New research has provided further evidence of the heart-friendly benefits of Mediterranean diet. Mediterranean diet plan is tied to lower levels of platelets and white blood cells - the two markers of inflammation. Inflammation has an association with greater risk of heart attack and stroke.
The Mediterranean diet, characterized by generous servings of foods such as greens, whole grains, fish, and olive oil, has long been hailed as a heart-healthy eating plan.
While the link between the diet and a reduction in inflammation has been established, the connection between the eating plan and levels of platelets and white blood cells, two specific inflammatory markers in the body, has remained unclear.
Specifically, high platelet counts are associated with both vascular disease and non-vascular conditions such as cancer, and a high white blood cell count is a predictor of ischemic vascular disease.
In order to understand whether a diet rich in healthy compounds might favorably influence platelet and white blood cell levels, investigators conducted an analysis of the eating habits of nearly 15,000 healthy Italian men and women ages 35 or older as part of the large epidemiological "Moli-sani" study, named for the inhabitants of the Molise region of Central and Southern Italy.
"We undertook this study to understand the correlation between consuming a Mediterranean diet and specific health markers, including platelet levels and white blood cell counts, which can more specifically explain the diet's benefits in reducing the long-term risk of cerebral and heart disease or other chronic conditions," lead study author Marialaura Bonaccio, PhD, of the Department of Epidemiology and Prevention at the IRCCS Istituto Neurologico Mediterraneo NEUROMED in Italy said.
All participants were evaluated at baseline and were considered to be healthy. Total platelet counts and white blood cell counts were measured and participants were grouped according to their levels (low, normal, or high), based on age- and gender-specific cut-offs.
Participants with high platelet levels were younger and had a greater incidence of high cholesterol and increased levels of common inflammation marker C-reactive protein when compared to those in the normal or low platelet categories.
Individuals in the high white blood cell category were mainly younger, male, and smokers, and had a higher body-mass index and higher levels of C-reactive protein and blood glucose than those in the other groups. They also showed higher prevalence of high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
"Because the study included healthy participants, the lower levels of platelets and white blood cells in those who were more strictly consuming a Mediterranean diet indicate that this eating plan could account for substantial changes within normal ranges of variability. This is an important finding that has implications for how these anti-inflammatory markers are tracked among the general population," Dr. Bonaccio added.
The study is published online in Blood, the Journal of the American Society of Hematology