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Substituting Refined Grains with Whole Grains During Gestational Diabetes Linked with Less Childhood Obesity

Foods that moms choose during pregnancy may have an impact on their children’s health down the line. In a study of more than 500 mother-child pairs in Denmark, in which all of the moms were diagnosed with gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy), Harvard researchers found that substituting 1 serving of refined grains per day with whole grains in the mom’s diet during pregnancy was associated with a 10% lower risk of the child being overweight or obese at age 7. They also found that eating more than 4.3 servings of refined grains per day during pregnancy was linked with nearly double the risk of children becoming overweight or obese at age 7 compared to those who ate fewer than 1.8 servings of refined grains per day. These results were especially strong in kids who were breastfed for less than 6 months.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2017 June 7. [Epub ahead of print.] (Zhu Y et al.)

Fiber Linked with Less Knee Pain Worsening and Less Symptomatic Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a painful joint condition in which the flexible tissues at the ends of bones get worn down. To see how eating patterns might relate to joint pain in this condition, scientists analyzed the diets of 5,227 US adults (average age = 61) with (or at risk of) osteoarthritis. Those eating 20.6 grams of fiber per day were 30% less likely to develop symptomatic osteoarthritis than those eating only 8.6 grams of fiber per day, and scientists noted a dose-response relationship (meaning that higher fiber intakes are correlated with a lower risk of symptomatic osteoarthritis). Similarly, the researchers found that those eating the most cereal fiber (the type of fiber in whole grains) had a 14% lower risk of knee pain worsening than those eating the least (8.4 grams vs 2.8 grams). However, results were not statistically significant for other types of fiber (such as fiber from fruit or nuts).
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases. 2017 May 23. [Epub before print.] (Dai Z et al.) 

Plant-Based Diet Can Reduce Obesity Risk by 43%

Nearly every healthy diet around the world is centered on a foundation of colorful produce. To see how eating more plant foods relates to obesity risk, scientists analyzed the diets of 16,000 healthy (non-obese) adults in Spain. Those eating the most plant-based diets (high in fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, olive oil, and pulses, and low in meat, dairy, seafood, and other animal products) had a 43% lower risk  of becoming obese throughout the 10-year study than those with the most animal-based diets, even after controlling for age, physical activity, and other demographic factors. (Note that findings presented at meetings are typically viewed as preliminary until they’ve been published in a peer-reviewed journal.)
Presented at the European Congress on Obesity. Porto, Portugal. May 18, 2017. (Sanz J et al.)

Vegetables at Dinner Linked with Better Academic Performance in Kids

Providing healthy food to children doesn’t just impact their health; it might give them a leg up in the classroom as well. Researchers analyzed the eating patterns and test scores of 4,245 Australian children (ages 8-15) to see if food choices relate to academics. They found that kids who ate vegetables every night at dinner scored significantly higher in spelling and writing than kids who ate the fewest vegetables, and that eating breakfast daily and at least 2 servings of fruit daily were also linked with significantly higher scores in writing. On the other hand, kids who drank the most sugary drinks (like soda) scored significantly lower in reading, writing, grammar/punctuation, and numeracy than those who drank the fewest.
Appetite. 2017 May 6. pii: S0195-6663(17)30374-4. (Burrows T et al.)

Gluten Not Related to Heart Disease, but Avoiding Whole Grains Is

Unless you have celiac disease, you might want to rethink that gluten-free diet. In a study of more than 100,000 US adults without celiac disease, followed for more than 25 years, researchers found that eating gluten was not related to heart disease risk. In fact, the researchers caution that avoiding gluten may result in eating fewer whole grain foods, which may in turn pose a risk for heart disease.
BMJ. 2017 May 2;357:j1892. (Lebwohl B et al.)

Mediterranean Diet & Healthy Nordic Diet Linked with Better Survival in Colorectal Cancer

Although food traditions vary from country to country, many traditional healthy diets are rooted in wholesome plant foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. In a study of 1404 people who had been diagnosed with colorectal cancer at least six years prior, researchers analyzed their eating patterns based on how closely they aligned with a Mediterranean diet (fruits, vegetables, grains, unsaturated fats, legumes, moderate alcohol) and a healthy Nordic diet (fish, root vegetables, whole grain bread and oatmeal, apples, pears, cabbage). Those who most closely followed a Mediterranean diet were significantly less likely to die during the study period than those not following a Mediterranean diet. Similarly, each 1-point increase on the Modified Mediterranean Diet Score or the Healthy Nordic Food Index was linked with improved survival.
Journal of Nutrition. 2017 Apr;147(4):636-644. (Ratjen I et al.)

School-Based Mediterranean Diet Program Linked with Less Obesity, Healthier Blood Pressure in Teens

Childhood obesity is a growing problem around the world, and in developed countries, it is estimated that ⅓ of children are overweight or obese. In a study of 1,032 Greek teenagers (average age = 14), researchers tested a 6-month school-based nutrition education intervention, based on the principles of the Mediterranean Diet. Following the intervention, the researchers found significant decreases in overweight and obesity, abdominal obesity (specifically waist circumference), and blood pressure.
European Journal of Clinical Investigation. 2017 Apr 13. [Epub ahead of print] (Bacopoulou F et al.)

Eating Fruit Linked with Less Diabetes Risk & Fewer Diabetes Complications

Although fruit has naturally occurring sugars, research continually demonstrates that fruit is an important part of a healthy diet, even for people with diabetes. In a large study of nearly half a million adults in China, researchers found that those eating fresh fruit daily were 12% less likely to develop diabetes over the 7-year study than those who rarely or never ate fresh fruit. Additionally, adults who had diabetes at the beginning of the study were 17% less likely to die over the study period, and were 13-28% less likely to have blood vessel complications.  
PLoS Medicine. 2017 Apr 11;14(4):e1002279. (Du H et al.)

Olive Oil Linked with Prevention & Management of Type 2 Diabetes

Olive oil is a staple of the Mediterranean diet, an eating pattern praised for its links to good health and wellbeing. To see how olive oil relates to type 2 diabetes, researchers in Europe analyzed data from 4 cohort studies (following people over time and monitoring their health) and 29 clinical trials (randomly assigning people to diets with or without olive oil). They found that those consuming the most olive oil had a 16% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those consuming the least olive oil, with every 2 teaspoon increase in olive oil daily linked with a 9% lower risk. For patients who already had type 2 diabetes, adding olive oil to their diet significantly lowered their HbA1c, an indicator of better blood sugar control.
Nutrition & Diabetes. 2017 Apr 10;7(4):e262. (Schwingshackl L et al.)

Eating Pulses Linked with Lower Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

Pulses are the food group that comprises beans, peas, chickpeas, and lentils. To see how these foods might be related to diabetes prevention, researchers analyzed data from 3,349 Spanish adults from the PREDIMED trial. Those eating the most pulses (about ⅓ cup per day) were 35% less likely to get type 2 diabetes over the 4-year study period, even after adjusting for overall diet and BMI. Those eating the most lentils (about 1 ½ tablespoons per day) were 33% less likely to get type 2 diabetes, but the relationship was not significant for other types of pulses. Researchers found that by replacing just a half serving of whole grain bread, white bread, rice, or baked potatoes with a half serving of pulses was linked with a 44%, 47%, 52%, and 51% lower risk of diabetes, respectively.
Clinical Nutrition. 2017 Mar 24. pii: S0261-5614(17)30106-1. (Becerra-Tomas N et al.)

Moderate Alcohol Intake Linked with Lower Risk of Heart Disease

In the UK, moderate alcohol intake is defined by up to 3 drinks per day for men and up to two drinks per day for women. To see how drinking alcohol relates to heart disease risk, British researchers analyzed the drinking habits and health outcomes of nearly 2 million adults (although they did not differentiate between beer, wine, and other alcoholic beverages). They found that, compared to moderate drinking, both nondrinkers and heavy drinkers (exceeding the guidelines described above) were significantly more likely to suffer from heart failure, stroke, and death from heart disease, among other (but not all) heart problems. The scientists caution that “there are safer and more effective ways of reducing cardiovascular risk,” than taking up drinking (such as diet, exercise, and quitting smoking), and suggest that “a more nuanced approach to the role of alcohol in prevention of cardiovascular disease is necessary.”
BMJ. 2017 Mar 22;356:j909. (Bell S et al.)

Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet Can Improve Weight

Plant-based diets, which focus on fruits, vegetables, grains, and pulses, can be a great tool for eating healthy. In a small study in New Zealand, researchers randomly assigned overweight and obese adults to either a whole foods plant-based diet (with vitamin B12 supplementation) or a control group with no special diet for six months. Although the plant-based diet was not calorie restricted, those in the diet group lost on average 24 pounds after one year, and after excluding dropouts (49 of the 65 participants completed the study), the diet group also significantly improved their cholesterol.
Nutrition & Diabetes. 2017 Mar 20;7(3):e256. (Wright N et al.)