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Mediterranean Diet Linked with Less Body Fat, Better Blood Sugar Control

Maintaining a healthy weight and healthy blood sugar control are thought to help prevent chronic diseases down the road. In a study of 142 adults, people who most closely followed a Mediterranean diet were more likely to have less body fat, better fasting blood sugar, lower insulin, and lower triglycerides (a type of fat in the blood). Other measured health differences between those who followed the Mediterranean diet and those who didn’t were not statistically significant.
Postgrad Medical Journal. 2020 Nov 12;postgradmedj-2020-138667. doi: 10.1136/postgradmedj-2020-138667. (Kalkuz S et al.)

Benefits of the African Yam Bean

The African yam bean is a legume that grows in West and East Africa. In this review, scientists detail the protein and antioxidant content of the African yam bean as well as how the African yam bean could be used to enhance overall nutritional quality (such as using it in breakfast foods, traditional dishes, snacks, and even instant noodles).  
Heliyon. 2020 Nov; 6(11): e05458. doi: 10.1016/j.heliyon.2020.e05458 (George TT et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Lower Risk of Erectile Dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction can burden health-related quality of life for both the affected men and their partners. In a study of 21,469 men in the U.S., both younger men (under 60) and older men (60+) most closely following a Mediterranean diet had a 22% and 12% lower risk of experiencing erectile dysfunction, respectively. Likewise, men eating an overall healthy diet (as measured by the Alternative Healthy Eating Index 2010) also were significantly less likely to experience erectile dysfunction.
JAMA Network Open. 2020 Nov 2;3(11):e2021701. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.21701. (Bauer SR et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Is Associated with Lower Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

The Mediterranean diet is linked with a lower risk of diabetes, and researchers want to learn more about the mechanisms behind this protective effect. This study followed up a group of 25,317 middle-aged women without diabetes for approximately 20 years. The results indicated that those who strictly follow the Mediterranean diet tend to have a 30% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to those who don’t follow a Mediterranean diet. The lower risk of diabetes could be partially explained by better insulin resistance, lower inflammation, and lower cholesterol in the women who followed a Mediterranean diet, and the results were especially strong in people who were overweight at the beginning of the study.
JAMA Network Open. 2020 Nov 2; 3(11):e2025466. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.25466 (Ahmad S et al.)

Switching to Whole Grains Can Improve Cholesterol, Blood Sugar Control, and Inflammation

Randomized controlled trials are the “gold standard” of nutrition research as they can be used to establish cause and effect. In this article, researchers analyzed more than 20 randomized controlled trials to see how replacing refined grains with whole grains can impact health. They found that for adults both with and without risk factors of heart disease, substituting whole grains for refined can improve total cholesterol, LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, hemoglobin A1c (a measure of blood sugar control), and C-reactive protein (a measure of inflammation). 
Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2020 Nov;120(11):1859-1883.e31. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2020.06.021. (Marshall S et al.)

Green Tea and Coffee Linked with Longer Lifespan in People with Diabetes

Green tea and coffee contain healthy antioxidants, and researchers wonder if benefits of these beverages extend to people with type 2 diabetes as well. In this study, scientists followed 4,923 Japanese adults (aged 66, on average) with type 2 diabetes for about 5 years to study their beverage habits and health outcomes. Compared with drinking no green tea, drinking at least 4 cups per day was linked with a 40% lower risk of death, drinking 2-3 cups was linked with a 27% lower risk of death, and drinking smaller amounts (up to 1 cup per day) was linked with a 15% lower risk of death. Similarly, compared with never drinking coffee, drinking at least 2 cups per day was linked with a 41% lower risk of death, drinking 1 cup per day was linked with a 19% lower risk of death, and drinking smaller amounts (less than 1 cup per day) was linked with a 12% lower risk of death. Interestingly, the benefits of drinking both coffee and green tea were additive, meaning that drinking both coffee and green tea each day may be extra beneficial.
BMJ Open Diabetes Research Care. 2020 Oct;8(1):e001252. doi: 10.1136/bmjdrc-2020-001252. (Komorita Y et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Lower Risk of Prodromal Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms

Prodromal Parkinson’s disease is when someone does not meet the full diagnostic criteria for having Parkinson’s disease, but they do exhibit some Parkinson’s symptoms and are at increased risk of being diagnosed with Parkinson’s down the road. In this study, researchers analyzed the diets of 17,400 adults and monitored them for signs of prodromal Parkinson’s disease. Those most closely following a Mediterranean diet were significantly less likely to have symptoms of prodromal Parkinson’s disease.
Neurology. 2020 Oct 13;95(15):e2095-e2108. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000010523. Epub 2020 Aug 19. (Molsberry S et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Longer Lives

The secret to longer life just might be in your kitchen. A large study of 5,094 Italian men was conducted over a seven-year period to see how their daily diets and lifestyle habits affected mortality rates. Those most closely following the Mediterranean diet were less likely to die over the study period. Additionally, the researchers also found a significant relationship between lower death risk and eating higher amounts of vegetables, proteins, fats, starch, folic acid, and monounsaturated fats from plant-based sources (mostly from olive oil). On the other hand, animal fats and sugar were linked with a greater risk of death over the study period.
Nutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Diseases. 2020 Sept 24;30(10):1673-1678. doi.10.1016/j.numecd.2020.05.034 (Trevisan M et al.)

Modern Wheat Does NOT Have More Gluten than Ancient Wheat

Over the past centuries, the yield production of wheat has dramatically increased around the globe, leaving some to wonder how the quality and gluten content of modern wheat compares to ancient varieties. This research analyzed more than 200 wheat lines from the 18th century through modern times. The results showed that modern breeds of wheat tend to have slightly higher starch and fiber levels, and lower protein content as well as lower levels of some minerals (iron, zinc, magnesium). In fact, the decreased gliadin: glutenin ratio in modern wheat indicates a decrease in celiac disease antigens in modern wheat, while the lower protein content indicates lower levels of gluten.
Nutrition Bulletin. 2020 Sept. doi:10.1111/nbu.12461. (Shewry PR et al.)

 

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Better Blood Vessel Function in Adults with Heart Disease

The endothelium lines the heart and blood vessels, and when not working properly, can be an indicator of atherosclerosis (dangerous buildup of fatty plaques in arteries). In this study, researchers randomly assigned 805 adults with coronary heart disease to a Mediterranean diet or a low-fat control diet and measured their endothelial function. After 1 year on their respective diets, those following a Mediterranean diet were more likely to have improved endothelial function and better homeostasis of their blood vessels, even in patients with severe endothelial dysfunction.
PLoS Medicine. 2020 Sep 9;17(9):e1003282. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1003282. eCollection 2020 Sep. (Yubero-Serrano EM et al.)

Availability, Taste, Cost, and Communication Can All Help Increase Whole Grain Intake

Whole grain intake is still far below recommended levels worldwide, so researchers and policy makers wonder which strategies may be most useful for getting people to eat more whole grains. In this review, researchers analyzed studies about the various factors that influence whole grain consumption. They found that the main factors that are successful in increasing whole grain intake for both kids and adults are to “(i) increase the availability and the variety of foods containing [whole grains], (ii) improve their sensory appeal, (iii) reduce their purchase cost, (iv) use a familiarization period to introduce them to consumers (with a gradual increase in consumed amounts and repeated exposure), and (v) improve communication and labeling to enhance consumers’ ability to identify products with [whole grains].” The authors also note the benefits of public-private partnerships in their potential to increase whole grain consumption.
Nutrients. 2020 Aug; 12(8): 2217. Published online 2020 Jul 25. doi: 10.3390/nu12082217 (Meynier A et al.)

Eating More Whole Grains Linked with Substantial Savings in Healthcare Costs

In this study, researchers calculated the reduced risk of heart disease associated with each serving of whole grain consumed. They were then able to model various scenarios of increasing whole grain consumption as a proportion of total grains, getting closer and closer to the recommended levels outlined in the US Dietary Guidelines. They found that if whole grain intake was increased to meet recommended levels (an increase of 2.24 servings of whole grain per day), the estimated direct medical cost savings from reduced risk of heart disease in the US was $21.9 billion annually. Further, they found that even small increases in whole grain intake can translate to substantial cost savings. A modest increase of just 0.25 servings of whole grains per day was associated with a savings of $2.4 billion annually.
Nutrients. 2020 Aug 3;12(8):E2323. doi: 10.3390/nu12082323. (Murphy MM et al.) 

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