Mediterranean Diet May Counter Genetic Risk of Stroke
People who consumed plenty of nuts or olive oil fared better in study
By Randy Dotinga
TUESDAY, Aug. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Mediterranean diets heavy in two foods -- olive oil and nuts -- are linked to a lower rate of strokes in older people whose genetic makeup boosts their risk of diabetes, according to a new study.
The research suggests but doesn't conclusively prove that the diet lowers or even eliminates the extra risk of stroke, perhaps by lowering the rate of diabetes. Still, "our work has placed a solid step on the ladder of personalized nutrition and successful health," said study co-author Jose Ordovas, director of the nutrition and genomics laboratory at Tufts University's USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging.
The so-called Mediterranean diet is thought to help citizens of Greece, Spain and southern Italy lower their rates of heart disease and cancer. While the diet has received tremendous attention in recent years, there's no firm definition of what it is because foods vary from region to region.
The Mediterranean diet is generally defined, however, as emphasizing olive oil, nuts, fresh produce and fish along with whole grains, seeds and healthier kinds of fat. There's less focus on dairy products and meat, and -- despite the Italian connection -- not much consumption of pasta.
In the new study, researchers randomly assigned more than 7,000 people aged 55 to 80 in Spain to eat a low-fat diet, or a Mediterranean diet high in nuts, or a Mediterranean diet high in extra-virgin olive oil. The researchers then followed the participants for an average of five years through 2010.
Some of the participants had a genetic trait in common: a mutation in a gene that boosts the risk of type 2 diabetes by as much as 50 percent compared to others with another form of the gene. Ordovas said that about 30 percent of whites have the riskiest form of the mutation.
Those with the mutation who went on the low-fat diet were nearly three times more likely than others to have a stroke, the investigators found. But those who went on the Mediterranean diets had about an equal level of risk as those without the genetic mutation.