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.)

Med Diet Linked With A Lower Risk for Hip Fractures

While Mediterranean cuisine regularly includes low to moderate amounts of dairy (often from traditional cheeses and yogurts), milk is not as prominent as it is in other eating patterns. Therefore, scientists are very interested in learning more about the bone health of those who follow a Mediterranean diet. To study this relationship, researchers analyzed the diets of 90,000 older women (ages 50-79) from the Women's Health Initiative cohort for 15 years. They found that those most closely following a Mediterranean diet had a 20% lowered risk for hip fractures than those who did not eat a Mediterranean diet.
JAMA Internal Medicine. 2016 Mar 28. [Epub ahead of print] (Haring B, et al.)

5 Years of Healthy Lifestyle Advice Can Have Lifelong Benefits

Even a few years of healthy lifestyle advice can leave a lasting impression on long-term health. European researchers randomly assigned a large group of middle-aged Norwegian men (who were healthy, but at high risk of heart disease) to either a 5-year program with healthy lifestyle advice (specifically, advice to stop smoking, eat less saturated fat, and eat more fish and vegetables), or a control group without the advice. The researchers then followed over 1,200 of these men for 40 years, to monitor any lasting effects on mortality. The scientists conclude that “Receiving advice about a healthy lifestyle led to a long-term reduced risk of coronary mortality during the following 40 years,” and they suggest that “systematically providing effective counselling for a healthy lifestyle for 5 years can lead to lifelong benefits.”
Journal of Internal Medicine. 2016 Feb 29. [Epub ahead of print] (Holme I et al.)

Lifestyle Advice in Kids Linked with Better Nutrition & More Physical Activity

To study the effects of healthy lifestyle counseling, researchers randomly assigned over 400 Danish children (ages 6-8) and their parents to either 6 individualized diet counseling sessions and 6 individualized exercise counseling sessions over 2 years, or a control group with no individualized lifestyle advice. At the end of the study, children who received the counseling advice averaged 9 minutes per day more physical activity and 10 minutes per day less computer and video games than the control group, and also ate significantly more vegetables, fiber, low fat milk, vitamin C, and vitamin E.
Preventive Medicine. 2016 Feb 23;87:81-88. (Viitasalo A et al.)


Low Level Mercury Exposure from Fish Appears Safe During Pregnancy

Seafood is a staple in many traditional diets, but many wonder if the health benefits of fish consumption outweigh the risk of mercury exposure. In a study of 334 infants in Ohio, researchers assessed the neurobehavior of infants and the fish intake and blood mercury levels in mothers and cord blood. The researchers “found minimal evidence of mercury associated detrimental effects” on the infants, with no statistically significant problems related to level of mercury consumption when other lifestyle and dietary factors were controlled for. In fact, the researchers also observed that the infants with higher (but still safe) blood mercury levels had better attention and less need for special handling, suggesting that the benefits of fish consumption may outweigh the risks of low-level mercury exposure.
Neurotoxicology and Teratology. 2016 Feb 12. Pii: S0892-0362(13)30007-1. (Xu Y et al.)

Seafood Linked with Fewer Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease

To see how fish consumption and mercury exposure relate to Alzheimer’s, scientists analyzed the food intake of over 500 retired adults in Chicago each year for several years. They then autopsied the brains of 286 of the deceased participants to study signs of Alzheimer’s disease and measure levels of mercury in the brain. The scientists found that eating at least one seafood meal per week was linked with less Alzheimer’s disease pathology (including lower density of neuritic plaques, less severe and widespread neurofibrillary tangles, and lower neuropathologically defined Alzheimer’s disease) in participants with genetic predisposition to Alzheimers disease (APoE4 allele carriers). They also found that higher brain concentrations of mercury were not linked with increased signs of Alzheimer’s disease, and that fish oil supplementation had no effect on these markers.
JAMA. 2016 Feb 2;315(5):489-97. (Morris MC et al.)

Eating Fiber in Young Adulthood Linked with Lower Breast Cancer Risk

Dietary fiber is an important nutrient found in plant foods (mostly in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and pulses). To study the link between fiber intake and breast cancer risk, Harvard scientists analyzed the adolescent and early adulthood diets of over 90,000 women, and noted any diagnosis of breast cancer. The researchers found that every 10g of fiber in adolescence and young adulthood was linked with a 14% and 13% lower risk of breast cancer, respectively. In fact, those eating the most fiber in adolescence and young adulthood (25g per day) were 25% less likely to get breast cancer than those eating the least fiber (12g per day).
Pediatrics. 2016 Feb 1. pii: peds.2015-1226. (Farvid MS et al). 

Consuming Fat from Plant Oils May Help Prevent Cardiac Death

In a large study, researchers from the Global Burden of Diseases Nutrition and Chronic Diseases Expert Group analyzed the fat consumption and coronary heart disease statistics of 186 nations across the world. They found that 10.3% of coronary heart disease deaths were attributable to not eating enough n-6 polyunsaturated fats (found in soy, walnuts, sunflower seeds, and some plant oils), while 7.7% were due to eating too much trans fat (found in margarine and highly processed foods), and 3.6% were due to eating too much saturated fat (found in red meat and butter). In 80% of nations studied, deaths from heart disease due to inadequate n-6 polyunsaturated fats was at least double the heart disease deaths due to too much saturated fat. This suggests that positive messages focused on adding in healthy foods (such as cooking vegetables in plant oils, and sprinkling nuts and seeds on meals) can have an important impact on public health.
Journal of the American Heart Association. 2016 Jan 20;5(1). Pii: e002891. (Wang Q et al.) 

Med Diet Linked with Improved Gut Bacteria

Spanish researchers randomly assigned 239 adults (half with metabolic syndrome, half without) to either a Mediterranean diet, or a low fat, high complex carbohydrate diet (with foods like pasta and cereals) for two years. They found that the Mediterranean diet was able to “restore potentially beneficial members of the gut microbiota,” in patients both with and without metabolic syndrome. The low fat, high complex carbohydrate diet did not result in as many positive changes in gut microbiota as the Mediterranean diet did, although some beneficial changes still occurred.
The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry. 2016 Jan;27:27-31. (Haro C et al.)

Diabetes-Protective Changes to Gut Bacteria after Year on Med Diet

In a small study, Spanish researchers randomly assigned 20 obese men to either a Mediterranean diet, or a low fat, high complex carbohydrate diet (with foods like pasta and cereals) for a year. After a year on their respective diets, both groups saw increases in various gut microbes that are thought to be protective against type 2 diabetes (Roseburia and Parabacteroides  distasonis for Med diet, and Prevotella and Faecalibacterium prausnitzii for low fat, high complex carb diet). The Mediterranean diet group also increased their insulin sensitivity over the year, meaning that their bodies better respond to insulin.
The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. 2016 Jan;101(1):233-42. (Haro C et al.)

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