The New Year is here and for many that means attempting to stick to one or a bunch of resolutions. Eating more healthily, doing more exercise and quitting smoking will be at the top of the list for many people. If one of your goals for 2019 is eating more healthily, perhaps you should consider following a Mediterranean diet. While it varies depending on where you go, a Mediterranean diet, in a nutshell, is one that incorporates all of the healthy eating habits of people who live in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, including France, Greece, Italy and Spain - so more vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes, nuts, grains, cereals, fish, and unsaturated fats such as olive oil. And less meat and dairy foods. As well as being linked with better health, including a healthier heart, a Mediterranean diet also promotes healthy brain aging, according to new research. A recent study involving 116 healthy adults aged 65–75 years, conducted by the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, found that participants who ate a Mediterranean diet performed better in memory, general intelligence, and executive function tests. “Our study suggests that diet and nutrition moderate the association between network efficiency and cognitive performance,” said Aron Barbey, a psychology professor at The University of Illinois.
A Mediterranean-inspired meal with lashings of virgin olive oil may help to protect your heart, according to new research. Cholesterol is carried around the blood by two different types of molecules called lipoproteins: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). You'll most likely know LDL as "bad cholesterol". That's because high levels of LDL can lead to plaque building up in arteries, which can result in heart disease and stroke. HDL, on the other hand, the so-called "good bacteria", actually absorbs cholesterol and carries it to the liver where it is flushed from the body. That's why having high levels of HDL can reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. Previous research has shown that the Mediterranean diet can protect against the development of heart disease as it improves the lipid profile of HDLs. The new research - which was led by Montserrat Fitó, Ph.D., coordinator of the Cardiovascular Risk and Nutrition Research Group at the Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute in Barcelona, Spain - aimed to determine whether eating a Mediterranean diet rich in virgin olive oil or nuts over a long period of time would improve the beneficial properties of HDL in humans. Fitó's team randomly selected a total of 296 people who already had a high risk of heart disease and were participating in a separate study. They had an average age of 66 and were assigned to one of three diets for a year. They found that the individuals on the Mediterranean diet enriched with virgin olive oil had improved HDL functions. "Following a Mediterranean diet rich in virgin olive oil could protect our cardiovascular health in several ways, including making our 'good cholesterol' work in a more complete way," said Fitó.
Surgeons in the UK have said that the number of weight loss operations performed on the NHS each year needs to rise dramatically, so that people become healthier and the health service itself saves money. Writing recently in the British Medical Journal, the bariatric surgeons said that less than 1% of people who could benefit from weight loss surgery are getting treatment, and the numbers are actually dropping, despite rising rates of obesity and diabetes. [Related article: Mediterranean diet reduces heart attacks and strokes] The surgeons also highlighted that the UK is lagging behind its European counterparts when it comes to weight loss surgery, and that there are 2.6 million people in the country who stand to benefit from surgery. According to the surgeons, people who have stomach shrinking operations lose 25-35% of their body weight, on average, in just a year. In comparison, the average loss through diets and weight loss drugs is just 7% a year. It's thought that a quarter of adults in the UK are now classified as obese - the second highest rate in Europe behind Hungary - and this reality is putting a huge strain on NHS resources and funds. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) has previously indicated that surgery should be considered for severely obese people who have unsuccessfully tried all other means to lose weight. Find out more about bariatric surgery with us in France here.
Last year, we told you about the benefits to your gut of following a Mediterranean diet. Now, research published in the European Heart Journal says that a Mediterranean diet is better for people with heart disease than avoiding what's considered unhealthy in the so-called 'Western diet'. The new research shows that a Mediterranean diet, which includes large amounts of fruit, vegetables, fish and unrefined foods, can decrease the risk of stroke and heart attack in people who already have heart disease. Likewise, the study found that avoiding the unhealthy aspects of a Western diet, such as sweets, sugary drinks and deep-fried foods, also reduced a person's risk of cardiac issues. For the study, researchers from Auckland City Hospital at the University of Auckland in New Zealand analysed the dietary data of some 15,482 people with stable coronary artery disease across 39 countries globally. They found that fewer heart attacks and strokes were witnessed among those people who eat Mediterranean foods. In fact, for every 100 people eating Mediterranean foods, there were three fewer strokes, heart attacks or deaths than seen among the 100 people who consumed the least amount of healthy foods. Lead researcher Prof. Ralph Stewart said: "The research suggests we should place more emphasis on encouraging people with heart disease to eat more healthy foods, and perhaps focus less on avoiding unhealthy foods."
The benefits of following a Mediterranean diet have long been advocated by the people who live there, but now new research suggests that it may be true as the region’s food and drink regimen may boost levels of beneficial fatty acids. Produced by bacteria when fibre from dietary plant matter is fermented in the intestine, these so-called “short-chain fatty acids” (SCFAs) are believed to afford a number of health benefits, including a lower risk of diabetes, heart disease and inflammatory disease, according to the research which was recently published in the journal Gut. “We provide here tangible evidence of the impact of a healthy diet and a Mediterranean dietary pattern,” wrote the team headed up by Danilo Ercolini, a professor of microbiology at the University of Naples in Italy. The study, which focused on the dietary habits of 153 Italian adults, found higher levels of SCFAs in individuals who were vegans, vegetarians and those who followed a Mediterranean diet, including plenty of fibre-rich fruits, vegetables and legumes. While levels of SCFAs can vary naturally according to a person’s age and gender, the findings of the study definitely suggest that a high-fibre diet also boosts them. “The take-away message from this study is to head to your local farmers market, let the produce fill your plate and only use animal-based proteins as condiments,” said Nancy Copperman, director of public health initiatives at North Shore-LIJ Health System in Great Neck, N.Y.