Health Studies

Virgin Olive Oil & Med Diet Turn Off Pro-Inflammatory Genes in Elderly

In the elderly, chronic low-grade inflammation can accelerate atherosclerosis. Scientists in Córdoba, Spain carried out a study to determine how dietary fats change the expression of genes involved with this kind of inflammation. In the study, twenty healthy elderly people followed three different diets for three weeks each: a Mediterranean Diet high in monounsaturated fat from virgin olive oil (VOO), a diet rich in saturated fat, and a low-fat, high-carb diet. They found that the diet featuring virgin olive oil reduced postprandial inflammation in cells.
British Journal of Nutrition. 2012 Aug;108(3):500-8. Camargo et al.

Med Diet Early; Less Arterial Stiffness Later

Starting a good diet early makes a difference in one’s later years. That’s the conclusion of researchers in Maastricht, the Netherlands. As part of the Amsterdam Growth and Health Longevity Study, they assessed the Mediterranean Diet adherence during adolescence and young adulthood, and compared this to arterial stiffness measured by ultrasonography at age 36. They found that the women (all were women) who followed the Med Diet most closely had the healthiest arteries, with the least evidence of stiffening.
Journal of Internal Medicine. 2012 July 19. [Epub ahead of print] [van de Laar et al]

Avocado, Olive Oil Improve Fertility

Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health found that women who regularly eat avocados, olive oil, and other monounsaturated fats were 3.4 times more likely to conceive a child when undergoing IVF (in vitro fertilization). After studying the fat intake of 147 women, they found that those consuming the most saturated fat produced fewer good eggs.
Preliminary results presented at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (Istanbul) – not yet published in a peer-reviewed journal. 2012 July.

Semi-Vegetarians Most Likely to Exhibit Eating Disordered Behavior

Researchers from Towson University and the University of Pennsylvania conducted two studies on a total of 486 participants to determine whether diet type (vegan, lacto ovo vegetarian, semi-vegetarian including pescatarians and red meat vegetarians, and omnivorous) was associated with eating disordered behavior including emotional  eating, restrained eating, and desire for thinness. They found that the semi-vegetarians were relatively the most disordered in terms of their food-related behaviors and attitudes. Vegans had the healthiest attitudes toward food, closely followed by vegetarians – a somewhat surprising result, given the inherent restrictions of the diets. The authors call for further research on the relationship between semi-vegetarianism and disordered eating.
Appetite. 2012 Jun;58:982-90. (Timko et al.)

Fast Food Restaurants -- and Childhood Obesity -- Boom in China

This report documents the problem of childhood obesity in China.  One of the key contributing factors is the consumption of fast food.  Fast food establishments are growing rapidly in China.  Eating at McDonald’s is convenient for Chinese families and also signifies social status.
International Journal of Cardiology. 2012 June 14;157(3):315-317. (Cheng)

Virgin Olive Oil and Nuts Lower Inflammatory Markers

researchers involved with the PREDIMED trial compared inflammatory markers in three groups of adults involved in an intervention trial where one group’s diet was supplemented with virgin olive oil (VOO), the second group’s diet was supplemented with nuts, and the third group ate a low fat diet. After three months, both the VOO group and the nuts group had lower levels of several inflammation markers.
Pharmacological Research. 2012 Jun;65(6):577-83. Urpi-Sarda et al.

Red Mold Rice has Antidiabetic Effects

Red mold rice is a fermented food product common in China (where it’s used to enhance flavor and color of foods) and valued in Chinese medicine.  Scientists at National Taiwan University reviewed the properties of this functional food, highlighting potential antidiabetic and antioxidant effects.
Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology.  2012 Apr;94(1):47-55  (Shi et al.)

Polyphenol-rich Med Diet Foods Benefit Cognition

As part of the PREDIMED Trial, scientists in Spain studied 447 elderly men and women at high cardiovascular risk to find possible associations between polyphenol-rich foods common to the Mediterranean Diet and better cognitive function. They found that overall consumption of anti-oxidant-rich foods was associated with better cognitive performance, and that olive oil, coffee, and walnuts were especially associated with cognitive health.
Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. 2012 April; 29(4):773-82. [Valis-Pedret et al.]

Traditional Japanese Breakfast Foods Improve Glucose Tolerance

Researchers studied the effect of traditional Japanese breakfast foods on insulin sensitivity in a small sample of individuals with impaired glucose tolerance.  The group which ate foods such as natto (fermented soybeans) and viscous vegetables (such as Japanese yams and okra) for 2 weeks demonstrated improved insulin sensitivity, serum lipids, and oxidative stress compared to the control group.
British Journal of Nutrition. 2012 Apr;107(8):1184-1191. (Taniguchi-Fukatsu et al.)

B-12 Status and Vegans

Individuals who choose to follow a vegan diet are at increased risk for being deficient in vitamin B-12, which occurs in meaningful bio-available amounts only in animal foods.  This type of vitamin deficiency is very serious and can cause many irreversible health problems, yet vegans often don’t take B-12 supplements because they consider them “un-natural.” Polish scientists followed 20 healthy adult volunteers for five years after they switched from an omnivorous diet to a strict vegan diet. Ten consumed only natural products, while the other ten consumed foods fortified with B-12. Not surprisingly, B-12 serum levels were down in the natural group, but not in the fortified group.   
Acta Scientiarum Polonorum, Technologia Alimentaria April 2, 2012; 11(2):209-213. [Lisowska A et al.]

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