Monthly Archives: August 2019

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil and Nuts for Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease

In our third and final post in recognition of National Olive Oil Month, today’s article will review research on primary prevention of cardiovascular disease using a Mediterranean-style diet.

The Mediterranean Diet loosely defined is inspired by the eating habits of those countries who surround the Mediterranean Sea, including Spain, Italy and Greece. This diet emphasizes high consumption of fruits and vegetables, as well as olive oil. There is more emphasis on fresh fish and less emphasis on red meats. Moderate wine consumption is also considered to be a component.

A group of researchers affiliated with the PREDIMED Study in Spain designed a study to examine the effects of a Mediterranean-style diet on the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease in a group considered to be at high cardiovascular risk.

Enrollees did not have a history of cardiovascular disease at the time of enrollment. The enrollees did have either type 2 diabetes, or at least 3 of the major risk factors of family history of premature coronary heart disease, high LDL, hypertension, low HDL, obese or overweight, or smoking.

Participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups- a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil, a second group which followed a Mediterranean diet supplemented by nuts, or a third control group which was instructed to follow a low fat diet. Those in the extra-virgin oil group were instructed to consume at least four tablespoons of oil each day. Those in the nut-supplemented group received 30 grams of mixed nuts each day (almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts). Participants adherence to each assigned diet was assessed by a food questionnaire. Subjects were followed on average for nearly 5 years. Primary end point was death from cardiovascular causes, heart attack, or stroke.

The researchers discovered that the Mediterranean-style diet, when either supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts, was associated with a lower risk of major cardiovascular events over a period of 5 years, then was the low-fat control diet. In addition, among those who more closely adhered to the Mediterranean diet the cardiovascular benefit was greater.

Important points to consider regarding this study include- enrolled high risk subjects without a history of cardiovascular disease, and examined primary (not secondary) prevention. Also, these diets were not calorie restricted. Primary prevention is especially important, as that is what a lot of folks are concerned about.

This study leads to the veritable mountain of research showing that a proper diet can help or in this case prevent significant health issues. Perhaps give this some thought with the next trip to the grocery store or fast-food drive through window.

“Knowledge is the food of the soul.”–  Plato

(Source- New England Journal of Medicine 2018; 378)

This blog is a review of published medical and scientific literature, and should only be used for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical or health advice, nor does it create a physician-patient relationship with anyone. Discuss any health concerns with your personal physician.

 

 

Olive Oil Decreases Blood Pressure in Young Women

August is designated as National Olive Oil Month, and today’s post is the second in recognition of this healthy food. Today we examine the effect of a polyphenol-rich olive oil on blood pressure and the markers of inflammation in young women.

A group of researchers from Spain performed a double blind, randomized dietary intervention trial, to examine the effects of a polyphenol-rich olive oil diet on blood pressure, as well as markers of endothelial function and oxidative stress. The subject group was young women (average age 26 years) who had recently been diagnosed with either high-normal blood pressure, or Stage 1 hypertension.

The subjects began with a four month run-in period, during which a set Mediterranean-style diet was provided to all the participants to follow. After the four month run-in, the women were randomized to either a polyphenol-rich olive oil diet, or a polyphenol-poor olive oil diet, which was then followed for two months. After two months there was a 4 week wash out period, after which the groups were reversed and followed for an additional two months. While in the polyphenol-rich group, participants consumed about 30 mg/day of polyphenols from olive oil. 24 women completed the study.

The researchers discovered that the polyphenol-rich diet let to a significant decrease in both systolic (7.91 mm Hg) and diastolic (6.65 mm Hg) blood pressures. In addition, markers of oxidative stress (ADMA, ox-LDL) and inflammation (CRP) were significantly reduced.

The drop in blood pressure seen with the polyphenol-rich diet is profound, in that it is comparable to the drops in blood pressure one might see with some of the first line anti-hypertensive medications.

This study is important in that it studies a dietary intervention in women, a group that is often underrepresented in medical research. Also, this was a group with high-normal or the earliest stages of hypertension, not a group with more significant disease. It’s possible that in a population with much worse hypertension there may be even more profound improvement in blood pressure.

Incorporating olive oil into your daily diet appears to be a low-risk way to help lower blood pressure and improve vascular health.

“People with high blood pressure, diabetes- those are conditions brought about by lifestyle. If you change the life style, the conditions will leave.”–  Dick Gregory

(Source- American Journal of Hypertension, Volume 25 Number 12, December 2012)

This blog is a review of published and scientific literature, and should only be used for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical or health advice, nor does it create a physician-patient relationship with anyone.

 

Olive Oil May Help Prevent Type 2 Diabetes

August is designated National Olive Oil Month, and so several posts this month will cover some of the health benefits of olive oil. Today’s post will discuss research on the potential role for olive oil in prevention of Type 2 diabetes (T2D). 

Olives are a traditional tree crop of the Mediterranean Basin. The largest producer of olive oil by far is Spain, with about 50% of the world’s production, followed by Greece, Italy and Turkey. In the U.S. olive oil is produced in California, Hawaii, Texas, Georgia, and Oregon. Extra Virgin Olive OIl is of the highest quality, and is processed simply by mechanical press, without any chemical processing. This is thought to result in the health benefits of olive oil.

A research group from Austria, Germany, and Spain performed a meta-analysis of existing studies, to examine the role of olive oil in type 2 diabetes mellitus. They included four cohort studies with over 183,000 subjects, and 29 random controlled trials with nearly 4000 subjects. The majority of these studies were either completed in Europe or the United States. The study duration of the cohort studies varied between 6 and 22 years, while the length for the random controlled studies varied between 2 weeks and 4 years.

After analyzing the various studies the researchers found that the use of olive oil was inversely associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus. The risk of T2D decreased by 13% as the intake of olive oil increased, up to 15-20 grams per day. There was no apparent benefit in increasing intake above the 15-20 grams/day amount.

In addition, those in the olive oil intervention groups were found to have lower fasting glucose levels, and significantly reduced HbA1c levels.

Incorporating olive oil into your diet appears to be a simple way to lower one’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and would be easy to implement.

“The olive tree is surely the richest gift of heaven. I can scarcely expect bread.”- Thomas Jefferson

(Source- Nutrition and Diabetes (2017))

This blog is a review of published medical and scientific literature, and should only be used for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical or health advice, nor does it create a physician-patient relationship with anyone. Discuss any health concerns with your personal physician.

Sugary Drinks Increase Risk of Cancer

In a study published three weeks ago, researchers from France looked at the relationship between the consumption of sugary drinks and the risk of cancer.

The average American consumes about 45 gallons of soda each year. An average 12 ounce can of soda contains upwards of 40 grams of total sugar, or about nine teaspoons of sugar.

A population-based prospective cohort study was completed with over 100,000 subjects from the French NutriNet-Sante study. Participants were 18 years of age and older, with a predominance of women (79%) to men (21%). Mean age at baseline was 42 years.

The sugary drink group consisted of energy drinks, fruit drinks, sodas, sports drinks, 100% juice drinks, among others. Consumption of sugary beverages was assessed by 24 hour dietary records. Association of beverage intake and risk of overall, breast, colorectal, and prostate cancer was assessed.

The researchers found that there was a positive association between the amount of sugary drink intake, and risk of overall cancer and breast cancer. Also, when looking specifically at 100% fruit juices these were also positively associated with risk of overall cancer.

Interestingly, the researchers did not find an association between artificially sweetened beverage consumption and the risk of cancer.

The researchers suggest several possible mechanisms by which sugary drinks may increase cancers risks. These include obesity, increased visceral fat, higher glycemic index, and increased pro-inflammatory markers.

This is a solid study, which included nearly 80,000 women. This study demonstrates how a simple dietary intervention, in this case limiting sugary beverages including 100% juices, may potentially have a meaningful impact on our health. Perhaps next time you are reaching for a soda, grab a glass of water instead.

“I can remember a reporter asking me for a quote, and I didn’t know what a quote was. I thought it was some kind of soft drink.” –  Joe DiMaggio

(Source- BMJ 2019; 365:12408)

This blog is a review of published medical and scientific literature, and should only be used for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical or health advice, nor does it create a physician-patient relationship with anyone. Discuss any health concerns with your personal physician.