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Mediterranean Diet is Healthy Eating – A Good Option for Seniors Once again the Mediterranean diet is linked to health benefits - this time a 40% lower incidence of certain types of breast cancer in postmenopausal women. Following a Mediterranean style diet has been linked in earlier studies to various health benefits, such as lower rates of heart disease, lower rates of early death, and certain cancers.

A strength of this study is that so many (62,573) Dutch postmenopausal women were followed for a long time (about 20 years). Their diet was analyzed, especially how closely it matched the Mediterranean diet or not. Since alcohol is a risk factor for breast cancer, and dose-related - it was not included as part of the Mediterranean diet in this study. The study found that following a Mediterranean diet with higher consumption of nuts, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, appeared to be protective against certain breast cancers - it was associated with a reduced risk of estrogen receptor–negative (ER-) breast cancers. Unfortunately the researchers did not look at olive oil use in this study, because when it started in 1986, it was not typically used in the Netherlands. However, another good study found extra virgin olive oil to be a protective part (against breast cancer) of the Mediterranean diet. From Medscape:

Mediterranean Diet Cuts Some Breast Cancer Risk by 40%

Closely following a Mediterranean diet in everyday life may significantly reduce the risk for types of breast cancer that are associated with poorer prognoses in postmenopausal women, new research indicates. The traditional Mediterranean diet is characterized by a high intake of plant proteins, whole grains, fish, and monounsaturated fat, as well as moderate alcohol intake and low intake of refined grains, red meat, and sweets, say the study authors, led by Piet A. van den Brandt, PhD, an epidemiologist at the Maastricht University Medical Center in the Netherlands.

The new findings come from 62,573 Dutch women aged 55 to 69 years who provided information on dietary and lifestyle habits in 1986 and have since been followed for more than 20 years....The investigators found that women who most closely adhered to a Mediterranean diet had a 40% reduced risk for estrogen receptor–negative (ER-) breast cancer compared to women who adhered to the diet the least. They found a 39% reduced risk for progesterone receptor–negative (PR-)/ER- disease when comparing these same high- and low-adherence groups. Notably, in these results, the definition of the diet excluded alcohol intake, because the consumption of alcohol is a known risk factor for breast cancer....The authors also report that there were no significant associations with the diet and the risk of ER+ disease or total breast cancer.

Dr van den Brandt also explained that older women, who were the subjects of the new study, are more likely to derive benefit than younger women. "Generally speaking, postmenopausal breast cancer seems somewhat more influenced by environmental factors, such as lifestyle and diet, than premenopausal breast cancer, where genetic factors seem to play a more prominent role," he told Medscape Medical News.

Dr Toledo was the senior author of the only large, randomized trial to date in which postmenopausal women were assigned to a dietary intervention to promote their adherence to the traditional Mediterranean diet (JAMA Intern Med. 2015;175:1752–60). The study found that women with a higher adherence to the diet (supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil) showed a substantial reduction of their risk for breast cancer compared to a control group, as reported by Medscape Medical News.

Image result for Mediterranean dietMore support for health benefits of a Mediterranean diet. Results of a  study comparing brain health in groups of older people (in their 60s and 70s) suggest that a Mediterranean diet supplemented with olive oil or nuts may counter-act age-related cognitive decline (overall their cognitive test scores held steady). But the group assigned to the low-fat diet (the control group) worsened on cognitive tests. The Mediterranean diet emphasizes eating vegetables, fruits, legumes (beans), nuts, whole grains, seeds, olive oil, fish, moderate consumption of dairy products (mostly as cheese and yogurt), moderate wine consumption (optional), and low consumption of meat and meat products.From the Wall Street Journal:

Mediterranean Diet Boosts Brain Power, Clinical Study Finds

The Mediterranean diet, supplemented with a handful of nuts or a few tablespoons of olive oil a day, can counteract the effects of aging on the brain’s ability to function, a new clinical study suggests.

The study, published online Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine, was unusual in that it employed rigorous scientific practices to test the effect of the diet on health....Data gathered from previous observational studies suggested that adhering to a Mediterranean-type diet related to better cognitive function and a reduced risk of dementia, but observational studies have limitations, he said.

The Mediterranean diet, which has also shown benefits in cardiovascular health, emphasizes vegetables and fruits, unrefined grains and beans. It also includes fish and wine and minimal consumption of meat and full-fat dairy products.

The study involved 447 cognitively healthy participants, 55 to 80 years of age, who were divided into three groups. Two groups followed the Mediterranean diet and added either 30 grams of mixed nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds) a day, or five tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil a day. The third group, acting as a control, was advised to follow a low-fat diet. The subjects were followed for a median of just over four years.

The results showed that, compared with the control group, memory function remained stronger in the Mediterranean diet plus nuts group, while frontal (attention and executive function) and global cognition benefited in the Mediterranean diet plus olive oil group.

The diminished decline in cognitive function likely stems from the abundance of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents found in the supplemental foods, Dr. Ros said. Olive oil and nuts are rich in phenolic compounds that might counteract oxidative processes in the brain, leading to neurodegeneration, the study said. “If you can delay your age-related cognitive decline, you can process tasks with higher speed,” said Dr. Ros.

The research was a substudy of a larger investigation, designed by Dr. Ros, that found the Mediterranean diet, supplemented with additional olive oil or nuts, reduced the incidence of major cardiovascular events among people at high cardiovascular risk. That study, which involved nearly 7,500 participants and known by the acronym Predimed, was published in 2013.