Health Studies

Traditional Mexican Diet Linked with Better Inflammation, Blood Sugar Control

Researchers in Seattle created a Mexican Diet Score to assess how traditional Mexican diets are related to insulin resistance and inflammation. Higher Mexican Diet Scores indicate eating more traditional Mexican foods, such as corn tortillas, beans, soup, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and Mexican cheese, and lower levels of added sugars, refined grains, and added fats. In a study of nearly 500 healthy, post-menopausal women of Mexican descent, the researchers found that those most closely following a traditional Mexican diet had 23% lower levels of hsCRP (a measure of inflammation), and 15% lower insulin levels (indicating healthy blood sugar regulation) than those not following a traditional Mexican diet. In the overweight and obese women, a low Mexican diet score was also linked with higher insulin resistance. The researchers concluded that “greater adherence to traditional Mexican diets… could be beneficial in reducing the risk of obesity-related systemic inflammation and insulin resistance for women of Mexican descent.”
The Journal of Nutrition. 2015 Dec;145(12):2732-40. (Santiago-Torres M et al.)

Switching to Mediterranean Fat Sources May Help Inflammation

Palmitic acid (found in palm oil, shortening, butter, and red meat) is a type of saturated fat prevalent in the Western diet, while oleic acid (found in olive oil) is a type of monounsaturated fat prevalent in the Mediterranean diet. In a small study, researchers at the University of Vermont fed 16 adults either a diet high in palmitic acid or a diet high in oleic acid and low in palmitic acid to see how food choices affect the inflammatory response of various cells. All adults spent 3 weeks in each diet group, serving as their own control.  Although insulin sensitivity was not affected in this experiment, the scientists found that changing the diet to include more oleic acid and less palmitic acid was able to lower activation of certain cell signaling proteins (including TLR4 and NLRP3) that are associated with inflammation, oxidation and poor insulin signaling. These results suggest that shifting from a Western diet to a Mediterranean style diet (with greater proportions of oleic acid) may help fight inflammation.
Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry. 2015 Aug 1. pii: S0955-2863(15)00178-3. (Kien CL et al.)

Cheese Linked with Positive Microbiome Changes & Markers of Disease Prevention

Dairy foods are most often prized for their calcium content, but new research reveals that changes to the gut microbiome, especially from eating fermented dairy products, like cheese, might help explain the “French Paradox,” the phenomenon in which traditional cheeses are linked with low rates of heart disease. In a small study to investigate the protective effect of dairy foods, Danish scientists randomly assigned 15 healthy men to one of three diets for two weeks: a diet with lots of partly skim (1.5%) milk, a diet with lots of semi-hard cow’s cheese, or a control diet with butter, but no other dairy products. Both the milk and cheese diets had the same amount of calcium per day (1.7g). The men rotated through each diet, with a two-week washout period in between each new diet group. Compared to the control diet, both the cheese and milk diets were associated with significantly lower production of TMAO, a compound that is thought to be a marker of heart disease risk. The researchers also found that “dairy consumption, especially cheese, can beneficially modify the gut microbiota to increase SFCA levels.” SFCAs (short chain fatty acids) are compounds produced by gut bacteria that are linked with many health promoting effects, such as lower risk of diabetes, heart disease, and inflammatory diseases.  
Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2015 Mar 18;63(10):2830-9 (Zheng H et al).

Short Term Benefits of Plant-Based Diets on Nutrient Intake and Inflammation

In a study of 63 overweight and obese adults instructed on various diets, South Carolina researchers examined the differences in nutrient intake and Dietary Inflammatory Index (DII). After two months, those assigned to vegan, vegetarian, and pescatarian diets had significantly lower DII scores and greater improvements in fiber, carbohydrate, fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol. However, after six months, no differences were seen among the diets. Due to these short-term benefits, the researchers concluded that greater consideration should be given to “finding ways to provide support for adoption and maintenance of plant-based dietary approaches.”
Nutrition Research. 2014 Dec 3. Pii:S0271-5317(14)00267-X. (Turner-McGrievy GM et al.)

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil & Exercise Prevent Cartilage Degeneration

Since inflammation is one of the factors leading to cartilage degeneration in osteoarthritis, Italian researchers explored whether extra-virgin olive oil could help protect joints from the ravages of inflammation. They found that consumption of extra-virgin olive oil, coupled with mild exercise on a treadmill, lowered inflammation markers and can help prevent osteoarthritis and preserve cartilage.
Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry. 2013 Dec;24(12):2064-75. Musumeci et al.

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Reduces Age-Related Drop in Anti-Inflammatory Activity

Researchers in Quebec measured an anti-inflammatory component of HDL (“good cholesterol”) in ten young adults and ten elderly adults, and found that the older people had less anti-inflammatory activity. After 12 weeks of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) consumption, anti-inflammatory activity increased in both groups and reduced the age-related difference between the two groups.
British Journal of Nutrition. 2013 Oct;110(7):1272:84. Loued et al.

Fruit Consumption May Lower Risk of Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

Researchers in Sweden followed the fruit and vegetable consumption of more than 80,000 men and women over a 13-year period to investigate the relationship between fruit and vegetable consumption and occurrence of abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA). The aorta is the body’s largest artery. A bulge in the aorta’s wall in the abdomen is an abdominal aortic aneurysm. A ruptured aneurysm causes internal bleeding and can cause death. The research team found that people who ate more than two servings of fruit per day had a 25% lower risk of developing AAA and a 43% lower risk of rupture than those who ate less than 7/10 of a serving of fruit per day. They found no relationship between vegetable consumption and risk of AAA.
Circulation. 2013; 128(8):795-802. (Stackelberg, et al.)

Polyphenols in Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Reduce Blood Pressure and Inflammation

Spanish scientists conducted a double-blind, randomized, crossover dietary intervention to study the effects of polyphenol-rich extra virgin olive oil in fighting hypertension in young women. For one 2-month period, the women consumed a diet including polyphenol-rich olive oil; after a 4-week washout, they switched to a diet including polyphenol-free olive oil. The polyphenol-rich olive oil decreased blood pressure, improved endothelial function and also reduced CRP, a marker of inflammation. [Extra-virgin olive oil is generally higher in polyphenols than regular olive oil.]
American Journal of Hypertension. 2012 Dec;25(12):1299-304. Moreno-Luna et al.

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.

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.

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