Oct 8, 2015

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Olive Oil-Enriched Diet During Pregnancy Can Benefit the Unborn Through Adulthood

A recent study has shown that a diet rich in olive oil has a positive effect on the development of the unborn child and may also affect her adult life.

“During the gestation, there is a great incorporation of fatty acids into the fetal brain, in order to maintain the adequate development,” explained one of the authors of the study, Prof. Marilise Escobar Burger. “Since olive oil is consumed in the Mediterranean diet with great results, the idea was that the olive oil, with a favorable fatty acids profile, could be good as well in the prenatal period.”

The joint study was conducted by researchers from the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology of the Federal University of Santa Maria (UFSM) and from the Department of Pharmacological and Biomolecular Sciences of the University of Milan (DiSFeB).

Olive oil during perinatal period seems to be able to prevent oxidative damage and improve the expression of protective neurotrophins in the adult brain – Camila Simonetti Pase, Federal University of Santa Maria

The researchers evaluated the influence of different diets on rodent pups: a group of female rats received a diet enriched with 20 percent olive oil (OOED) and one group was subjected to a standard diet (CD). They monitored their pups at various times — pregnancy, lactation, and after weaning until the pups’ adulthood — and measured oxidative and molecular brain parameters and weight during their lives, achieving very positive results for levels of prefrontal cortex and hippocampus.

At adulthood, animals in the group OOED showed less brain lipid peroxidation and higher levels of glutathione sulfhydryl groups in the prefrontal cortex and lower brain levels of reactive species in the hippocampus.

Interestingly, the group of animals whose diet was changed from a CD to OOED 21 days after birth showed a greater weight than the group that remained the same original diet (OOED) to adulthood.

It was also interesting that the consumption of OOED during pregnancy and lactation significantly increased the prefrontal cortex expression of trophic molecules that play an important role in neuronal plasticity and cognitive function.

“The new fact about this study is that olive oil diet during perinatal period seems to be able to prevent oxidative damage and improve the expression of protective neurotrophins in the adult brain,” researcher Camila Simonetti Pase (UFSM) explained. “The neurotrophins evaluated in our work (BDNF and FGF-2),” added Verônica Tironi Dias, are related to cellular survival, plasticity and protection from neurodegenerative and psychiatric diseases.”

The idea of the study and the joint collaboration started when Dr. Angélica Martelli Teixeira, who used to work with fatty acids in Brazil, got in touch with the Italian researchers of the University of Milan during an exchange program in Italy for her PhD.

Marco Andrea Riva works in a laboratory dedicated to psychiatric disorders and factors that may affect the risk of developing them in the pre- and perinatal period. “There is a clear evidence that exposure to stress makes the individual more vulnerable and more susceptible to develop diseases, such as depression or schizophrenia, later in life especially if they are exposed to stressful events during early life. Different factors can affect brain structure and function, not only those related to the environment but also nutritional elements,” he explained.

The study adds to a body of research that show how diets rich or poor in fats or in sugar may have effects on the mechanisms of brain function and functional recovery after traumatic injuries.

“This research supports the evidence that a diet rich in monounsaturated fats, already during the prenatal period, make the brain more plastic, more dynamic and therefore, probably, more resistant to any negative environmental stresses in adult life,” Prof. Riva concluded.

The results open a line of pioneering research on feeding and adjuvant therapeutic strategies and on the potential of healthy eating habits to prevent neonatal conditions and their influence on adult life.


Federal University of Santa Maria (UFSM) – University of Milan

Mediterranean Diet with Extra Virgin Olive Oil Lowers Risk of Breast Cancer.

The Mediterranean diet with extra virgin olive oil is beneficial in lowering risk of breast cancer, according to findings of a new study published in the JAMA Internal Medicine.

The results, based on the long-term follow-up of 4,282 women, aged 60 to 80 years enrolled in the PREDIMED trail, add to the benefits of consuming extra virgin olive oil and the Mediterranean diet. The PREDIMED trial, conducted in Spain from 2003 to 2009, was designed to test the benefit of supplementing Mediterranean diet with extra virgin olive oil or mixed nuts in preventing cardiovascular disease.

In the present study, investigators evaluated the effects of supplementing the Mediterranean diet with either EVOO or mixed nuts on risk of breast cancer.

The subjects enrolled in the study were randomly assigned to one of the three intervention groups: the Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra virgin olive oil; the Mediterranean diet supplemented with mixed nuts; or the control Mediterranean diet.

To ensure adherence to the intervention diets, subjects on the Mediterranean diet with extra virgin olive oil were provided with 1 liter of EVOO/week, while those in the mixed nut group were provided with 30 grams of walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds per day. Participants in the control diet group were provided dietary training to reduce dietary fat intake.

Results of the study showed that subjects on the EVOO supplemented Mediterranean diet had a 62 percent lower risk of developing malignant breast cancer than subjects on the control diet. Subjects who consumed higher amounts of EVOO lowered their risk of malignant breast cancer even more.

The positive effect of extra virgin olive oil could be due to the presence of polyphenols such as oleuropein, oleocanthal, hydroxytyrosol and lignans in EVOO that have been identified as anticarcinogenic agents. These polyphenols exhibit anti- proliferative action on the expression of human oncogenes, prevent oxidative damage to DNA in mammary epithelial cells, inhibit tumor growth and cause apoptosis of breast cancer cells in laboratory experiments.

Although statistically nonsignificant, subjects on the Mediterranean diet supplemented with nuts also had a lower risk of malignant breast cancer compared to the control group. However, when results of both intervention diet groups were combined, risk of malignant breast cancer was reduced by 51 percent. Only 35 cases of malignant breast cancer were identified during the course of the randomized trial.

While these results are encouraging, the authors acknowledge that the study has limitations, one of which is that these results are a secondary analysis of the PREDIMED trial that was designed to study effect of EVOO and mixed nuts intervention of the Mediterranean diet on prevention of cardiovascular risk.

Another limitation is that the study was conducted on women who habitually consumed the Mediterranean diet, which is known to be protective against breast cancer due to the high intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish and olive oil. Researchers of the paper recommend more studies to confirm these findings.


Unsaturated Fats and Whole Grain Carbohydrates Associated with Lower CHD Risk.

A recent study provides a simple and effective way of reducing the risk of coronary heart disease – replace saturated fats such as those found in red meat and dairy products with high-quality carbohydrates and unsaturated fats such as olive oil, other vegetable oils, nuts and seeds.

Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health reached this conclusion based on analysis of data from two large studies in the US that spanned a period of 24 to 30 years.

Although saturated fats increase the risk of heart disease, recent studies failed to find any association between intake of saturated fats and risk of coronary heart disease. Such results created a controversy and led to the TIME magazine “Eat Butter.”

Replacing saturated fats and refined carbohydrates with unsaturated fats such as olive oil and whole grain carbohydrates may help lower risk of heart disease. Harvard School of Public Health.

But the real reason, according to the authors of the present study, could very well be that the type of fat and carbohydrates used to replace the saturated fats affects the risk of coronary heart disease differently.

In an attempt to address this question, the present study, the first of its kind, set out to compare the risk of heart disease with intake of saturated fat, unsaturated fats and different types of carbohydrates.

The investigation included 84,628 healthy women enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study and 42,908 healthy men enrolled in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, who had no history of heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

Food frequency questionnaires, completed at the start of the study and every 2 to 4 years thereafter by the subjects provided dietary, medical and lifestyle information for the duration of the study. There were 7,667 cases of coronary heart disease over the course of the study.

The results of the study, reported on September 28, 2015 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, found that when subjects reduced their intake of saturated fats, they replaced calories from saturated fats with calories from low-quality carbohydrate foods such as white bread, rice or potatoes rather than whole grain carbohydrates or unsaturated fats.

The premise that removal of saturated fats from the diet would suffice in lowering risk of coronary heart disease was proved wrong when analysis of data revealed that risk of heart disease was higher when consumption of refined carbohydrates and added sugars was increased. Refined carbohydrates appear to be as unhealthy for the heart as saturated fats, according to the paper.

On the other hand, higher intake of whole grain carbohydrates was associated with a lower risk of heart disease. Similarly, higher intakes of polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats were also associated with a lower risk of heart disease.

The authors estimated that replacing five percent of the energy from saturated fats with five percent energy from polyunsaturated fats lowered heart disease risk by 25 percent. Likewise, replacing five percent of the energy from saturated fats with a similar amount of energy from monounsaturated fats reduced CHD risk by 15 percent and by nine percent when replaced with energy from whole grain carbohydrates.

According to the study, replacing saturated fats with refined carbohydrates is not beneficial in preventing heart disease.

Findings of this large and long-term study indicate that replacing saturated fats and refined carbohydrates that are part of the Western diet with unsaturated fats such as olive oil and whole grain carbohydrates typical of the Mediterranean diet may help lower risk of heart disease.

TIME magazine “Eat Butter.”