Mediterranean diet components are linked to greater endothelial function and lower inflammation in a pilot study of ethnically diverse women.
Nutr Res. 2020 Jan 13 ;75:77-84. Epub 2020 Jan 13. PMID: 32045786
The Mediterranean Diet, characterized by higher intakes of plant foods including plant proteins, monounsaturated fat, fish, and lower consumption of animal products and saturated fat, has long been associated with reduced cardiovascular risk, but the molecular mechanisms underlying these associations have not been fully elucidated. We conducted a pilot study to evaluate associations of an Alternate Mediterranean Diet Score, reflective of adherence to this diet pattern and adapted for US populations, and its components, with markers of endothelial inflammation directly measured in endothelial cells harvested from a diverse sample of women (n = 25, mean ± SD age 33 ± 10.5y, 68% racial/ethnic minorities). Cardiovascular risk markers including nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB)-a marker of inflammation, as well as oxidative stress and endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) gene expression-markers of endothelial function, wereevaluated in harvested endothelial cells. We hypothesized that the Mediterranean diet pattern would be associated with lower inflammation and oxidative stress and higher eNOS expression in endothelial cells. Results showed that lower oxidative stress was associated with higher plant-based protein (Exp(β) = 0.96; P = .007), overall protein (Exp(β) = 0.99; P = .007), and red and processed meat intake (Exp(β) = 0.93; P = .012). Lower NF-κB was associated with higher legume (Exp(β) = 0.79; P = .045) intake, and higher eNOS was associated with higher red and processed meat intake (Exp(β) = 1.13; P = .005). Our findings suggest potential novel mechanisms through which certain Mediterranean dietary components may influence pre-clinical vascular alterations that may be associated with cardiovascular risk through lower endothelial oxidative stress, lower inflammation, and greater endothelial functioning. These findings warrant confirmation, prospectively in a larger sample.