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Healthy Diet with Seafood & Plant Proteins Linked with Less Pain in Obesity

Many people with obesity also suffer from chronic pain, so researchers wondered if certain eating patterns might help explain this relationship. In a study of 98 obese adults, researchers in Ohio found that scoring higher on the Healthy Eating Index (eating more servings of fruit, whole grains, plant proteins, seafood, and monounsaturated fats, and only moderate amounts of sodium and refined grains) was significantly related to lower levels of pain, even after controlling for medication, conditions like arthritis, and other health factors. When looking at individual food groups, only seafood and plant proteins (like beans or tofu) were significantly linked with less pain. Many traditional diets, including the Mediterranean diet, emphasize seafood and plant proteins as part of an overall healthy diet, and could serve as a delicious blueprint for those looking to reap the benefits of a more nutritious diet.
Pain. 2017 Feb;158(2):273-277. (Emery CF et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Improves Function of Good Cholesterol

HDL is often referred to as good cholesterol, because it helps take “bad” (LDL) cholesterol from the bloodstream back to the liver for removal, protects blood vessels, and acts as an antioxidant. We used to only be able to measure the amount of HDL, but now, scientists are able to measure how well the HDL is functioning as well. To see how a Mediterranean diet affects HDL function, researchers analyzed data from 296 participants in the PREDIMED trial (a randomized, controlled study where people at risk of heart disease were assigned to either a Mediterranean diet with nuts, a Mediterranean diet with olive oil, or a low fat diet). Both Mediterranean diet groups improved cholesterol efflux capacity (how well the LDL is transported out by the HDL). However, the olive oil group also had improved HDL antioxidant properties, and improved blood vessel protection.
Circulation. 2017 Feb 14;135(7):633-643. (Hernaez A et al.) 

Whole Grains May Help Your Body Burn More Calories

Whole grains are often associated with lower body weights, and new research is uncovering why. In a randomized trial, scientists assigned 81 healthy adults in Boston to diets with either whole grains or refined grains for 6 weeks, keeping all other foods and nutrients consistent between the groups. Although the diets were designed to be isocaloric (meaning that people were supposed to maintain their same body weight), the resting metabolic rate (how many calories your body burns at rest) became significantly higher (by 43 calories) in the whole grain group. In fact, the whole grain group significantly improved their metabolism over the 6-week study compared with the refined grains group, burning 92 more calories per day. The researchers suspect that this is partly due to the fact that the whole grain group excreted more energy in the stool, and had more frequent bowel movements.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2017 Feb 8. pii: ajcn139683. [Epub ahead of print.] (Karl JP et al.)

Whole Grains Can Improve Gut Microbiota

Researchers randomly assigned 81 healthy adults in Boston to diets with either whole grains or refined grains for 6 weeks, keeping all other foods and nutrients consistent between the groups. The researchers found that making all of your grains whole is linked with “modest, positive effects on gut micriobiota,” (due to higher concentrations of “good” gut microbes and short chain fatty acids – an indicator of colon health and dietary fiber breakdown) as well as increased stool weight and stool frequency.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2017 Feb 8. pii: ajcn146928. [Epub ahead of print.] (Vanegas SM et al.)

Mediterranean Diet May Help Improve Depression

To see how food might play a role in treating depression, Australian scientists randomly assigned 56 adults with moderate to severe depression to either 7 hours of dietitian-led counseling about a modified Mediterranean diet, or 7 hours of social support (keeping participants company, without using psychotherapy strategies) over the course of 12 weeks. The adults in the nutrition counseling group improved their diets by eating significantly more servings of whole grains, fruit, dairy, olive oil, pulses, and fish. After 12 weeks, 32% of the nutrition group and 8% of the social support group improved their depressive symptoms enough to achieve remission, and the nutrition group also scored significantly better on various markers of depression.
BMC Medicine. 2017 January 30;15:23. ( Jacka FN et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Less ADHD in Kids

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) seems to be on the rise, so health experts wonder if diet might be related. To test this hypothesis, researchers in Spain matched 60 children newly diagnosed with ADHD to 60 children without ADHD (of the same age and sex), and analyzed their eating habits based on how closely they follow a Mediterranean diet. Children most closely following a Mediterranean diet (eating a second serving of fruit daily, eating vegetables daily, and eating pasta or rice almost every day) were significantly less likely to have ADHD. Children with ADHD were also more likely to eat more fast food, soft drinks, and candy, and were more likely to skip breakfast.
Pediatrics. 2017 Jan 30. pii: e20162027. [ePub ahead of print.] (Rios-Hernandez A et al.)

Whole Grains & Fiber Linked with Less Colorectal Cancer

Because colorectal cancer forms in the large intestine, diet is thought to be a potential risk factor. To see how food fits into the puzzle, scientists at Harvard analyzed the eating patterns and health markers of 137,217 adults for more than two decades. Those eating a healthy diet rich in fiber and whole grains were significantly less likely to develop a certain type of colorectal cancer (Fusobacterium nucleatum–positive, but not Fusobacterium nucleatum-negative) than those eating a “Western diet” rich in red meat, refined grains, and dessert. Fusobacterium nucleatum is a type of gut bacteria thought to contribute to colorectal cancer, as it’s often elevated in colorectal cancer patients. Based on their findings, the scientists suspect that the cancer-protective effect of fiber and whole grains may have to do with their role in improving the gut microbiome.
JAMA Oncology.  2017 Jan 26. [Epub ahead of print.] (Mehta RS)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Less Diabetes After Kidney Transplant

Kidney transplants are used to help people with end stage renal disease, but the transplant also puts patients at risk for developing diabetes. To see how diet might be related, researchers followed 468 Dutch adults who had received a kidney transplant, analyzing their health outcomes and eating patterns for about 4 years. Those most closely following a Mediterranean diet were 4 times less likely to get new-onset diabetes after transplantation. Additionally, closely following a Mediterranean diet was also linked with a two times lower risk of all-cause mortality, compared with those not closely following a Mediterranean diet.
BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care. 2017 Jan 13;5(1):e000283. (Oste MCJ et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Less Age-Related Brain Shrinkage

As people age, their brains gradually shrink over time. But certain lifestyle habits may be able to slow this loss. In a study of more than 1,000 elderly Scottish adults, researchers found that those most closely following a Mediterranean diet lost significantly less total brain volume over the 3-year study period than those who didn’t eat a Mediterranean diet. The authors also found that “fish and meat consumption does not drive this change, suggesting that other components of the [Mediterranean Diet] or, possibly, all of its components in combination are responsible for the association.”
Neurology. 2017 Jan 4. pii: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000003559.[Epub ahead of print](Luciano M et al.)

Plant Foods Important to Original Paleo Diet

Archeologists analyzed the preserved plant remains at an Acheulian site in Israel to determine the role of plant foods (if any) in ancient diets. Contrary to the popular, meat-centric interpretation of a paleo diet, the researchers argue that “a wide spectrum of food plants was a permanent aspect of the pre-agricultural hominin economy,” and that the abundance of fruit, nut, seed, and grain plants “is a result of deliberate hominid behavior.” The researchers also found “ample evidence for the important role of fire at GBY [Gesher Benot Ya’aqov], with its control and repeated uses shown by burned lithics and charred wood, bark, grains, and fruits. The plant remains, dating back about 780,000 years, led researchers to conclude that “our results change previous notions of paleo diet.”
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2016 Dec 20;113(51):14674-14679. (Melamed Y et al.)

Healthy Lifestyle Can Reduce Risk of Heart Disease by Nearly 50% in those with High Genetic Risk

Genetics play a large role in disease prevention, but your genes are not your destiny. To determine how healthy lifestyles might mitigate the risk of heart disease, researchers analyzed the genetic risk factors and lifestyle patterns of more than 31,000 men and women across 3 cohorts. The researchers defined a healthy lifestyle by following at least 3 of the following criteria: not being obese, not smoking, exercising at least once per week, and eating a healthy diet. (Those with an unhealthy lifestyle followed 1 or fewer of the criteria). The scientists found that while both genetic and lifestyle factors were independently associated with heart disease risk, having a healthy lifestyle was associated with a 46% lower risk of heart disease in people who are genetically predisposed to heart disease.  
New England Journal of Medicine. 2016 Dec 15;375(24):2349-2358. (Khera AV et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Lower Risk of Hip Fracture

Scandinavia has 2 to 3 times the rate of hip fracture compared to Southern Europe. To assess the role of diet in this geographic discrepancy, researchers analyzed two large Swedish cohorts totaling 71,333 people (average age 60) over 15 years, to determine the rate of hip fracture in people with different adherence levels to the Mediterranean diet. Most closely following a Mediterranean diet was associated with 22% lower hip fracture rate, and a 1 year higher age at hip fracture, compared to not following a Mediterranean diet.
Journal of Bone & Mineral Research. 2016 Dec;31(12):2098-2105. (L Byberg et al.)

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