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Eating More Whole Grains Could Save Millions in Diabetes Related Healthcare Costs

Eating more whole grains could lead to substantial savings in healthcare costs, even in countries where whole grains are already a regular part of the diet. In this study, researchers created models to analyze how eating more whole grains relates to type 2 diabetes for people in Finland, and then quantified the resulting healthcare costs as well as costs related to work absences. They found that increasing the number of Finnish people who eat whole grains daily and/or increasing the number of servings of whole grains eaten by habitual whole grain consumers in Finland could lead to a savings of 286-989 million Euros over a 10-year period. Additionally, the researchers estimate that these modest increases in whole grain consumption could substantially reduce disease burden (as measured by saving 1,323-154,094 quality adjusted life years). 
Nutrients. 2021 Oct 13;13(10):3583. doi: 10.3390/nu13103583. (Martikainen J et al.)

Diets Low in Whole Grains Are Largest Contributor of Diet-Related Cancer Costs

A healthy diet can reduce the risk of many types of cancers. In this study, researchers estimated the 5-year medical costs associated with different diet-related cancers. Diets low in whole grains accounted for the highest medical costs, at $2.76 billion over 5 years. Diets low in dairy and high in processed meats also significantly contributed to the economic burden of cancer. In terms of different diet-related cancer types, colorectal cancer was linked with the highest medical costs.
Cancer Causes & Control. 2021 Oct 15. doi: 10.1007/s10552-021-01503-4. (Khushalani J S et al.)

Traditional Latin American Diet Linked with Lower Blood Pressure

As people abandon their traditional diets for a Western diet of fast food and sugary treats, nutrition is often compromised. In this study, researchers analyzed the diets and blood pressure readings of 4,626 people living in the Southern Cone of Latin America (Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay). Two common dietary patterns emerged: a traditional diet based on fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, fish, seafood, and nuts; and a Western diet based on red and processed meat, dressings, sweets, snacks, and refined grains. Those most closely following a traditional Latin American diet were significantly more likely to have lower blood pressure than those following a Western diet.
Nutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Diseases. 2021 Oct 7;S0939-4753(21)00437-3. doi: 10.1016/j.numecd.2021.08.048. (Defagó M D et al.)

Diets Low in Whole Grains Are Largest Risk Factor for Heart Disease in Low- and Middle-Income Countries

Heart disease impacts people across all corners of the globe. In this study, researchers used data from 2000-2019 to quantify risk factors for heart disease in low- and middle-income countries. The researchers found that in low- and middle-income countries, the largest behavioral risk factor for ischemic heart disease was a diet low in whole grains. Additionally, high systolic blood pressure (the top number in the blood pressure reading) and high LDL (“bad”) cholesterol were linked with causing the highest disability-adjusted life years (a measure of overall disease burden).
Journal of the American Heart Association. 2021 Oct 5;10(19):e021024. doi: 10.1161/JAHA.121.021024. (Wang C et al.)

Full Fat Dairy Doesn’t Appear to Impact Cholesterol in People with Metabolic Syndrome

U.S. dietary guidelines tend to recommend low- and no-fat dairy options, yet research suggests that the saturated fat in dairy may not pose as many health risks as originally thought. In this study, 66 people with metabolic syndrome (a risky combination of high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol, and/or excess fat around the waist) were assigned to either 3.3 servings of low-fat dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese) per day, 3.3 servings of full-fat dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese) per day, or a limited dairy diet of 3 or fewer servings of nonfat milk. After 12 weeks of eating full-fat dairy, there was no effect on cholesterol, triglycerides, or blood pressure. However, the 3.3 servings of low-fat dairy group did trend towards a slight improvement in systolic blood pressure.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2021 Sep 1;114(3):882-892. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqab131. (Schmidt KA et al.)

Peanuts and Peanut Butter Linked with Improved Anxiety and Memory in Young Adults

Nuts like peanuts are part of a brain healthy diet and researchers are starting to understand why. In a randomized controlled trial of 63 healthy young adults in the Mediterranean, people were randomly assigned to a diet with about 3 tablespoons (25g) of peanuts, 2 tablespoons (32g) of peanut butter, or 32 grams of a control spread made from peanut oil (but without the fiber or phenolic compounds). Those eating the peanuts and peanut butter daily over the six-month study were significantly more likely to have improved anxiety and improved immediate memory than those in the control group. The researchers suspect that these improvements may be linked with the peanut polyphenols or the increase in short chain fatty acids (an indicator of a healthy gut microbiome).
Clinical Nutrition. 2021 Sept 20. doi:10.1016/j.clnu.2021.09.020. (Parilli-Moser I et al.)

Eating Traditional Mexican Foods Linked with More Sleep, Less Snoring

As people abandon traditional diets for sugary, fatty Western diets, health can suffer, so researchers wonder if traditional eating might be related to sleep health as well. In a study of 100 Mexican American adults in Arizona, those who reported eating traditional Mexican foods more often were more likely to get 1.41 more hours of sleep per night and were less likely to report snoring than those who don’t eat traditional Mexican foods as often. However, eating traditional Mexican foods was not related to sleep quality, insomnia, or sleepiness.
BMC Nutrition. 2021 Aug 23;7(1):53. doi: 10.1186/s40795-021-00452-0. Ghani SB et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Can Slow Progression of Atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis, the build up of fatty plaque in arteries, can be a risk factor for heart disease down the road. In a randomized controlled trial of more than 900 people with heart disease, those assigned to a Mediterranean diet improved their atherosclerosis (as measured by reduced thickness of both carotid arteries) over 5 years and maintained their baseline artery thickness at 7 years. Those assigned to a low-fat diet did not have any significant improvements in atherosclerosis.
Stroke. 2021 Aug 10;STROKEAHA120033214. doi: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.120.033214. (Jimenez-Torres J et al.)

Whole Grains Linked with Better Maintenance of Waist Size, Blood Pressure, Blood Sugar

Larger waist sizes (as measured by waist circumference), high blood pressure, and high triglycerides are all signs of potential heart disease down the road, so researchers wonder how whole grains might play a role in these risk factors. In a study of 3,121 adults (average age 55), researchers analyzed the types of grain foods they ate and their health markers to see how different types of grains might relate to cardiometabolic risk. While all study participants got larger around the waist over the 18-year study period, eating the most whole grains (at least 48 grams whole grain per day, or at least 3 full servings) was linked with significantly smaller increases in waist size compared with eating the least whole grains (less than 8 grams whole grain per day, or less than a half serving). Additionally, eating more whole grains was also linked with significantly smaller increases in fasting blood sugar and systolic blood pressure, while eating more refined grains (4+ servings per day) was linked with greater increases in waist size and a smaller decline in triglycerides (a type of fat in the blood).
Journal of Nutrition. 2021 Jul 13;nxab177. doi: 10.1093/jn/nxab177. (Sawicki CM et al.)

Whole Grain Intake in Latin America Falls Short of Recommendations

Dietary guidelines around the world recommend making more of our grains whole, and researchers wonder if people in different countries are meeting these goals. In a study of 9,128 people across eight Latin American countries, the average person was eating less than one full serving (only 14.7 grams) of whole grain foods per day. Women and older adults were more likely to eat more whole grains, while people with lower incomes were less likely to eat more whole grains. The most commonly eaten whole grains in the survey were oatmeal, masa harina, whole wheat bread, corn chips, and wheat crackers.
European Journal of Nutrition. 2021 Jul 7. doi: 10.1007/s00394-021-02635-8.

Plant-Based Diets Linked with Lower Risk of Severe Symptoms in COVID-19

While mask wearing, social distancing, and approved vaccines are thus far the only proven strategies to reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19, research suggests that people with diet-related chronic diseases tend to be at higher risk of having more serious complications if and when they do get COVID-19. In this study of healthcare workers from 7 countries on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic (conducted in the summer of 2020, before vaccines became available), those who contracted COVID-19 and reported following a “plant-based diet” or a “plant-based or pescatarian diet” had a 73% and 59% lower risk of moderate-to-severe COVID-19 versus people who did not follow these diets. However, there was no relationship between diet and likelihood of contracting COVID-19.
BMJ Nutrition, Prevention, & Health. 2021 Jun 7;4(1):257-266. doi: 10.1136/bmjnph-2021-000272. eCollection 2021. (Kim H et al.)

Meeting Australian Whole Grain Recommendations in Australia Could Save Over 1.4 billion AUD

Currently, Australian adults are only eating about 21 grams of whole grain per day. In this study, researchers quantified the savings in healthcare and reduction of lost productivity costs associated with a reduction in type 2 diabetes and heart disease through meeting the 48 grams per day whole grain recommendation. If 100% of the Australian adult population were to meet this whole grain goal, researchers estimate a savings of up to 750.7 million Australian dollars (AUD) in healthcare and lost productivity costs for type 2 diabetes, and an additional 717.4 million AUD in healthcare and lost productivity costs for heart disease, totaling more than a 1.4 billion AUD savings. On the low end, even if only 5% or 15% of Australian adults meet the 48 grams per day whole grain goal, there would still be an estimated savings total of 73.4 million AUD to 220.2 million AUD, respectively in healthcare and lost productivity costs related to both conditions.
Nutrients. 2021 May 29;13(6):1855. doi: 10.3390/nu13061855. (Abdullah MMH et al.)