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Quality Carbohydrates, Like Whole Grains, Linked with Numerous Health Benefits

Not all carbohydrates are created equal. After all, everything from quinoa and blueberries to candy bars and soda have carbohydrates. In this review, researchers examined the links between different types of carbohydrates and health. They concluded that whole grains are linked with numerous health benefits, including lower cholesterol, body fat, and healthier blood sugar management, as well as lower risks of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, many cancers, and death from all causes. Given that much of the research on whole grains is done using more processed whole grain products (like breakfast cereals and breads), the authors note that more research is needed to determine if intact whole grains without as much added sugar may have even greater health benefits.
BMJ. 2018 June 13. (Ludwig DS et al.) [Epub ahead of print.]

Improving Diet Could Save US Billions in Healthcare Costs

When it comes to good nutrition, every little bite adds up. To see how much eating healthier could impact healthcare costs, researchers analyzed the relationship between diet, health problems, and healthcare spending. They found that if Americans were to make their diets even 20% more Mediterranean, the US would save $25.7 billion dollars per year. Similarly, if Americans were to make their diets align 20% more with the Healthy Eating Index 2015 (which emphasizes healthy foods like whole grains, lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and dairy), the US could save $38.1 billion per year. If Americans’ diets were to align an impressive 80% with the Mediterranean diet or Healthy Eating Index 2015, the US could save $135 billion or $66.9 billion per year, respectively. (Note that findings presented at meetings are considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.)
Presentation at the American Society for Nutrition Scientific Sessions and Annual Meeting. Boston, MA. June 11, 2018. (Scrafford, C et al.)

Seafood Intake in Mothers and Fathers Linked with Shorter Time to Pregnancy

For couples trying to grow their family, a healthy diet with seafood may help tilt the odds in their favor. Researchers followed 501 couples planning to get pregnant for up to a year, tracking their eating habits and pregnancies. Couples in which both male and female partners ate at least 8 servings of seafood per month had a significantly shorter time to pregnancy than those consuming less. Even if just one partner ate seafood at least 8 times per month, there was still a significantly shorter time to pregnancy than if they ate it fewer than 2 times per month (with the relationship being slightly stronger in women than in men). Couples eating the most seafood (at least 8 times per month) also tended to have sexual intercourse 22% more frequently than those eating less.
Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. 2018 May 23. (Gaskins AJ et al.) [Epub ahead of print.]

Mediterranean Diet May Be Linked with Fewer Deaths Related to Air Pollution

Air pollution is a concern in many countries around the world, so researchers wonder whether a healthy diet may offset some of these risks. To test this theory, researchers followed more than half a million people across 6 states in the US, estimating their exposure to air pollutants and assessing their eating patterns. Those most closely following a Mediterranean diet were significantly less likely to die from all causes and heart disease specifically over the 17-year study period than those not following a Mediterranean diet, even at the same level of air pollution exposure. The researchers suspect that the antioxidants in the healthy foods of the Mediterranean diet may play a role in this relationship. (Note that findings presented at meetings are typically viewed as preliminary until they’ve been published in a peer-reviewed journal.)
Presented at the American Thoracic Society International Conference. San Diego, California. May 21, 2018

Traditional Mediterranean and Japanese Diets Linked with Lower Risk of Death from Heart Disease

At first glance, Japanese and Mediterranean cuisines might seem worlds apart. However, the overall eating patterns share more similarities than one might think. Researchers analyzed the diets and long-term (50-year) data on death from heart disease in 12,763 men in the Seven Countries Study from the 1960s. The researchers noted a very similar eating pattern between the Mediterranean group and the Japanese group, with lots of seafood and vegetables, and low amounts of animal foods and animal fat. They also found that eating more vegetables and starch, and more closely following a “Mediterranean” diet (as the Mediterranean and Japanese groups did) were linked with significantly lower risks of death from heart disease. Sweets, animal foods, and hard fats (like butter or lard) were linked with increased risk.
European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2018 May 17. (Kromhout D et al.) [Epub ahead of print.]

Healthier Diet with Whole Grains, Fruits, Veg Linked with Bigger Brains

Brains tend to shrink in people who are suffering from dementia and other cognitive diseases, so researchers wonder if lifestyle factors may relate to brain structure. Scientists analyzed the eating habits and brain volume (using MRIs) of more than 4,000 adults without dementia. Eating lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, dairy, and fish, and drinking fewer sugary drinks was linked with larger brain volumes. Healthier diets were also linked with more gray matter, white matter, and hippocampal volume in the brain.
Neurology. 2018 May 16. (Croll PH) [Epub ahead of print.]

Olive Oil and Fruit Linked with Less Depression in Elderly

Study after study links a healthy body with a healthy mind, especially in aging populations. To see if diet relates to depressive symptoms, researchers evaluated the eating habits and mental health of nearly 400 Italian adults in their 90s. Those consuming more olive oil and fruit were significantly less likely to have depression than those not getting much olive oil or fruit, though the relationship between higher Mediterranean diet scores and lower risks of depression was not strong enough to be statistically significant.
Journal of Nutrition, Health, & Aging. 2018 May;22(5):569-574. (Pagliai et al.)

Following a Mediterranean-Inspired Diet Linked with 30% Lower Risk of Hearing Loss in Women

Hearing loss is the third most common health problem in the US, so scientists wonder if there might be a relationship between diet and hearing over time. To test this relationship, researchers followed more than 81,000 women for 2 decades, tracking their eating patterns and health outcomes. Those most closely following a Mediterranean-inspired diet were 30% less likely to develop hearing loss over the 20-year study than those not following a Mediterranean diet. Similarly, people whose diets closely adhered to a DASH diet or the Alternative Healthy Eating Index (both of which also prioritize vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, and limit red meat and sweets), were also less likely to develop hearing loss over time.
Journal of Nutrition. 2018 May 11. (Curhan SG et al.) [Epub ahead of print]

Switching to Whole Grains Can Reduce Abdominal Fat

Visceral fat is a dangerous type of abdominal fat that can surround vital organs like the liver. To see if grain choices might play a role in this fat distribution, researchers randomly assigned 50 Japanese men with a BMI of 23 or greater (midway through the “healthy weight” range or heavier) to a diet with whole grain bread or white bread for 12 weeks, and had their visceral fat estimated using tomography scans. After the 12-week study, the whole grain group lost 4 cm of visceral fat around their middle, while the white bread group showed no significant changes.
Plant Foods and Human Nutrition. 2018 Apr 18. [Epub ahead of print.] (Kikuchi Y et al.)

Low GI Pasta Meals Can Lead to Weight Loss

Keep the pasta, lose the pounds! Pasta is a low Glycemic Index food, meaning that it doesn’t spike your blood sugar. To see how low glycemic diets with pasta relate to weight, researchers analyzed 32 randomized clinical trial comparisons involving 2,448 adults (who were mostly middle aged and overweight or obese). Compared with high Glycemic Index diets, the low Glycemic Index diets with pasta (about three ½ cup servings per week) were linked with modest weight loss (0.63 kg, or 1.4 pounds), even without cutting calories.
BMJ. 2018 April 4;8(3):1-13. (Chiavaroli L et al.)

Cruciferous Veggies Linked with Less Plaque Build Up in Arteries

If you want to keep your arteries in tip-top shape, you may want to add an extra helping of broccoli or Brussels sprouts to your meals. In a study of more than 900 older women (ages 70+), those consuming 3 or more servings of vegetables each day had lower levels of plaque in their arteries (as measured by CCA-IMT). When looking at the different types of vegetables, cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, and bok choy) had the strongest relationship, as each 10 gram serving was linked with 0.8% less plaque (as measured by CCA-IMT).
Journal of the American Heart Association. 2018 Apr 4;7(8). (Blekkenhorst LC et al.).

Protein from Nuts and Seeds Linked with Less Death from Heart Disease than Protein from Meat

Protein is important for our muscles, enzymes, and numerous essential body processes, but not all protein is created equal. To see how different protein sources relate to heart disease deaths, researchers carefully analyzed the diets of 81,337 men and women. Those getting more protein from nuts and seeds were significantly less likely to die from heart disease than those not getting as much protein from nuts and seeds. On the other hand, those getting more protein from animal sources had a higher risk of dying from heart disease. The relationship between heart disease death and these foods was so strong, even after controlling for other diet and lifestyle factors, that the researchers concluded that the link “could not be ascribed to other associated nutrients considered to be important for cardiovascular health.”
International Journal of Epidemiology. 2018 Apr 2. [Epub ahead of print] (Tharrey M et al.)

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