The “metabolic signature” of the Mediterranean diet that predicts cardiovascular disease

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ABC Health


Updated:05/16/2020 10: 00h


CIBEROBN researchers at the University of Navarra (Miguel Ángel Martínez-González) and the Rovira i Virgili University (Jordi Salas-Salvadó), in collaboration with the Harvard University and the Broad Institute(Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT), have identified for the first time a series of molecules objectively measured in blood, which come to be like the“Metabolomic signature or trace” of adherence to the Mediterranean diet. This work has just been published in the magazine of the European Society of Cardiology (European Heart Journal).

Combination of 67 molecules

This molecular signature was able to predict the future appearance of myocardial infarction and stroke in very long-term follow-ups of thousands of patients. In fact, the research team determined hundreds of small molecules in the blood. The combination of 67 of these molecules identified those who followed the Mediterranean diet best in the large Spanish PREDIMED trial.

The findings were replicated both internally and externally in about 7,000 independent participants, belonging to leading American studies (Nurses and Health Professionals Study), which are setting the standard for healthy nutrition worldwide.

This objective “signature” better predicted cardiovascular risks than the participants’ self-reported subjective data on their eating habits.

In both the Spanish and the American samples, the footprint of the Mediterranean diet demonstrated protection against myocardial or cerebral infarctions, regardless of other risk factors. This “firm” objective predicted cardiovascular risks better than subjective data self-reported by participants on their eating habits.

The important innovation of the study consisted in identifying this “signature” or “metabolic footprint” of the Mediterranean diet. For this identification, algorithms of artificial intelligence that identified these 67 molecules, which include both metabolite markers of typical Mediterranean food intake, as well as the effects of this Mediterranean diet on the body.

Olive oil is the king of the Mediterranean diet
Olive oil is the king of the Mediterranean diet – Archive

This “footprint or signature” of metabolites it is, therefore, a more objective indicator of compliance with the Mediterranean diet compared to what can be determined by means of eating habits questionnaires.

This is the first time that the “signature” of metabolites related to adherence has been determined to a dietary pattern like the Mediterranean. This opens great doors when glimpsing possible metabolic pathways that explain the observed benefits of the Mediterranean diet on health and disease in many studies.

Furthermore, the identified metabolomic footprint could be corroborated as a mediator of the effect through genetic studies. These findings allow a more objective and understandable evaluation of metabolic adherence and response to diet. The knowledge acquired may be useful in the future to better individualize the ideal diet for the prevention of cardiovascular disease.



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