Consuming a diet rich in fish, produce, olive oil and whole grains could decrease two markers of inflammation, according to a new study.
The research, published in the journal Blood, shows an association between following a Mediterranean diet and having lower levels of platelets and white blood cells. High platelet levels are associated with vascular disease and cancer, while high white blood cell levels are associated with ischemic vascular disease.
The study included 14,586 healthy people in Italy who were ages 35 and older. Researchers evaluated the participants' platelet and white blood cell counts, and categorized them into low, normal or high groups based on these levels and age and gender cut-offs. Researchers also evaluated their abidance by the Mediterranean diet.
They found correlations between consuming a Mediterranean diet and lower levels of the platelets and white blood cells, as well as lower inflammation levels.
In order to see if specific components of the Mediterranean diet were responsible for the effects, they looked specifically at antioxidants and fiber in the foods consumed by the study participants. They did find that these two nutrients partially explained the Mediterranean diet-white blood cell count link, but not so much the Mediterranean diet-platelet link.
This finding suggests "that the Mediterranean diet as a whole, and not just a few specific ingredients, is likely responsible for the beneficial health outcomes among the healthy population and should be encouraged as part of healthy eating habits," study researcher Marialaura Bonaccio, Ph.D., of the Department of Epidemiology and Prevention at the IRCCS Istituto Neurologico Mediterraneo NEUROMED, said in a statement.