Area 2

Cardiovascular risk, nutrition and aging

Team leader

Strategic objectives

Our general aim is to gain in-depth knowledge of the nutritional determinants of arterial hypertension, dyslipidemia, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and age-related cognitive decline. The group’s main research lines are:

  1. Dietary factors, in particular the Mediterranean diet and its components, as determinants of healthy aging and reduced risk of chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cognitive impairment and dementia, and their intermediate biomarkers
  2. Genetic characterization of hypertension and dyslipidemia.
  3. Vascular imaging for detection of preclinical atherosclerosis.
  4. Intestinal absorption and synthesis of cholesterol.
  5. Fatty acid profiles in blood cell membranes and their associations with diet and cardiovascular risk phenotypes.
  6. Health effects of moderate consumption of wine and beer.
  7. The PREDIMED-PLUS study, a large, 6-year randomized trial of lifestyle intervention for primary cardiovascular prevention through weight loss with Mediterranean diet and physical activity in subjects with metabolic syndrome, launched in 2013.

Main lines of research

  1. Assessment of carotid artery IMT and plaque by sonography in: a) subjects at high cardiovascular risk, b) pre-diabetes; c) healthy older persons. Associations with conventional and emergent risk factors and dietary biomarkers, including blood unsaturated fatty acids and phytosterols. Influence of diet on carotid atheroma plaque vulnerability evaluated by sequential MRI.
  2. Circadian patterns, arterial pressure variability and target organ damage. Sensitivity to salt, inflammation, and atrial fibrillation in hypertension.
  3. Study of candidate genes for: a) autosomal dominant hypercholesterolemia without known genetic defects, b) risk of stroke in hypertension, c) risk of heart failure in hypertensive patients.
  4. Age-associated cognitive impairment in participants in the PREDIMED study after 5 years of intervention with Mediterranean diets or a control diet.
  5. Effect of hypercholesterolemia of different origin and severity on cognitive function as assessed by neuropsychological tests and functional brain MRI.
  6. Cholesterol absorption and synthesis evaluated by determination of plasma non-cholesterol sterol levels using gas chromatography: measurement, genetic conditioning factors, influence on cardiovascular risk, and relationship with lipid response to phytosterols, ezetimibe and statins.
  7. Influence of plant and marine omega-3 fatty acids on progression of carotid atherosclerosis by B-mode ultrasound and carotid plaque vulnerability by MRI in subjects at high vascular risk; and on 6-months post-ischemic myocardial recovery by MRI-assessed changes in infarct size in myocardial infarction survivors.
  8. Study of a) pathologic progression of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) in relation to the proportion of omega-3 fatty acids in phospholipids of different areas of postmortem brain samples of AD patients, b) fatty acid profile in circulating lipids and/ or cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) as predictor of the evolution of cognitive decline and development of AD.
  9. Membrane omega-3 fatty acid enrichment as a factor influencing the organization of membrane microdomains, ensuing changes on virus infectivity and development of cardiometabolic diseases.
  10. Effect of diet supplementation with walnuts for 2 years on cognitive function, the integrity of the retina, telomere length, and markers of inflammation, oxidation and cardiovascular risk in old people (WAHA Study).
  11. Study of the effects of moderate wine and beer consumption and other polyphenol-rich products such as tomatoes on the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease and other degenerative disorders.
  12. Coordination of a randomized trial of lifestyle intervention for primary cardiovascular prevention through weight loss with Mediterranean diet and physical activity in subjects with metabolic syndrome (PREDIMED -PLUS study).