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Eating More Whole Grains Linked with Substantial Savings in Healthcare Costs

In this study, researchers calculated the reduced risk of heart disease associated with each serving of whole grain consumed. They were then able to model various scenarios of increasing whole grain consumption as a proportion of total grains, getting closer and closer to the recommended levels outlined in the US Dietary Guidelines. They found that if whole grain intake was increased to meet recommended levels (an increase of 2.24 servings of whole grain per day), the estimated direct medical cost savings from reduced risk of heart disease in the US was $21.9 billion annually. Further, they found that even small increases in whole grain intake can translate to substantial cost savings. A modest increase of just 0.25 servings of whole grains per day was associated with a savings of $2.4 billion annually.
Nutrients. 2020 Aug 3;12(8):E2323. doi: 10.3390/nu12082323. (Murphy MM et al.) 

Whole Grains Linked with Lower Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

In a large study of nearly 200,000 US adults, those eating whole grains most frequently had a 29% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes across the approximately 30-year study period than those rarely or never eating whole grains, even after adjusting for other lifestyle factors. When looking at specific whole grain foods, common foods like whole grain breakfast cereal, oatmeal, whole grain bread, and brown rice were all linked with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. The exception was popcorn, which was linked with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes when eaten more than once per day, perhaps due to its association with butter sauces or sugary flavorings.
BMJ. 2020 Jul 8;370:m2206. doi: 10.1136/bmj.m2206. (Hu Y et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Healthier Gut Microbiome in Aging

Some of the worlds healthiest, longest lived people follow a Mediterranean diet, so researchers wonder about the mechanism behind its link with healthy aging. In this study, researchers analyzed the gut microbiome of 612 older European adults before starting a Mediterranean diet, and then after 1 year of following a Mediterranean diet. Those who followed the Mediterranean diet most closely had significant differences in their gut microbiome, including microbes associated with lower risk of frailty, better brain function, and lower inflammation.
Gut. 2020 Jul;69(7):1218-1228. doi: 10.1136/gutjnl-2019-319654. Epub 2020 Feb 17.

Healthy Lifestyle (Including Mediterranean Diet) Linked with Lower Risk of Alzheimer's

Eating a nutritious diet is one of the many daily lifestyle choices that can have an impact on our health, especially as we age. Researchers followed 2,765 adults in the Chicago area for over 5 years to see if their lifestyle choices were related to their risk of Alzheimer’s dementia. They specifically looked for these 5 healthy lifestyle factors: 1) not smoking, 2) at least 150 minutes per week of exercise, 3) low to moderate alcohol consumption, 4) following a Mediterranean-inspired healthy diet, and 5) participating in late-life “cognitive activities” like reading, crafting, playing games, and socializing. Compared with adults following 0 or 1 healthy lifestyle factor, the risk of Alzheimer’s dementia was 37% lower in those following 2 or 3 healthy lifestyle factors, and 60% lower in those following 4 or 5 healthy lifestyle factors.
Neurology. 2020 Jun 17;10.1212/WNL.0000000000009816. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000009816. (Dhana K et al.)

Spaniards Locked Down During COVID-19 Shift Back to Traditional Mediterranean Diet

Lockdowns and restaurant closures related to the global COVID-19 pandemic have swiftly changed the way people eat, leaving many people with little choice but to eat more home-cooked meals. Researchers analyzed the diets of 7,514 Spaniards during the COVID-19 pandemic, and also asked them about their eating habits before the pandemic. During the pandemic, when people were forced to eat more home-cooked meals, researchers noted that the Mediterranean diet score of these participants (a measure of how closely people follow the Mediterranean diet) significantly increased. The people who improved their diet reported eating more olive oil, vegetables, fruits, or legumes, and less fried foods, snacks, fast foods, red meat, pastries, or sweetened drinks. The authors conclude that, “this improvement, if sustained in the long-term, could have a positive impact on the prevention of chronic diseases and COVID-19-related complications.”
Nutrients. 2020 Jun 10;12(6):E1730. doi: 10.3390/nu12061730.(Rodríguez-Pérez C et al.)

Seafood and Mediterranean Diet Linked with Better Brain Health in Aging

To see how the Mediterranean diet relates to brain health, researchers analyzed the diets and health of 7,756 older adults. Those most closely following a Mediterranean diet had a significantly lower risk of cognitive impairment but did not have a significantly slower decline in cognitive function. However, those eating the most fish had both a significantly lower risk of cognitive impairment and a significantly slower decline in cognitive function.
Alzheimers Dement. 2020 Jun;16(6):831-842. doi: 10.1002/alz.12077. Epub 2020 Apr 13. (Keenan TD et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Lower Incidence of Colorectal Cancer

Healthy, higher fiber diets with whole grains can help lower the risk of colorectal cancer, so researchers wonder if overall dietary patterns, like the Mediterranean diet, might also be impactful. In an analysis of 13 studies, scientists found that most closely following a Mediterranean diet was linked with a lower frequency of new colorectal cancer cases, but there was no significant impact on the risk of death from colorectal cancer nor all-cause mortality in the study groups.
Am J Clin Nutr. 2020 Jun 1;111(6):1214-1225. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqaa083. (Zhong Y et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Improves Quality of Life, BMI in Patients with IBD

The Mediterranean diet is well known for its anti-inflammatory properties, so it stands to reason that the Mediterranean diet may be helpful in the management of inflammatory bowel diseases. In a study of 284 Italian adults with inflammatory bowel diseases (including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis) who were assigned to a Mediterranean diet for 6 months, eating a Mediterranean diet improved their quality of life, BMI, and waist circumference and reduced signs of fat in the liver, but did not significantly impact their cholesterol or liver function.
Inflamm Bowel Dis. 2020 May 22;izaa097. doi: 10.1093/ibd/izaa097. Online ahead of print. (Chicco F et al.)

Less Processed Whole Grain Foods Linked with Better Blood Sugar Control in People with Diabetes

Replacing refined grains (like white bread or white rice) with whole grains (like whole grain bread or brown rice) is a simple swap that can yield measurable health benefits. But what if you are already eating whole grains and are ready to take the next step? In this study, researchers randomly assigned 63 adults in New Zealand with type 2 diabetes to a diet with either intact, minimally processed grain foods (whole oats, brown rice, whole wheat bread made with coarse whole grains) or more processed, finely milled whole grains (instant oats, brown rice pasta, whole grain bread made of finely milled flour). Those in the less processed group had a significantly lower post-meal blood sugar response and lower blood sugar variability throughout the day, indicating better blood sugar control.
Diabetes Care. 2020 May; dc200263. doi:10.2337/dc20-0263.(Åberg S et al.)

Whole Wheat Flour Has More Minerals, Antioxidants than Refined

Researchers analyzed 168 types of wheat flour purchased throughout the UK and Germany to compare their nutritional profiles. While spelt and organic wheat varieties had significantly higher levels of antioxidants and minerals than their conventional/modern counterparts, a far greater impact on nutrition was observed when comparing whole grain wheat to refined wheat. Whole grain wheat flours had 2-4.3x higher antioxidant concentrations and activity, 144% more phosphorous, 125% more potassium, and 209% more magnesium than refined wheat flours. The authors conclude that “refining (removal of the bran and germ) (a) has a substantially greater impact on the mineral nutrients and phytochemical concentrations in flour than wheat genetics/species choice (T. aestivum vs T. spelta) and production protocols (organic vs conventional), (b) diminishes the differences in antioxidant activity, and phenolic and mineral concentrations in wheat flour produced with grain from contrasting farming systems and wheat species.”
Food Chem X. 2020 May 4;6:100091. doi: 10.1016/j.fochx.2020.100091. (Wang J et al.)

Olive Oil Linked with Lower Risk of Heart Disease

Not all fats are created equal. Olive oil is a source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and polyphenols, while butter is a source of saturated fats. In this study, researchers followed more than 90,000 people for 24 years. Those eating more than ½ tablespoon of olive oil per day had a 14-17% lower risk of heart disease compared with people who didn’t eat olive oil. The scientists also found that replacing 5g/day of butter, margarine, mayonnaise, or dairy fat with the equivalent amount of olive oil was also linked with a 5-7% lower risk of heart disease.
J Am Coll Cardiol. 2020 Apr 21;75(15):1729-1739. doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2020.02.036. Epub 2020 Mar 5. (Guasch-Ferré M et al.)

Mediterranean Diet May Help Reduce Complications of Type 2 Diabetes

The Mediterranean diet is well known for helping prevent disease, and research suggests it may also be helpful for people who already have chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes. In this review, researchers analyzed existing studies (including randomized clinical trials as well as cohort studies) to see how the Mediterranean diet impacted patients with type 2 diabetes. They found that the Mediterranean diet can help reduce risk factors of diabetes complications, such as high blood pressure, inflammation, diseased blood vessels (angiopathy) and poor blood sugar control.
Adv Exp Med Biol. 2020 Apr 7. doi: 10.1007/5584_2020_513. (Gonçalves Tosatti JA et al.)

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