The main theme of this week are the multiple benefits associated with following a Mediterranean Diet (Med Diet), and its protective effects on various diseases, with a special focus on cardiovascular health. The Med Diet’s distinctive characteristic from other healthy dietary patterns is no doubt its liberal use of olive oil, which represents its main culinary fat.
With the expansion of nutrigenomics in the scientific field, more and more effects of diet on our genes are coming to light. In this sense, a scientific review focusing on how the MedDiet impacts on gene expression, indicates that the Med diet can counteract the genetic predisposition to hypertriglyceridemia, hypercholesterolaemia, high fasting blood glucose levels and stroke. Current genetic research will help identify the individuals that could benefit more from a particular diet, as people’s responses may vary according to their genotype.
As mentioned previously, olive oil is the main source of fat added to the Med Diet. Evidence has shown that Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is a functional food with a wide array of healthy components, including monounsaturated fatty acids and phenolic compounds, which exert benefits on cardiovascular health thanks to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities. Moreover, it has been demonstrated to contribute to cardiovascular and metabolic health, by potentially modulating our gut microbiota.
A very interesting experimental study carried out on mice, was conducted to compare the effects of EVOO vs refined oils (ROO) on the intestinal microbiota. Its results show variations in gut microbiota between the two groups, and that that different prevalence of bacterial populations correlate in multiple regression models with ulterior physiological values related to cardiovascular health, including systolic blood pressure. According to the authors, some of these correlations can be explained by the type of fat that is present in the diet, while in other cases, it can be better understood if the antimicrobial role of the virgin olive oil polyphenols is considered.
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