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Whole Grains Linked with Improvements in Diabetes

Healthy carbohydrates like whole grains are part of the solution, not the problem, when it comes to diabetes. In this study, researchers analyzed 29 randomized controlled trials (the gold standard of nutrition research) to see how whole grains and ancient grains might impact health outcomes in people with diabetes. They found that brown rice significantly improved HbA1c (a measure of blood sugar control over time) and BMI (a measure of weight based on height), that oats significantly improved cholesterol, and that millet significantly improved body weight. However, given the different grains and research methods used, it was difficult for the researchers to draw broad conclusions across the whole group of grains, indicating that more research is needed to understand these effects. 
Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2024 May;34(5):1110-1128. doi: 10.1016/j.numecd.2024.03.005. Epub 2024 Mar 7. (Magi CE et al.)

Shift from Rural to Urban Diet in South Africa Linked with Unhealthy Microbiome Changes

Replacing traditional foods with highly processed, Western-style foods has been linked with decreased diet quality around the world in a phenomenon known as the nutrition transition. In this study, researchers analyzed the eating habits and microbiome of healthy urban and rural Xhosa people in South Africa. The urban population ate more calories, fat, and animal protein and had gut microbiomes characterized by qualities linked with higher colorectal cancer risk (such as higher levels of deoxycholic acid). The authors conclude that “rural-urban dietary transition in South Africa is linked to major changes in the gut microbiome and metabolome,” and that more research is needed to “identify whether restoration of specific components of the traditional diet will arrest the accelerating rise in [non-communicable diseases] in Sub-Saharan Africa.”
Nat Commun. 2024 Apr 20;15(1):3379. doi: 10.1038/s41467-024-46265-0.

Latin American, Asian, and African Heritage Diets Include Healthy Food Traditions

The Mediterranean diet is widely studied and promoted, yet research on traditional cuisines from other corners of the globe have not been investigated to the same extent. In this perspective article, researchers highlight the key elements of traditional Latin American, Asian, and African heritage diets and their link with nutrition and health outcomes. Because one diet does not fit all, this research also highlights how Oldways’ heritage diet pyramids illustrate the substantial variation of foods and flavors that exist within these broader eating patterns.
Adv Nutr. 2024 Apr 9:100221. doi: 10.1016/j.advnut.2024.100221. (LeBlanc KE et al.)

Spices and Herbs Linked with Improved Diabetes Management

Herbs and spices give regional identity to traditional meals, adding both flavor and nutrition. In this review, scientists analyzed 77 intervention studies focused on different herbs and spices and their impact on individuals with type 2 diabetes. Black cumin, cinnamon, and ginger had the greatest impact on markers of diabetes management, including decreased fasting blood sugar, improvements in glycated hemoglobin (ginger and black cumin), and decreased insulin (cinnamon and ginger).
Nutrients. 2024 Mar 7. doi: 10.3390/nu16060756 (Garza MC et al.)

Whole Grains Linked with Longer Healthspan

Whole grains have long been linked with longevity and are a central part of the diet of many of the world’s longest-lived people. New research, however, suggests that whole grains don’t just add years to life – they may also add life to years, by being linked with a longer healthspan, or the length of time that a person is healthy, not just alive. In this study of more than 48,000 Danish adults, men who ate the most whole grains in midlife lived roughly one year longer without disease compared with men who ate the least whole grains. The authors concluded that “intake of whole grains in mid-life was associated with healthy aging looking 20 years ahead.”
Eur J Nutr. 2024 Mar 7. doi: 10.1007/s00394-024-03357-3. Online ahead of print. (Eriksen AK et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with 44% Lower Risk of Heart Disease

Prospective studies, which follow groups of people over long periods of time, help researchers to identify patterns for chronic diseases like heart disease that often appear later in life. In this prospective study, nearly 2,000 adults were followed for 20 years to see if their diet had any relationship with developing heart disease down the road. Those most closely following a Mediterranean diet were 44% less likely to develop cardiovascular disease during the 20-year study, even after adjusting for family history, smoking, physical activity, and other risk factors. The authors also suggested that inflammation and kidney function may play a role in this relationship.
Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2024 Jan;34(1):153-166. doi: 10.1016/j.numecd.2023.09.019. (Georgoulis M et al.)

Eating Whole Grains Linked with Slower Cognitive Decline

Good nutrition can help support brain health and healthy aging, and it’s increasingly clear that whole grains are an important part of the equation. In a study of 3,326 older adults (average age 75), those eating three or more servings of whole grains per day had a slower rate of decline in global cognition, perceptual speed, and episodic memory compared to those who ate fewer than one serving per day. These results were statistically significant for the group as a whole and for African American participants (who made up 60% of the study population), but did not quite reach statistical significance for white participants (who made up a smaller proportion of the study population).
Neurology. 2023 Nov 22:10.1212/WNL.0000000000207938. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000207938. (Liu X et al.)

Whole Grains Linked with Lower Risk of Weight Gain

Carbohydrate foods from different sources have different impacts on the body, meaning that it is important to choose quality carbohydrates like whole grains. In this study, researchers analyzed the eating patterns and weight changes of 136,432 adults for more than 2 decades. Eating more whole grains, fruit, and non starchy vegetables was linked with a lower risk of weight gain, while eating more refined grains and starchy vegetables (peas, corn, potatoes) was linked with a higher risk of weight gain.
BMJ. 2023 Sep 27:382:e073939. doi: 10.1136/bmj-2022-073939. (Wan Y et al.)

Mediterranean Diet in Pregnancy May Improve Neurodevelopment in Children

Lifestyle habits during pregnancy can support healthy growth and development for babies and children. To measure prenatal interventions on neurodevelopment, more than 600 pregnant mothers were randomly assigned to a Mediterranean diet (receiving free olive oil and walnuts), a mindfulness-based stress relief program, or a control group that received their usual prenatal care. When the children they delivered were 24 months old, they were then assessed for neurodevelopment outcomes. Compared with the control group, children in the Mediterranean diet group scored higher in the cognitive and social-emotional domain, and children in the mindfulness group also scored higher in the social-emotional domain.
JAMA Network Open. 2023 Aug 1;6(8):e2330255. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.30255. (Crovetto F et al.)

School Meals with More Whole Grains Can Prevent 10,600 Deaths and $19.3B in Healthcare Costs

Nutritious school meals can support children’s health in the short term, and new research suggests that these benefits can extend into adulthood as well. In this study, researchers used comparative risk assessment frameworks to estimate the short-term and long-term health impacts of fully aligning the U.S. National School Lunch program with the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. If all school meals were to fully comply with the Dietary Guidelines, researchers estimate improved BMI and blood pressure in the short term, as well as 10,600 fewer deaths from heart disease, diabetes, and cancer in adulthood. These health improvements would save an estimated 355,000 disability-adjusted life-years and an estimated $19.3 billion in medical costs each year. While many aspects of the current and proposed school nutrition standards are aligned with the Dietary Guidelines, stronger school meal standards for whole grains, added sugars, and sodium are needed to be able to fully realize these health benefits.  
Am J Clin Nutr. 2023 Jul 18;S0002-9165(23)65959-3. doi: 10.1016/j.ajcnut.2023.05.031. (Wang L et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Lower Risk of Death in Women with Breast Cancer

To see if diet might relate to breast cancer survival, researchers analyzed the pre-diagnosis eating habits of 13,270 women with breast cancer and followed them for more than 8 years after diagnosis. Low compared with medium adherence to a Mediterranean diet before breast cancer diagnosis was linked with a 13% higher risk of all-cause mortality, while each 3-unit increase in the 16-point Mediterranean diet score was linked with an 8% reduced risk of mortality. The results were especially strong in cases of metastatic breast cancer.
BMC Medicine. 2023 Jun 26;21(1):225. doi: 10.1186/s12916-023-02934-3. (Castro-Espin C et al.)

No Need to Avoid Pasta on Weight Loss Diets

Pasta is low-glycemic index food, meaning that it has a gentler impact on blood sugar than many other carbohydrate foods. However, many people are confused about how pasta fits into a healthy diet. In this review, researchers analyzed 38 studies to better understand how pasta intake relates to body weight. Some studies found no relationship between eating pasta and body weight, while other studies found that eating pasta was related to a lower risk of overweight and obesity. Overall, the evidence suggests that pasta does not cause weight gain, especially when pasta is eaten in the context of an overall healthy diet.
Nutrients. 2023 Jun 9;15(12):2689. doi: 10.3390/nu15122689. (Sanders LM et al.)