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and Reviews

Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil and obesity, metabolic syndrome and diabetes mellitus.

Current Pharmaceutical Design 2011; 17(8): 769-77.

Pérez-Martínez P, García-Ríos A, Delgado-Lista J, et al.

Lipid and Atherosclerosis Unit, IMIBIC/Reina Sofia University Hospital/University of Cordoba, CIBER Fisiopatologia Obesidad y Nutricion, Instituto de Salud Carlos III, Spain.

After decades of epidemiological, clinical and experimental research, it has become clear that consumption of Mediterranean dietary patterns rich in olive oil has a profound influence on health outcomes, including obesity, metabolic syndrome (MetS) and diabetes mellitus. Traditionally, many beneficial properties associated with this oil have been ascribed to its high oleic acid content. Olive oil, however, is a functional food that, besides having high-monounsaturated (MUFA) content, contains other minor components with biological properties. In this line, phenolic compounds have shown antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, prevent lipoperoxidation, induce favorable changes of lipid profile, improve endothelial function, and disclose antithrombotic properties. Research into the pharmacological properties of the minor components of olive oil is very active and could lead to the formulation of functional food and nutraceuticals. Although more data are mandatory the Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil does not contribute to obesity and appears to be a useful tool in the lifestyle management of the MetS. Moreover there is good scientific support for MUFA diets, especially those based on olive oil, as an alternative approach to low-fat diets for the medical nutritional therapy in diabetes. The objective of this review is to present evidence illustrating the relationship between Mediterranean diet, olive oil and metabolic diseases, including obesity, MetS and diabetes mellitus and to discuss potential mechanisms by which this food can help in disease prevention and treatment.

Study affirms 'Mediterranean diet' improves heart health

November 17, 2011

In a report prepared for the American Heart Association's scientific sessions in Orlando next week, the Johns Hopkins investigators say swapping out certain foods can improve heart health in those at risk for cardiovascular disease, even if the dietary changes aren't coupled with weight loss.

"The introduction of the right kind of fat into a healthy diet is another tool to reduce the risk of future heart disease," says Meghana Gadgil, M.D., M.P.H., a postdoctoral fellow in the Division of General Internal Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine who will be presenting the research.

Gadgil and her colleagues analyzed data from the OmniHeart Trial, which studied the cardiovascular effects of three different balanced diets on 164 people with mild hypertension but no diabetes. The researchers compared the body's ability to regulate blood sugar and maintain healthy insulin levels while on a carbohydrate-rich diet, a protein-rich diet and a diet rich in unsaturated fats. People whose bodies fail to effectively use insulin usually develop type 2 diabetes, which is a major risk factor for heart disease.

The researchers found that a generally balanced diet higher in unsaturated fats such as those in avocados, olive oil and nuts improves insulin use significantly more than a diet high in carbohydrates, particularly such refined carbs as white bread and pasta. The preferred diet is very similar to the Mediterranean diet, inspired by the foods of southern Italy and Greece and emphasizing healthy fats, fruits and vegetables.

Each participant in the study was fed each of the three diets for six weeks in a row, with two to four weeks off in between. Blood samples were collected after fasting periods in weeks four and six of each diet, and used to monitor insulin and glucose levels. The study was designed to keep participants at their starting weights. "A lot of studies have looked at how the body becomes better at using insulin when you lose weight," Gadgil says. "We kept the weight stable so we could isolate the effects of the macronutrients. What we found is that you can begin to see a beneficial impact on heart health even before weight loss."