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Mediterranean Diet Linked with Better Brain Function in Men with Heart Disease

The Mediterranean diet is well-known for its links to brain health, and new research demonstrates that these ties hold up in populations with heart disease as well. In this study, researchers analyzed the diets of 200 men (average age 57), then assessed their brain health 14 and 20 years later. Not following a Mediterranean Diet was linked with a greater decline in overall cognitive performance and visual spatial functions.
Nutritional Neuroscience. 2020 Jan 22:1-9. doi: 10.1080/1028415X.2020.1715049. (Lutski M et al.)

Cooking Olive Oil at Lower Temperatures Retains More of the Healthy Polyphenols

Olive oil is famously healthy due in part to its polyphenol content, and researchers wonder if cooking the olive oil degrades any of its nutritional properties. In this study, research tested the phenolic content of olive oil after sautéing it at medium (about 250°F) and high (about 340°F) temperatures on the stovetop over various periods of time (15-60 minutes) to replicate home cooking. They found that temperature had a much bigger impact than time, and that cooking at a medium temperature on the stovetop decreased polyphenol content by 40%, and that cooking at a high temperature on the stovetop decreased polyphenol content by 75%. Nonetheless, they found that cooked olive oil still meets the parameters of the EU’s health claim, as it still has the level of polyphenols necessary to prevent LDL oxidation. (LDL oxidation is the creation of a dangerous type of cholesterol that can clog arteries).
Antioxidants. 2020 Jan 16;9(1). pii: E77. doi: 10.3390/antiox9010077. (Lozano-Castellón J et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Lower Risk of Later-Onset Crohn’s Disease

Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are both types of inflammatory bowel diseases that cause serious digestive discomfort in people. In this study, scientists followed two large cohorts of people (83,147 total) aged 45-79 years old, assessed their diet, then monitored them for 17 years to see if they developed Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. Those most following a Mediterranean diet were up to 58% less likely to get Crohn’s disease over the study period, but the results were not statistically significant for ulcerative colitis.
Gut. 2020 Jan 3. pii: gutjnl-2019-319505. doi: 10.1136/gutjnl-2019-319505. (Khalili H et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Better Quality of Life in Adults with Type 1 Diabetes

Food choices can impact not only the nutrients we take in, but also our overall quality of life. In this study, researchers analyzed the diets of 258 adults with type 1 diabetes and surveyed them about their quality of life. Those closely or even moderately following a Mediterranean diet were more likely to have a better diabetes-specific quality of life than those not following a Mediterranean diet. Following a more general healthy diet (as measured by the alternate Healthy Eating Index) had mixed results on quality of life, scoring highly in some categories, but low in others.
Nutrients. 2020 Jan 2;12(1). pii: E131. doi: 10.3390/nu12010131. (Granado-Casas M et al.)

Chili Pepper Linked with Longevity in Italian Adults

Chili pepper is an underappreciated aspect of a Mediterranean diet. To see how it relates to longevity in a Mediterranean population, researchers analyzed the diets of 22,811 Italian adults and monitored their health outcomes for 8 years. Those eating chili pepper at least 4 times per week were 23% less likely to die from all causes and 34% less likely to die from heart disease over the study period, even after controlling for the benefits of a Mediterranean diet. The relationship seems to be strongest in people without high blood pressure.
Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2019 Dec 24;74(25):3139-3149. doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2019.09.068. (Bonaccio M et al.)

Healthy Diets Linked with Healthy Gut Microbiome in Patients with Intestinal Issues

The species of bacteria that live in our gut are thought to impact our health, so researchers wonder if diet might impact the gut microbiome of people burdened by intestinal disorders. In this study, researchers analyzed the gut microbiome of 4 different groups of people (including a general population, patients with Crohn’s disease, patients with ulcerative colitis, and patients with irritable bowel syndrome). They found that diets rich in bread, legumes, fish, and nuts were linked with lower levels of inflammatory markers and lower levels of potentially harmful aerobic bacteria. On the other hand, diets rich in meat, fast food, and sugar were linked with higher inflammatory markers. (Note that findings presented at meetings are considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.)
Presentation at UEG Week Meeting. Barcelona. October 21, 2019. (Bolts L et al.)

Healthy Diets Like Mediterranean Diet Linked with Lower Risk of Hearing Loss

Conversations, TVs at normal volume, and most social activities occur at mid-range frequency of sound. Therefore, mid-range hearing loss can make it difficult to communicate in day-to-day life. In this study, researchers followed 3,135 women who were an average of 59 years old and followed them for 3 years assessing their eating habits and hearing capability. Those most closely following a Mediterranean diet, a general healthy diet (as measured by the Alternate Healthy Eating Index), or a DASH Diet (a diet for healthy blood pressure that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy) were 23-28%, 23-28%, and 25-29% less likely, respectively, to develop mid-range hearing loss than those not following those diets. The relationship with low-frequency and high-frequency hearing loss was not statistically significant. 
American Journal of Epidemiology. 2019 Oct 14. pii: kwz223. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwz223. (Curtain SG et al.)

Seafood During Pregnancy Linked with Improved Brain Development in Children

Seafood is well-recognized for its brain health benefits, but researchers wonder if these benefits outweigh the risks of mercury exposure. In this study, scientists analyzed 44 papers on 102,944 mother-child pairs and 25,031 children. They found consistent evidence of brain health benefits for children when mothers ate seafood while pregnant, and that benefits began even at the lowest amounts of seafood (about 4 oz /week). No negative impacts on neurocognitive development were noted even at the highest levels of seafood consumption (more than 12 ounces per week).
Prostaglandins Leukotrienes, and Essential Fatty Acids. 2019 Oct 11;151:14-36. doi: 10.1016/j.plefa.2019.10.002. (Hibbeln CJR et al.)

Healthy Diet in Midlife Linked with Lower Risk of Cognitive Impairment Later in Life

Eating a healthy diet in mid-life can pay dividends in later decades. In this study, researchers analyzed the eating habits of 16,948 middle-aged adults in China, then assessed their brain function 20 years later. Those most closely following a Mediterranean diet or a Plant-Based Diet were 33% and 18% less likely to have cognitive impairment than those not following those diets. Other healthy diets, including the DASH diet and the alternative Healthy Eating Index, were also linked with significantly lower risks of cognitive impairment.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2019 Oct 1;110(4):912-920. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqz150. (Wu J et al.)

Sourdough Fermentation Methods Improve Quality of Partially Whole Wheat Pasta

Swapping out some of the white flour for whole wheat flour in pasta is a simple way for manufacturers to bump up the nutritional quality of their products. But researchers wonder if different whole wheat pasta formulations might be better than others. In this study, researchers compared the nutritional and sensory (taste, acceptability, etc.) characteristics on two types of partially (28.5%) whole wheat fresh pasta: in one, the whole wheat flour was fermented (essentially a sourdough starter) and in the other, the whole wheat flour was not fermented. The fermented pasta showed a higher content of free essential amino acids and phenolic compounds, lower phytic acid content, and higher antioxidant activity. In consumer testing in a group of 54 people, the fermented pasta was rated higher for overall acceptability (taste, texture, and flavor). Interestingly, when people were told about the use of sourdough fermentation in the pasta, the acceptability ratings were even higher, reflective of the growing appetite for functional foods.
Foods. 2019 Sep 18;8(9). pii: E422. doi: 10.3390/foods8090422. (Fois S et al.)

Red Wine Linked with Diversity of “Friendly Bacteria” in Gut

Moderate red wine intake has been linked with numerous health benefits, and researchers wonder if the gut microbiome might play a role in its protective effect. To test this relationship, researchers analyzed the alcohol intake (red wine, white wine, beer/cider, and spirits) across a group of 916 UK twins, as well as large cohorts of Flemish and American participants. Red wine consumption was linked with significantly greater diversity of gut microbes across all large cohorts studied, and even rare consumption of red wine showed a positive relationship. The authors also found that twins drinking red wine at least 2 categories above their co-twins had significantly higher gut microbe diversity. However, this significant relationship was not observed for the other alcoholic drinks studied.
Gastroenterology. 2019 Aug 23. pii: S0016-5085(19)41244-4. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2019.08.024. (CI Le Roy et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Improvements in Brain Function in Adults Age 70+

What nourishes your body can also help nourish your brain as well. In this study, researchers analyzed the eating habits and brain function of more than 1,400 older adults. In the adults aged at least 70 years old, closely following a Mediterranean diet was linked with improvements in global cognitive function, visual-spatial organization, memory, scanning, and tracking. However, the results were not statistically significant in the adults younger than age 70, or in the group as a whole.
Nutritional Neuroscience. 2019 Aug 21. doi: 10.1080/1028415X.2019.1655201. (Wade AT et al.)