Mediterranean-Style Eating Continues to Shine

May 28, 2013 in Antioxidants, Food and the Brain, Mediterranean by Joyce Bunderson

May is National Mediterranean Diet Month. Since May 2013 is winding down in just a couple of days, I hope we do not limit our celebration/recognition of the Mediterranean-style of eating to the merry month of May; but hopefully, make it a practice every week. I hope you are all making progress on moving toward the principles of the Mediterranean-style of eating. I’ve been writing about this style of eating for many years now, and the evidence continues to grow for its benefits; in addition, I’ve not learned any negatives.

Researchers continue to identify some of the specific scientific secrets of the positive effects of the Mediterranean diet on health. As the researchers do study after study, it keeps adding evidence; at this point – a mountain of evidence that the Mediterranean diet can contribute to a lower risk of heart attacks, stroke, childhood asthma and even cancer.  Recently, new studies are beginning to show that the Mediterranean diet helps to keep aging brains sharp and has uncovered, on a cellular level, how the Mediterranean diet helps cancer cells die as scheduled, as do normal cells.

My advice is to not wait until all the mechanisms of action and biochemical components of the foods in the Mediterranean diet are discovered – get going on the process – move toward the Mediterranean-style of eating now. None of us will ever know the thousands of compounds of Mediterranean food or their biochemical mechanisms. But we can benefit while the research continues to uncover the secrets about how it works.

One of the latest studies was published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry and was conducted by a team of researchers at the University of Navarra in Spain. Essentially this study compared participants who were split into three diet groups. The first was a Mediterranean diet with extra-virgin olive oil; a second had the Mediterranean diet with mixed nuts, and the control group was assigned to a low-fat diet. After 61/2 years in the study, it was shown that the cognitive-function of those consuming either version of the Mediterranean diet scored significantly higher than the low-fat dieters. The researchers are hypothesizing that the high levels of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents in the foods is the factor of the Mediterranean diet that is protecting the brain from neurodegeneration. They don’t know it is the olive oil or the nuts, but the foods of the Mediterranean diet (which includes plenty of olive oil, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fish, with moderate amounts of dairy and meat) are polyphenols-rich foods – antioxidants with anti-inflammatory agents. We don’t need to wait until even more research is in before eating more olive oil, nuts and the other Mediterranean foods. Enjoy them now.

The second new study was led by Ohio State University researchers. They found a compound in certain plant-based foods, called apigenin. The interesting new understanding discovered is that apigenin keeps cancer cells from inhibiting their own death; that’s wonderful because that’s part of cancer’s deadly problem. It won’t die – it just grows and grows. There’s lots of apigenin in parsley, chamomile tea and celery, but it is found in many spices, herbs, fruits and vegetables as well. Andrea Doseff and Erich Grotewold, who co-led the research, said that apigenin could have a great value clinically as a potential cancer-prevention strategy. You can read an online early edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Dr. Grandma says, don’t run to the health food store looking for apigenin; just fill your plate with plant-based foods. Of course, continue to exercise, not smoke, get sufficient sleep, and avoid obesity.

The human body is marvelously complex. Thousands of systems and interactions are constantly going on to maintain our health. One day, we humans are going to know far more than we know now; but we truly don’t need to wait to utilize what’s known now – the evidence is already overwhelming. The Mediterranean-style of eating is an excellent way to eat. Be sure that the fridge and freezer are stocked with veggies, fruits and whole grains, so they will be available when you’re ready to prepare a meal. Then enjoy the delicious flavors of wholesome whole foods.