Brief Mediterranean Diet Intervention May Have Long Term Benefits

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr. Markos Klonizakis
Centre for Sports and Exercise Science
Sheffield Hallam University, UK

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Klonizakis: It is widely accepted that populations in the Eastern Mediterranean sea have historical lower rates of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. This has been attributed to a great extent, at following a diet based on dishes and ingredients, which are common in this region and are collectively known as “Mediterranean diet”.  Taking into consideration that cardiovascular disease is on the rise, particularly in the Western world, it did make sense to see if such a diet can be adapted for a population that has a largely different culinary tradition and what the results would be if this is combined with exercise of moderate-intensity. We therefore, designed and implemented an 8-week intervention, aiming at older, healthy but previously untrained people, comparing an exercise-only group vs one where exercise was combined with Mediterranean diet. Our work has shown that benefits of this intervention are still evident in the vascular function (measured by the function of the inner vein lining, called the endothelium) and the cardiopulmonary fitness, one year after the end of the intervention.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Klonizakis: It would be clearly a mistake to think that following 8 weeks of a combined Mediterranean diet and exercise intervention would suffice for years to come. Having said that however, our study shows that such an intervention does offer longer –term benefits to our endothelium and cardiopulmonary fitness, which can be sustained with some effort. Taking into consideration the importance of our endothelium in our overall wellbeing, our study provides some comfort at least in the sense that it shows that moderation in implementing an adapted Mediterranean diet and exercise, will support a healthier, later life. This should encourage people to lead a healthier lifestyle, based on the Mediterranean diet and regular – but not necessary intensive – bouts of exercise.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Klonizakis: As a next step it would be necessary to look into attributing specific Mediterranean Diet components to our findings – this would allow scientists and clinicians to develop more specific lifestyle interventions, which would also be easier to implement.  This is important for a number of reasons: firstly, certain Mediterranean diet ingredients are easier to incorporate than others to non-Mediterranean / Western-type diets. Also, some ingredients are easier to find or simply less expensive than others.

It would be also interesting to implement similar interventions in patient populations and not just older-but-healthy, sedentary participants. The possibilities are endless – what is missing is the adequate funding.

Citation:

Long-term effects of an exercise and Mediterranean diet intervention in the vascular function of an older, healthy population
Klonizakis M, Alkhatib A, Middleton G

Microvasc Res. 2014 Sep;95:103-7. doi: 10.1016/j.mvr.2014.07.015.
Epub 2014 Aug 7.