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Mediterranean Diet Reduces Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke

Randomized controlled trials, in which people are randomly assigned to a particular treatment and then monitored over time, are considered by many to be the “gold standard” of nutrition research. In this randomized controlled trial, 1,002 Spanish adults (average age 59) with heart disease were randomly assigned to a Mediterranean diet or a control diet (which differed by emphasizing lean meats and fish and low-fat dairy, and restricting fatty fish, nuts and olive oil) and followed for 7 years. Those eating a Mediterranean diet were 25-29% less likely to have a major cardiovascular event (such as a heart attack or stroke) than those eating the control diet, with the relationship being especially strong in men. These findings are consistent with previous research noting the cardioprotective benefits of a Mediterranean diet. 
Lancet. 2022 May 4;S0140-6736(22)00122-2. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(22)00122-2. (Delgado-Lista J et al.)

Eating More Whole Grains is Linked with Substantial Healthcare Cost Savings

Health economics, the practice of quantifying how much money could be saved by taking certain health promotion measures (such as eating more whole grains) is a growing area of research. In this study, researchers analyzed 4 different models for measuring the health savings of eating more whole grains to identify best practices and inform future research. They found that while results varied from one study to the next, each method identified substantial health savings if people were to make more of their grains whole. The authors recommend that future studies consider realistic behavior changes, which may vary from one country to the next.
Journal of Cereal Science. 2022 May. doi: 10.1016/j.jcs.2022.103455 (Miller KB et al.)​

Whole Grain Public-Private Partnerships Can Increase Whole Grain Intake

Public-private partnerships include collaborations between governments, industry, and/or nonprofits to work towards a common objective, and can be a great strategy to make progress on population-wide goals, such as improving whole grain intake. In this study, researchers examined 3 of the most well-known whole grain public-private partnerships (the Oldways Whole Grains Council in the US, the Danish Whole Grain Partnership, and the Grains and Legumes Nutrition Council in Australia) to identify best practices for increasing whole grain intake globally. The study concludes that to successfully improve whole grain intakes in the long-term, public-private partnerships should address environmental sustainability, be incorporated into front-of-pack labeling schemes, and reach out those who eat the least amount of whole grain.
Journal of Cereal Science. 2022 May. doi: 10.1016/j.jcs.2022.103456 (Sluyter C et al.)

Whole Grain Fiber Linked with Lower Inflammation

Not all fiber is created equal; the fiber from whole grains may offer specific health benefits that can’t be replicated with fruits or vegetables alone. In this study, researchers analyzed the eating habits of 4,125 older adults (age 65+) with a special focus on their fiber intake, and also monitored the participants for signs of inflammation and heart disease. The study found that “higher intakes of cereal fiber, but not vegetable or fruit fiber, were associated with lower levels of inflammation in older adults.” Further, the results suggested that whole grain fiber may play other roles in its relationship with lower cardiovascular disease risk in addition to its link with lower inflammation.
JAMA Network Open. 2022 Mar 1;5(3):e225012. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.5012. (Shivakoti R et al.)

African Heritage Cooking Program Linked with Better Health

A Taste of African Heritage is a 6-week cooking and nutrition curriculum from Oldways based on healthy plant-based foods from across the African Diaspora. In a study examining the impact of the program on 586 people across 21 states, researchers found that participants experienced improvements in weight, systolic blood pressure, and waist size, as well as higher intake of fruit, vegetables, greens, and higher frequency of exercise. The researchers concluded that “integrating cultural heritage and behaviors are positive components to connect participants to healthy old ways or traditions.”
Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. 2022 Feb 10. doi: 10.1016/j.jneb.2021.11.008 (Reicks M et al.)

Whole Grain Products Grow in US and Latin America

The Whole Grain Stamp is a third-party packaging symbol that displays the gram amount of whole grains in a  product. In this study, researchers analyzed products that carry the Whole Grain Stamp over several years. Whole Grain Stamp usage increased from 250 products in 2005 to more than 13,000 products in 2020. The average amount of whole grain per product increased from 19 grams to 25.8 grams in the US and from 18.1 grams to 31.9 grams in Latin America. The researchers concluded that “manufacturers are increasing the percentage of the grain that is whole in their products and developing more whole-grain products for consumers, thus providing an opportunity for consumers to meet national-level whole-grain recommendations.”
Nutrients. 2022 Feb 8;14(3). doi: 10.3390/nu14030713 (Sluyter C et al.)

Including Whole Grains in Nutri-Score Could Improve Diet Quality

Whole grains are a food group, not an individual nutrient, which can create a challenge for nutrient-based front-of-pack scoring systems. Incorporating whole foods, like whole grains, into these scoring systems can help account for the complex benefits that whole grains bring to the table and may also prevent food manufacturers from “gaming the system” with fortified junk foods. In this study, researchers restructured the Nutri-Score algorithm (a traffic-light-colored, front-of-pack labeling program used in many European countries) to include whole grain content as part of the scoring algorithm. With this change, the researchers found that diet quality scores slightly improved, “suggesting that the modified score better aligns with national dietary guidelines.”
European Journal of Nutrition. 2021 Nov 24. doi: 10.1007/s00394-021-02718-6. Online ahead of print. (Kissock KR et al.)

Healthy Plant-Based Foods Associated with Lower Risk and Severity of COVID-19

While vaccines, masks, and social distancing are still the most effective strategies to prevent COVID-19, researchers wonder if diet might also be related to susceptibility of contracting the disease. In this study, researchers analyzed the diets of 592,571 people and followed them to see whether or not they contracted COVID-19. Those whose diets scored best on the healthful Plant-Based Diet Score (a measure of how many healthy plant-based foods people eat, such as fruits and vegetables) were 9% less likely to develop COVID-19 and were 41% less likely to develop severe COVID-19. Additionally, the relationship was strongest in people living in poorer areas.
Gut. 2021 Nov;70(11):2096-2104. doi: 10.1136/gutjnl-2021-325353. Epub 2021 Sep 6. (Merino J et al.)

Whole Grains Are an Underutilized Source of Plant Protein

Although grains are a large source of plant protein in many African, Central American, Asian, and European nations, grains are not considered an important source of protein in any dietary guidelines around the world. In this review, scientists analyze the unused potential of whole grains as animal protein alternatives. Although research suggests that consuming grains as the sole source of protein could result in deficiency, and although grains have a lower protein content than beans and other pulses, shifting grains away from animal feed and toward direct human consumption could be an important strategy to improve both human and environmental health. The review notes that both high whole grain intake and high plant-protein intake have been associated with lower risks of chronic diseases, while high animal protein intake has been associated with higher risks of disease. The authors also highlight processing strategies, such as mixed culture fermentation, that can help improve consumer acceptance of whole grain meat and dairy replacement products.
Nutrition Reviews. 2021 Nov 6;nuab084. doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nuab084. (Poutanen KS et al.)

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.)

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