Health Studies

Vegetarian Diet Helps Maintain Good Mood

Researchers at Benedictine University in Illinois conducted a randomized control trial to determine the effects on mood of consuming a vegetarian diet, compared with an omnivorous diet or a meat-restricted fish diet.  Omnivorous diets are high in arachidonic acid (AA) and research has shown that high intakes of AA can promote changes in the brain that can disturb mood.  Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are fats found in fish which are thought to improve mood by opposing the negative effects of AA. This study randomly selected thirty nine omnivores and assigned them to either a group consuming meat, fish and poultry daily (OMN); a group consuming fish 3-4 times weekly but avoiding meat and poultry (FISH), or a vegetarian group avoiding meat, fish and poultry (VEG).  Mood was tested using the Profile of Mood States questionnaire and the Depression Anxiety and Stress Scales.  The study found that the VEG participants, who through the diet reduced their EPA, DHA and AA intakes, had mood scores that improved significantly after two weeks whereas OMN and FISH participants had mood scores that remained unchanged.  In conclusion, the results of this study suggest that restricting meat, fish, and poultry may improve some domains of short-term mood states in modern omnivores.
Nutrition Journal 2012 Feb 14;11:9 (Beezhold et al.)

Lacto-Vegetarian Diet Cuts Heart Risk

It is known that vegetarians have lower incidence of risk factors for coronary heart disease including lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, lower prevalence of obesity, and healthier lifestyle overall.  It is hypothesized that this reduction in risk factors is due to the consumption of a primarily plant-based diet.  To test this idea, Swedish scientists asked 20 volunteers to switch from their usual omnivorous diet to a lacto-vegetarian diet (no meat, fish or eggs, but dairy is allowed) for a full year. Dietitians offered advice and cooking classes, and researchers took dietary surveys and blood samples at the start and every three months throughout the year. Subjects lost a significant amount of weight and significantly lowered their BMIs; they also significantly lowered their blood pressure, total cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol – all risk markers for coronary heart disease
Open Journal of Preventative Medicine. February 2012;2(1):16-22.  [Johansson et al.]

Asian Herbal Food Ingredients May Impact T2DM

Many herbal food ingredients of Asian origin -- such as garlic, onion, fenugreek, and pomegranate -- may have medicinal properties.  Scientists in Nanjing, China reviewed the literature, and suggest that some of these ingredients may be beneficial in the treatment of Type 2 diabetes based on their chemical components.  These foods merit further research based on the increasing prevalence of diabetes.
Pharmacognosy Review. 2012 Jan;6(11):37-45  (Perera et al.)

Binge Eating Disorder Increases with Migration

Scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health studied US and Mexican data on 2268 people. They divided the people into six groups, from Mexicans with no migrant family members all the way to second generation Mexican-Americans, and found that binge eating disorder affected 1.6% in Mexico and 2.2% in the U.S. They concluded that "migration from Mexico to the U.S. is associated with an increased risk" for Binge Eating Disorder.
Journal of Psychiatric Research. January 2012; 46(1):31-7. (Swanson et al.)

Obese Eat Fewer Fruits and Vegetables

The Health is Power (HIP) study was conducted in order to increase physical activity and improve the dietary habits in African American and Hispanic women in Texas.  HIP enrolled more than 400 women in a 5-year, multi-site study.  They found that obese women did not meet physical activity guidelines and consumed significantly fewer fruits and vegetables as compared to normal weight women regardless of ethnicity.
Journal of Community Health, December 2011; (Lee R et al.)

Whole Grains: Key Component of Med Diet

University of Granada (Spain) researchers evaluated studies that support the consumption of whole grain cereals and bread, key components of the Mediterranean diet, to prevent chronic diseases.  Several studies have consistently shown that subjects who ingest three or more portions of whole-grain cereal-based foods per day have a 20-30% lower risk of coronary vascular disease than subjects who ingest low quantities of cereals.  This level of protection is not observed with ingestion of refined cereals.  Similarly, high intake of whole grain cereals and their products, such as whole-wheat bread, is associated with a 20-30% reduction in the risk of type-2 diabetes.  Finally, regular consumption of whole grain cereals and derived products has shown protection against the risk of colorectal cancer and polyps, other cancers of the digestive tract, cancers related to hormones, and pancreatic cancer, as well.
Journal of Public Health Nutrition 2011 Dec; 1412A):2316-22 (Gil et al.)

Med Diet Lowers Risk of Overall Heart Disease

Researchers at the University of Miami examined the relationship between a Mediterranean diet and risk of ischemic stroke, myocardial infarction, and vascular death among 2568 participants (black, Hispanic and white). Adherence to the Mediterranean diet was assessed using a food frequency questionnaire; the higher the score the greater the adherence to the Mediterranean diet.  The relationship between the Mediterranean diet and risk of ischemic stroke, myocardial infarction, and vascular death was assessed using Cox models, with control for socio-demographic and vascular risk factors.  Over a mean follow-up of 9 years, 518 vascular events accrued (171 ischemic strokes, 133 MI’s, and 314 vascular deaths).  The results of this study showed an inverse relationship between consumption of a Mediterranean diet and decreased risk of vascular events, supporting a diet rich in fruit, vegetables, whole grains, fish and olive oil as a way to promote health and decrease cardiovascular risks. 
American Journal of Nutrition 2011 Dec; 94(6):1458-64. (Gardener et al.)

Raising Vegetarian Children

This literature review from University Hospital Ghent in Belgium weighed the risks and benefits of vegetarianism in children.  Childhood is a vulnerable growth period during which adequate nutrition is essential.  The study concluded that with regard to macronutrients and micronutrients, well-planned lacto-ovo vegetarian and vegan diets with proper supplementation can support healthy growth and development in children.  Children with more restricted diets are at greater risk for nutrient deficiencies and special care in vegan children should be taken to ensure adequate intakes of vitamin B12, calcium, zinc, and energy-dense foods containing quality protein.
European Journal of Pediatrics. December 2011; 170:1489-1494. [Winckel et al]

Less Inflammation, Oxidative Stress with Med Diet

Italian researchers studied the diets of 131 healthy adults, and rated each person's diet for overall adherence to a traditional Mediterranean Diet. They compared this "Mediterranean Diet Score" to blood test results of cholesterol and triglycerides, antioxidant levels, immune system function and oxidative stress. They found that those with a higher Med Diet Score had less inflammation, reduced oxidative stress, and higher circulating levels of antioxidants, all of which are associated with reduced risk of disease.
Nutrition Journal, November 16, 2011; 10(1):125 [Epub ahead of print] (Azzini et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Reduces Expression of Inflammation Gene in Elderly

Atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, has been linked with chronic low-grade inflammation, and such inflammation has been tied, in part, to fats in the diet. Scientists at the University of Córdoba, Spain, asked 20 healthy elderly adults to follow three different diets for three weeks each, and compared their bodies' expressions of a gene linked to inflammation under each diet. They found that consumption of a Mediterranean Diet reduced post-meal inflammation more than the other two diets (a saturated fat-rich diet or a low-fat, high-carb diet enriched with Omega 2 polyunsaturated fats). The researchers stated that "these findings may be partly responsible for the lower CVD risk found in populations with a high adherence to the Med Diet."
British Journal of Nutrition
, November 15, 2011;1-9 [Epub ahead of print] (Camargo et al.)

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