Health Studies

Hawthorn and Kiwifruit Extracts May Improve Lipid Status

Traditional Chinese therapeutic foods such as hawthorn and kiwifruit extracts were evaluated for their effect on dyslipidemia in a clinical trial conducted in Australia.  Researchers found evidence which suggests that consuming these extracts for 4 weeks may increase levels of HDL-c “good cholesterol” which could reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 508683 (Sun et al.)

Higher Med Diet Score: Lower Diabetes, CVD, Mortality

Scientists at the University of Palermo in Italy used both a 13-question Med Diet Score and a 136-item Food Frequency Questionnaire to assess the diet quality of more than 9100 subjects. They then studied correlations between the subjects’ adherence to a Mediterranean Diet and their health. They found that increased adherence to a Med Diet was associated with a decreased incidence of both diabetes and cardiovascular events, and a decrease in all-cause mortality.
Nutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Diseases. 2012 March 6 [Epub ahead of print] [Dominguez et al.]

Nutrition Transition Alters Cancer Risks

Researchers in China systematically evaluated rates of cancer mortality in China, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea and Singapore, and noted changes that began to occur about 10 years into a “nutrition transition” characterized by increased intake of energy, animal fat, and red meats. Breast, colon, and prostate cancer mortality increased “remarkably,” while esophageal and stomach cancers showed a “precipitous decrease.”
European Journal of Cancer Prevention. 2012 Feb 18; Epub ahead of print (Zhang et al.)

A Little Wine May Be Protective, Post Heart Attack

While many studies have shown that moderate consumption of wine may help prevent cardiovascular disease, scientists in Dijon, France set out to see if moderate wine intake after myocardial infarction would be beneficial. Their two-week clinical intervention trial divided patients into two groups: one following a Med-inspired diet with water, and the other following the same diet with 250ml of red wine. Those drinking the red wine showed a decrease in total cholesterol and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol as well as an increase in antioxidant status and in fluidity of red blood cell membranes.
Molecular Nutrition and Food Research. 2012 February; 56(2):345-51. [Rifler et al.]

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.)

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.)

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]

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