April 17, 2014
2 min read

Mediterranean diet linked to lower platelet, white blood cell counts

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Adherence to the Mediterranean diet was associated with decreased platelet and leukocyte counts among a large cohort of healthy men and women, according to results of a study conducted in 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 for cerebral and heart disease or other chronic conditions,” Marialaura Bonaccio, PhD, of the department of epidemiology and prevention at the IRCCS Istituto Neurologico Mediterraneo NEUROMED, said in a press release.

Marialaura Bonaccio, PhD 

Marialaura Bonaccio

Bonaccio and colleagues assessed whether the Mediterranean diet positively affected platelet and white blood cell counts in 14,586 Italian men and women aged 35 and older.

Adherence to the Mediterranean diet was determined based on results of two dietary scoring systems, the Mediterranean diet score or the Italian Mediterranean Index.

Researchers evaluated participants at baseline and all were considered healthy. The investigators measured participants’ levels of total platelet counts and white blood cell counts, then categorized individuals according to levels (low, normal, or high), as well as age- and sex-specific cut-offs.

Those with high platelet counts were more likely to be younger and have a greater incidence of high cholesterol and increased levels of C-reactive protein compared with those with normal or low platelet counts.

Participants in the high white blood cell group were more likely to be younger and male. They also were more likely to be smokers, and to have higher BMI, C-reactive protein and blood glucose levels compared with participants in the other categories.

Both platelet (P<.0001) and white blood cell counts (P=.008) were inversely associated with adherence to the Mediterranean diet. Patients with increased adherence to the Mediterranean diet were less likely to be in the highest platelet count group (OR=0.50; 95% CI, 0.31-0.80) and were more likely to be in the lowest white blood cell count group (OR=1.41; 95%CI, 1.07-1.86) compared with those with low adherence to the Mediterranean diet.

“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,” Bonaccio said. “This is an important finding that has implications for how these anti-inflammatory markers are tracked among the general population.”

The researchers also assessed specific components of the diet, including food antioxidant content and fiber intake. They found these components were partially associated with the diet and white blood cell count. However, they did not fully explain the association with platelet levels.