of weight loss in the overall study results and in the men. In the remaining participants who were women, the Mediterranean diet produced 3.8 kg (8.4 lbs) more weight loss on average than the low-carb diet.

A meta-analysis published in the British Medical Journal in 2008 showed that following strictly the Mediterranean diet reduced the risk of dying from cancer and cardiovascular disease as well as the risk of developing Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease. The results report 9%, 9%, and 6% reduction in overall, cardiovascular, and cancer mortality respectively. Additionally a 13% reduction in incidence of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases is to be expected provided strict adherence to the diet is observed.[38] As well, a 2007 study found that adherence to the Mediterranean diet (MeDi) may affect not only risk for Alzheimer disease (AD) but also subsequent disease course: Higher adherence to the MeDi is associated with lower mortality in AD. The gradual reduction in mortality risk for higher MeDi adherence tertiles suggests a possible dose-response effect.

A study published in the British Medical Journal in 2009 showed some components of the Mediterranean diet, such as high vegetable consumption and low meat and meat product consumption, are more significantly associated with low risk of mortality than other components, such as cereal consumption and fish consumption. As part of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition study, researchers followed more than 23,000 Greek men and women for 8.5 years to see how various aspects of a Mediterranean diet affect mortality. Moderate alcohol consumption, high fruit and nut consumption, and high legume consumption were also associated with lower risk of mortality. Mediterranean Diet, articulated into extensive lifestyles interventions in a clinical follow-up study, improves renal artery circulation, decreasing renal resistive index, even without significant modifications of Insulin Resistance. This is a beneficial effect and modifies the pathophysiology of essential hypertension. Another study (reported on in the news in February 2010) found that the diet may help keep the brain healthy by reducing the frequency of the mini-strokes that can contribute to mental decline. Mediterranean Diet is becoming a comprehensive popular and successful translational paradigm for the promotion of healthier lifestyles .

A 2011 meta-analysis published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology analyzed the results of 50 studies (35 clinical trials, 2 prospective and 13 cross-sectional) covering about 535,000 people to examine the effect of a Mediterranean diet on metabolic syndrome. The researchers reported that a Mediterranean diet is associated with lower blood pressure, blood sugar, and triglycerides.

Researcher Antonia Trichopoulou and her team made use of data gathered in the Greek portion of a large-scale European study known as EPIC (European Propective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition). For their study, they focused on nearly 15,000 Greek women who joined the study when they were between the ages of 20 and 86. Each woman answered a detailed food-frequency questionnaire that addressed their usual style of eating within the previous year. They also responded to questions about their lifestyle, including smoking status and amount of physical activity, and their reproductive history. Their Body Mass Index was calculated and recorded, and those with a history of cancer were excluded from the study.

Using the food-frequency questionnaire, the researchers were able to calculate each woman's adherence to the Mediterranean Diet by assigning a score ranging from 0 to 9. For those components of the diet that are frequently eaten, such as vegetables, legumes or fish, the women received a score of 1 if their intake was above average, and a 0 if their consumption was below average. Similarly, for those components that are less frequently eaten, such as dairy or red meat, those women who ate less than the average amount also received a 1, while those who ate more than the average received a 0. (This scoring system is a standard one used often in studies of The Mediterranean Diet.)

After a follow-up of 10 years, the researchers compared the incidence of breast cancer with each woman's Mediterranean Diet score. After controlling for such variables as age, smoking status, physical activity, Body Mass Index and use of hormone replacement therapy, the researchers found that overall, there was no statistically significant link between higher Mediterranean Diet adherence and the risk of breast cancer. They then grouped the women in pre- and post-menopausal status at the start of the study and compared their Mediterranean Diet scores with their risk of breast cancer. And they found that for postmenopausal women, those who had high scores on the Mediterranean Diet adherence scale - that of a 6 to 9 - were 41% less likely to develop breast cancer than those whose scores were low - 0 to 3. In fact, an increase of just 2 points on the Mediterranean Diet scale decreased a postmenopausal woman's risk of breast cancer by 22%.


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