Health Studies

Pulses May Help Aid Weight Loss

Dietary changes are a key target in obesity prevention programs, so many foods are being studied for their affect on body weight. To see if eating more pulses (the food group that includes beans, peas, lentils, and chickpeas) might help reduce obesity, researchers analyzed 21 randomized control trials looking at pulses’ role in weight, body fat, and waist circumference in overweight and obese adults. Diets that included dietary pulses did not significantly reduce waist circumference. There was a trend in reduction of body fat (-0.34%), but it was not significant as well. Overall, the researchers found that those eating about 1 serving of pulses per day lost, on average, about 0.75 pounds over six weeks. Not surprisingly, results were stronger in weight loss diets (3.8 pounds over 6 weeks) than weight maintenance diets (0.6 pounds over 6 weeks). Although the weight loss was small, this study indicates that a modest serving of pulses may help produce weight loss, even without cutting calories.
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2016 Mar 30. [Epub Ahead of Print] (Kim SJ et al.)

Gluten Free Med Diet Improves Nutrition in Celiac Patients

Maintaining a healthy weight and optimal nutrition can be a struggle for patients with celiac disease, but nutritious diets can help. In a small Italian study, researchers assigned 39 celiac patients to a Mediterranean gluten-free diet. The scientists found that celiac patients following a gluten free diet based on the Mediterranean diet improved their nutritional status, without inducing overweight or obesity. In fact, two of the four malnourished celiac patients were able to reach a healthy BMI, without becoming overweight or obese.
European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2016 Jan;70(1):23-7. (Barone M et al.)

Mediterranean Diet During Pregnancy Linked with Lower Abdominal Obesity in Young Children

To see how diet during pregnancy affects the risk of childhood obesity, researchers analyzed data from over 1,800 mother-child pairs. They found that children were less likely to have a high waist circumference (a measure of abdominal obesity) at age 4 if their mothers were most closely following a Mediterranean diet during pregnancy. However, the researchers found no significant relationship between the expectant mothers’ diet and the subsequent BMI of their children in early childhood.
Pediatric Obesity. 2016 Jan 13. (Fernandez-Barres S) [Epub ahead of print]

Med Diet Improves Blood Sugar Control & Heart Disease Risk Factors in Type 2 Diabetes

Chinese researchers analyzed data from nine different studies with 1178 type 2 diabetes patients being treated with the Mediterranean diet. Compared with those on a control diet (which ranged from their usual diet, to a low fat diet, to a high carb diet, to the American Diabetes Association Diet), those on a Mediterranean diet had improved blood sugar control (hemoglobin A1c, fasting glucose, and fasting insulin), improved BMI and weight loss, lower total cholesterol, triglycerides (a type of fat in the blood), and blood pressure, and improved higher HDL (good) cholesterol.
European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2015 Nov;69:1200-1208. (R Huo et al.) [published online 2014 Nov 4]

Eating More Fruits and Vegetables Can Help You Lose Weight

Science and common sense tell us that eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables is one of the best defenses against obesity and weight gain. To quantify this relationship, Harvard researchers analyzed the eating patterns and weight changes in over 130,000 adults for over 20 years. Eating vegetables of all kinds was linked to a 0.25 pound weight loss per daily serving over four years, while eating fruit of any kind was linked to a 0.53 pound weight loss per daily serving over four years. Upon closer inspection, they found that this relationship was strongest for berries, apples, pears, tofu, soy, cauliflower, and cruciferous and green leafy vegetables. On the other hand, starchy vegetables like peas, corn, and potatoes were associated with weight gain. The researchers concluded that these “findings support benefits of increased fruit and vegetable consumption for preventing long-term weight gain.”
PLOS Medicine. 2015 Sept 22. [Epub] (Bertoia ML et al.)

Grain Foods Linked with Higher Diet Quality than Grain Free Diets

Grains have been at the core of human diets for millennia, but not all grain foods are created equal (for example, quinoa salad is not the same as cookies and corn chips). Using data from a large national health survey (NHANES 2005-2010), researchers identified common types of grain eating patterns, and compared diet quality and health markers between them. Adults who regularly eat cereals, pasta, cooked grains, rice and mixed grains had a significantly higher diet quality than those who avoided grains. While grain eaters tended to eat 300-400 more calories per day than those who avoided grains, grain eaters did not have higher BMIs or larger waist sizes. In fact, those who favored pasta, cooked cereals, and rice had significantly lower body weights and waist sizes than those who avoided grains. These results indicate that grain foods (especially healthier grain foods, without lots of added salt, sugar, or fat) are an important part of a balanced diet.
FASEB Journal. 2015 April;29(1):S763.7. (Papanikolaoau Y et al.)


Even 1 Family Meal per Week Linked with Better Weight in Teens

Researchers at the University of Minnesota found that even small steps towards more family meals can make a positive difference. In a study of over 2,000 young adults, the scientists found that children eating one or two family meals together each week had a 45% less likely risk of being overweight ten years later than those who never ate family meals together. Eating three or more family meals together was related to a lower risk of both overweight and obesity. These results were especially strong in African Americans.
Journal of Pediatrics. 2015 Feb;166(2):296-301. (Berge JM et al.)

Plant-based Diets Improve Heart Disease Markers in Overweight Kids

Plant-based diets have proven effective at reducing heart disease markers in adults, but with a large proportion of overweight and obese children, experts wonder if dietary interventions are effective on kids as well. In a small study in the Midwestern US, twenty-eight overweight and obese children (average age = 15) and their parents were assigned to either a plant-based vegan (no animal products at all), no-added fat diet (with only moderate avocado and nuts) or an American Heart Association diet (high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, but also includes low fat dairy, some plant oils, lean meat and fish, and permits some refined grains) for four weeks. The plant-based group significantly improved nine different risk factors of heart disease (including improved blood pressure, cholesterol, and weight), while the American Heart Association Diet significantly improved four risk factors.
The Journal of Pediatrics. 2015 Feb 11. [Epub ahead of print] (Macknin M et al.)

Nutrient Profiles of Vegans Point to Lowest BMI

When researchers at Loma Linda University conducted a cross-sectional study of 71,715 subjects from the Adventist Health Study 2 to compare nutrient intakes between dietary patterns characterized by consumption or exclusion of meat and dairy products, they found a clear connection between diet type and weight among five groups: meat-eaters, semi-vegetarians, pescatarians, lacto-ovo vegetarians, and vegans.  Vegans were found to have the lowest average BMI, while meat-eaters showed the highest, along with the highest intake of heart-disease related fatty acids. Vegans also had the lowest occurrence of obesity (9%) compared to 33.3% of meat-eaters. The average age of study participants was 59.
Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. August 2013. (Rizzo, Jaceldo-Sigl, Sabate, Fraser.)

Med Diet Healthy and Affordable

A study published in the Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition helps debunk the myth that the Mediterranean Diet is cost prohibitive for families on tight budgets. The Rhode Island Community Food Bank sponsored a six-week cooking program focused on plant-based cooking with olive oil. Study authors followed the 63 participants for six months to determine whether their grocery shopping and cooking habits changed as a result of the program. At the end of the study participants had decreased their total food expenses, purchases of meat, and consumption of "junk" food. Results also suggest that eating 2 to 3 vegetarian meals per week increases fruit and vegetable consumption and helps with weight control.
Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition. March 2013; 8(1). [Epub 2013 March 14] [Flynn, Reinert & Schiff]

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