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Mediterranean Diet During Pregnancy Linked with Lower Risk of Diabetes During Pregnancy

Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that develops in pregnant women, and if left untreated, it can pose risks for birth complications down the road. In this study, researchers randomly assigned participants to either follow a Mediterranean diet (starting at 18-weeks pregnant) or receive their routine care. Those following a Mediterranean diet were 35% less likely to develop gestational diabetes. However, there was no significant relationship detected between the Mediterranean diet and other maternal or child outcomes (such as maternal high blood pressure, still birth, small birth size, or NICU admissions).
PLOS Medicine. 2019 Jul 23;16(7):e1002857. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1002857. (Al Wattar BH et al.)

Plant-Based Diets Linked with 23-30% Lower Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

Plant-based diets, which emphasize healthy plant foods like whole grains, legumes, vegetables, nuts, and fruits, and de-emphasize or eliminate animal foods like meat, dairy, and eggs, are gaining popularity among people with all sorts of dietary preferences. In this study, researchers analyzed the results of 9 observational studies totaling 307,099 participants to see how plant-based diets (including both vegan and vegetarian diets) relate to type 2 diabetes risk. Those most closely following plant-based diets had a 23% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes across the study periods. When healthy plant-based foods, such as whole grains and vegetables, were included in the definition of plant-based, the relationship was even stronger, at a 30% lower risk.
JAMA Internal Medicine. 2019 Jul 22. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2019.2195. [Epub ahead of print] (Qian F et al.)

Avoiding Wheat Linked with Low Fiber, High Saturated Fat Intakes

Although wheat has been a staple crop for centuries, in recent years it has (unjustly) become a scapegoat by fad-dieters seeking a wheat-free or low-carb diet. In this study, researchers analyzed the diets of 30 people who reported avoiding wheat to see if this wheat-free diet impacted their nutrient intake. The wheat avoiders (many of whom happened to be avoiding dairy as well) consumed too little fiber and calcium, and too much saturated fat and total fat according to dietary recommendations. Interestingly, although 85% of the participants reported avoiding ALL wheat products, ⅓ of the participants reported eating a wheat-based food in their food record (mostly in the form of discretionary snacks/desserts).
Nutrition & Dietetics: The Journal of the Dietitians Association of Australia. 2019 Jul;76(3):305-312. doi: 10.1111/1747-0080.12521. (Golly S et al.)

Low-Carb Paleo Diet Linked with Unhealthy Changes to Gut Microbiome

Paleo diets tend to be high in meat and vegetables, while restricting all grains and dairy products. In this study, researchers analyzed the microbiome of 44 people who had been following a Paleo diet for at least 1 year, and 47 people who eat a healthy diet reflective of dietary guidelines. Those strictly following a Paleo Diet and those eating a standard healthy diet ate significantly more fiber than those only loosely following a Paleo diet. However, those who strictly followed the Paleo diet (eating the lowest levels of whole grains and total grains) were significantly more likely to have higher levels of TMAO (a compound generated by the gut microbiome that is associated with plaque buildup in the arteries). The authors also added that “the rationale to exclude whole grains is not supported by data presented here; being inversely associated with body weight and TMAO concentrations.”
European Journal of Nutrition. 2019 Jul 5. doi: 10.1007/s00394-019-02036-y. [Epub ahead of print] (Genoni A et al.)

Gluten-Free Diet Not Appropriate without Medical Diagnosis

Gluten is a compound found naturally in wheat, barley, and rye that helps dough stretch and bread rise. Many misguided dieters today choose to go gluten-free, even though only about 1% of the population has celiac disease (an autoimmune disorder where gluten must be avoided). In this review, researchers analyzed studies on the nutritional adequacy of gluten-free diets. They found that gluten-free diets tend to have less fiber, calcium, magnesium, zinc, vitamin B12, folate, and vitamin D, and tend to have more saturated fat and exposure to arsenic. The researchers note that “the majority of persons adopting a [gluten-free diet] have no medical basis for doing so,” and that “only persons with [celiac disease], [wheat allergy], or [non celiac gluten-sensitivity] should follow a [gluten-free diet], and they should do so under medical supervision.”
Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism. 2019 Jul 1;2019:2438934. doi: 10.1155/2019/2438934. [Diez-Sampedro A et al.]

An Overview of Healthy Phenolic Compounds in Foods

Polyphenols are a type of antioxidant that can combat cell damage, and they are also linked with lower inflammation and lower risks of chronic disease. In this review, researchers analyzed the different types of phenols in foods and how they are commonly measured, noting that “phenols are mainly found in vegetable foods in which the Mediterranean Diet is rich.”
Journal of AOAC International. 2019 Jun 14. doi: 10.5740/jaoacint.19-0128. [Epub ahead of print] (Delgado AM et al.)

Mediterranean and Vegetarian Diets Can Improve Cholesterol in People with Type 2 Diabetes

Poor cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease, but dietary approaches can be used to keep cholesterol in check. In this review, researchers analyzed 52 randomized controlled trials (the “gold standard” of nutrition research) encompassing 5,360 people with type 2 diabetes, to determine the relationship between diet and cholesterol. They found that vegetarian diets most effectively reduced LDL (“bad”) cholesterol compared with control diets, and that the Mediterranean diet was the overall most effective diet to treat poor cholesterol, raising HDL (“good”) cholesterol and lowering triglycerides (a type of fat in the blood that is a risk factor for heart disease when elevated).
European Journal of Epidemiology. 2019 Jun 14. doi: 10.1007/s10654-019-00534-1. [Epub ahead of print] (Neuenschwander M et al.)

Meatless Meals Linked with Lower "Bad" Cholesterol

High cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease, and it can be easily impacted by food choices. In this study, researchers randomly assigned more than 100 adults to a high saturated fat diet (with lots of butter and fatty dairy) that was meatless, chicken-based, or red meat-based, or a low saturated fat diet (with lowfat dairy) that was meatless, chicken-based, or red meat-based. In both groups, people followed each variation (meatless, chicken-based, or red meat-based) for 4 weeks each, in a random order. Regardless of the protein source, those in the higher saturated fat diet groups had significantly higher levels of total cholesterol and “bad” (LDL) cholesterol. Additionally, those in the meatless group (who got their protein from soy, eggs, legumes, nuts, and dairy) had significantly lower “bad” (LDL) cholesterol than those in the chicken or red meat groups, with no significant differences observed between chicken and red meat on cholesterol.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2019 Jun 4. pii: nqz035. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqz035. [Epub ahead of print] (Bergeron N et al.)

Whole Grains Linked with Healthy Aging

Longevity is fascinating to study, but what is perhaps more important than the years in your life is the life in your years – the ability to age successfully from a medical, social, and lifestyle point of view. In this study, researchers evaluated whole grain intake and measured “successful aging” (using social, lifestyle, and medical indicators) in a group of 3,349 adults ages 50+. Those eating the most whole grains (about 7 servings per day) were significantly more likely to score higher on the “successful aging index” than those eating the least whole grains (about 1.5 servings per day). Those eating the most whole grains were also less likely to have high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol.
Nutrients. 2019 May 29;11(6). pii: E1221. doi: 10.3390/nu11061221. (Foscolou A et al.)

More Exposure to Nutritious, Bitter Staples of Med Diet May Improve Consumer Acceptability

Many bitter foods, such as green vegetables, contain a wealth of antioxidants and essential vitamins and minerals. In this review, scientists analyzed existing research on consumer opinions of two bitter-tasting, healthful essentials of the Mediterranean diet: extra virgin olive oil and brassicaceae vegetables (the family of vegetables that includes broccoli and arugula). They found the most important factor in influencing someone’s perception of these bitter foods is exposure, meaning the more often someone tries these foods, the more likely they’ll be to like them. They also note that music and certain food pairings can make these bitter foods appear to taste less bitter to consumers. In certain demographics (women and elderly consumers), promoting the healthfulness of these bitter foods can also improve acceptability.
Nutrients. 2019 May 24;11(5). pii: E1164. doi: 10.3390/nu11051164. (Cavallo C et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Better Cognitive Function in Adults with Well-Controlled Type 2 Diabetes

Healthy diets are known to support brain health in a general population, so researchers wonder if this benefit also extends to patients with diabetes. Scientists analyzed the eating habits, blood sugar control, and brain function in 913 adults, nearly half of whom had type 2 diabetes. In patients who had good blood sugar control, those most closely following a Mediterranean diet significantly improved their cognitive function over the 2-year study. However, the results were not statistically significant in patients without diabetes or patients with poor blood sugar control.
Diabetes Care. 2019 May 23. pii: dc190130. doi: 10.2337/dc19-0130. [Epub ahead of print] (Mattei J et al.)

Poor Diet Linked with 1/3 of All New Colorectal Cancer Cases

Eating a healthy diet can help protect our health from a number of conditions and complications, so researchers wonder how diet might relate to cancer risk. In this study, researchers used models and dietary data to analyze the cancer cases from 2015. They found that 5.2% of all new cancer cases in 2015 could be attributed to poor diet, with 1.8% attributable to low whole grain consumption, 1.2% attributable to low dairy consumption, and 1% attributable to processed meats. The link with colorectal cancer shows the strongest relationship with diet, as poor diet is linked with 38.3% of all new colorectal cancer cases.
JNCI Cancer Spectrum. 2019 May 22;3(2):pkz034. doi: 10.1093/jncics/pkz034. (Zhang FF et al.)

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