Eating a Mediterranean diet and increasing exercise for only eight weeks still has measurable health benefits a year later, claims a new study
Researchers at Sheffield Hallam University and the University of Lincoln showed that a combination of a Mediterranean diet and exercise improves blood flow in the endothelial cells in the inner lining of the blood vessels, even 12 months after completing an eight-week programme. The study says improvements in endothelial cell function could reduce the risk of people developing cardiovascular disease.
The September 2014 study, published in the journal Microvascular Research, focused on healthy people aged between 51 to 59. Initially participants were split into two groups, one group ate a tradition Mediterranean diet consisting of vegetables, fruit, olive oil, tree nuts and fresh oily fish, and took up a moderate exercise programme. The other group only took up the exercise programme. Both groups were assessed over an eight-week period.
The results showed health improvements over the eight weeks, however one year later, those health improvements could still be seen, even though the lifestyle changes during the study were no longer being followed. The improvements were greater in the group who also took on the Mediterranean diet than in the exercise only group, showing that nutrition plays a strong role in long-term health.
Researchers believe the lasting health benefits observed after such a short intervention could be due to molecular changes associated with the Mediterranean diet.
Lead researcher Dr Markos Klonizakis, a Research Fellow at Sheffield Hallam University, says, “Preserving a patient’s endothelial function as they get older is thought to reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, so these findings are very encouraging.
“Although exercise on its own can beneficial, other lifestyle factors such as nutrition play an important role as well. Considering the scientific evidence already out there that a Mediterranean diet offers health benefits, it made sense to examine how such a diet, when combined with exercise, could affect the small veins of our body due to their important role in our overall well-being, in the longer-term.”
Co-researcher Geoff Middleton, Senior Lecturer in the School of Sport and Exercise Science at the University of Lincoln, adds, “With cardiovascular disease being on the rise, adding a huge burden to healthcare systems around the globe, it is important to find ways to reduce the number of cases. Even a medium-duration intervention with a Mediterranean diet and exercise regime can promise long-term health benefits, especially in people at high risk of developing cardiovascular disease.”