Countries around the Mediterranean had Lower Levels Heart Disease, Stroke and Dementia
In 1958 it was noted that people living around the Mediterranean in countries like Greece and Italy had lower rates of heart disease, stroke and dementia than other countries. Researchers began investigating what was different in their lifestyles. They came up with their diet which consisted of fish with very little meat, lots of vegetables, legumes, yogurt and cheeses, whole grains, nuts, fruit and extra virgin olive oil as their only dietary fat. They did not drink alcoholic beverages except for some wine which was only drunk during meals. Thus came about the Mediterranean Diet.
Fish Eaters had Larger Brains than Meat Eaters
Studies have shown the Mediterranean Diet is healthy for the brain. In 2015 there was a study that showed that people living off of the Mediterranean Diet and who ate more fish had larger brains than people who ate diets with more meat. The study focused on measuring brain volume by MRI on 674 seniors without dementia. In other words there was less shrinking of the brains of the seniors who followed a Mediterranean Diet and this gave them five years less of aging.
Six Studies Show Mediterranean Diet Lowers Risk for Age Related Diseases
Recently six studies were published in the Journals of Gerontology, March, 2018, that show the Mediterranean Diet can lower the risk for all kinds of age related diseases :
- Atrial Fibrillation – an abnormal rhythm that can lead to heart failure
- Breast Cancer
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Alzheimer’s Disease
One of the reviews by Drs. Tosti, Bertozzi and Fontana summarizes the five adaptive benefits of the Mediterranean diet:
- Lowers lipids
- Protects against stress from oxidation, is anti-inflammatory and protects against blood clots
- Regulates growth and hormone factors that can lead to cancer
- Restricts amino acid (protein) from becoming too high
- Metabolites formed in the gut influence metabolic health
Healthy Fats Rather than Low Fat
The first article cites a previous study that compared the Mediterranean Diet with a low-fat diet and showed that the Mediterranean Diet lowered the risk for heart disease and death from heart disease by 30% as compared to a low-fat diet (2013, the Prevención con Dieta Mediterráne -PREDIMED trial).
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Extra virgin olive oil, that is the sole fat and oil used in the Mediterranean Diet, is a monounsaturated fat that does not lead to weight gain. Previous studies have verified that extra virgin olive oil protects the blood vessels of the heart and brain.
Extra Virgin Olive vs. Canola Oil
Extra Virgin Olive Oil Improved Alzheimer’s in Mice while Canola Oil Increased Alzheimer’s in Mice
A recent study showed that extra virgin olive oil improved the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease in mice, while a similar study showed that canola oil increased Alzheimer’s symptoms in mice, including the development of more amyloid plaques and also led to weight gain. Canola (Canadian Oil) is obtained from the rapeseed plant and while cheaper than extra virgin olive oil, does not share the healing heart and brain protective qualities of extra virgin olive oil.
All of the researchers agree that even more research is needed, mainly because there are a lot of variations in the Mediterranean Diet. Research is needed to show just which foods are the most beneficial and whether certain food combinations are more healthy. However, all the researchers agree that a diet that is mostly plant-based is the best one to slow down aging and prevent the onset of aging related diseases. Some researchers believe that the extra virgin olive oil is the main anti-aging component.