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High Fiber Diet Promotes Select Gut Bacteria to Better Manage Diabetes

In line with many other countries, the usual care for patients with diabetes in China is education about balanced diets and blood sugar management strategies. In a small study, 43 patients with diabetes were randomly assigned to either these standard recommendations, or a high-fiber diet with whole grains and traditional Chinese medicinal foods. Both groups significantly improved their blood sugar (as measured by HbA1c) over the 12-week study, but significantly more people in the whole grain group (89% vs 50%) got their blood sugar to a well-managed level (HbA1c < 7%). To see how gut microbes might play a role, researchers also analyzed the gut bacteria of the participants. They found that the fiber from whole grains stimulated select bacteria to produce short chain fatty acids, which in turn, helped the body better manage blood sugar.
Science. 2018 March 9;6380(359):1151-1156. (Zhao L et al.)

Traditional Japanese Diets as a Cultural Model of Healthy Eating

Japan is famous for the long lifespan of its people, and the traditional diet is thought to play a role. In this review, researchers outline the healthful elements of traditional Japanese diets, including the variety of seasonal vegetables and seafood, umami flavors, cooking methods that incorporate water, modest portion sizes, and social and familial connections. They conclude that “Japanese traditional diet practices (Washoku), which prominently include the flavoring of foods with umami taste, can be characterized as a healthy diet in the same way that the DASH diet or the Mediterranean diet is so classified.”
Nutrients. 2018 Feb 3;10(2). pii: E173. (Gabriel AS et al.)

Eating Fish Linked with Less Diabetic Eye Damage

Damage to the blood vessels in the eye (diabetic retinopathy) is a serious complication of diabetes that can lead to blurriness and blindness if untreated. In this study, researchers analyzed the eating patterns and eye health of 357 patients in Singapore with type 2 diabetes. Eating just one additional serving of fish per week is linked with a 9% lower likelihood of severe diabetic retinopathy. In patients without retinopathy, those eating more fish were more likely to have wider vascular caliber, an eye vessel measurement that can indicate a lower risk of chronic disease.
Scientific Reports. 2018 Jan 15;8(1):730. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-18930-6. (Chua J et al.)

Eating Fish Daily Linked with Lower Risk of Depression

Seafood has long been linked with better brain health, but researchers wonder if these associations stand up even in high fish-eating populations, such as Japan. In a study of 1,181 older Japanese adults (ages 63-82), people eating the most fish (4 ounces per day) were significantly less likely to develop depression 25 years later than those eating less fish. Researchers also found that eating the most DPA (docosapentaenoic acid, a type of fatty acid found in fish) was also linked with a significantly lower risk of depression.
Translational Psychiatry. 2017 September 26. 7:e1242. [Epub ahead of print.] (Matsuoka YJ et al.)

Eating More Soy Linked with Less Breast Cancer Death

Soy foods (like tofu, edamame, or soy milk) have a complicated relationship with breast cancer, since soy has estrogen-like properties. To see if eating isoflavones (the major estrogen-like compound in soy) relates to breast cancer outcomes, researchers analyzed the eating habits and health outcomes of more than 6,000 newly-diagnosed breast cancer patients (all women) in the US, Canada, and Australia. Scientists found that women eating the most isoflavones (the amount in at least ¼ cup soymilk per day) were less likely to die over the 9-year study period, but the results were only statistically significant in women with hormone-receptor-negative breast cancers (the breast cancers unlikely to respond to hormonal therapy).
Cancer. 2017 Mar 6. [Epub ahead of print] (Zhang FF et al.)

Tea Consumption May Decrease Risk of Osteoporosis

Tea is known for its disease-fighting antioxidants, but research has been unclear about the connection between tea and osteoporosis. Researchers analyzed 16 studies to find out more about this potential connection. They found that tea consumption could increase bone mineral density (how many minerals are in the bones), which decreases likelihood of developing osteoporosis. However, researchers found no association between tea consumption and fractures caused by osteoporosis, and indicated a need for more studies on the topic.
Nutrition Research. 2017 Feb 28;42:1-10. (Guo M et al.)

Traditional Ogimi Diet Filled with Potentially Neuroprotective Foods

Ogimi is a village in Okinawa, Japan famous for a remarkably high number of people who live healthfully into their 80s, 90s, and 100s. In this study researchers interviewed elderly Ogimi residents to learn about the most commonly eaten foods. Soy foods (like tofu) and seaweed make up a substantial portion of the diet. In fact, 13 of the 25 most frequently consumed foods are species of seaweed. The researchers suspect that the L-serine amino acids in the Ogimi diet (found in foods like tofu and seaweed) may partially explain the link with longevity, as some animal studies suggest that L-serine amino acids may be neuroprotective.
Current Nutrition Reports. 2017;6(1):24-31. (Cox PA et al.)

Pulses May Help Aid Weight Loss

Dietary changes are a key target in obesity prevention programs, so many foods are being studied for their affect on body weight. To see if eating more pulses (the food group that includes beans, peas, lentils, and chickpeas) might help reduce obesity, researchers analyzed 21 randomized control trials looking at pulses’ role in weight, body fat, and waist circumference in overweight and obese adults. Diets that included dietary pulses did not significantly reduce waist circumference. There was a trend in reduction of body fat (-0.34%), but it was not significant as well. Overall, the researchers found that those eating about 1 serving of pulses per day lost, on average, about 0.75 pounds over six weeks. Not surprisingly, results were stronger in weight loss diets (3.8 pounds over 6 weeks) than weight maintenance diets (0.6 pounds over 6 weeks). Although the weight loss was small, this study indicates that a modest serving of pulses may help produce weight loss, even without cutting calories.
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2016 Mar 30. [Epub Ahead of Print] (Kim SJ et al.)

Eating Fish May Prevent Depression

Fish is well known for its place in many of the healthiest diets around the world. To determine the link between eating fish and depression risk, Chinese scientists reviewed 26 studies of over 150,000 people. The researchers concluded that “high fish consumption can reduce the risk of depression.”  
Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. 2015 Sep 10. pii: jech-2015-206278. [Epub ahead of print.] (Li Fu et al.)

Peanut and Nut Intake May Lower Death from Heart Disease

Nuts have long been associated with longevity, and new research in diverse populations further supports this relationship. Researchers tracked peanut and nut intake of about 206,000 people in the US (low income blacks and whites) and China for over 5 years. High nut intake was associated with a 21% lower risk of death from all causes among the US participants, and a 17% lower risk in the Chinese participants. High nut and peanut intake was also associated with a lower risk of death from heart disease, especially in ischemic heart disease (the type of heart disease caused by narrowed arteries).
JAMA Internal Medicine. 2015 May;175(5):755-66. (Luu HN, et al.)

Peanuts Linked to Lower Mortality Across Different Ethnicities

Nuts and peanuts (technically legumes) are largely recognized as health promoting foods, but experts wondered if these benefits extend across all ethnic groups and income levels. In this study, researchers at Vanderbilt University analyzed nut intake in over 200,000 people, including a large group of Asian men and women in China, and a large group of low-income black and white men and women in the southeastern United States. For those with the highest nut consumption (mostly peanuts), mortality from all causes significantly decreased 17-21%, depending on ethnicity. Death from heart disease specifically (including ischemic heart disease) also significantly decreased across all ethnic groups for those eating the most nuts. The researchers identified this study as “strong evidence that the association of nut/peanut consumption with mortality does not vary by ethnicity “ or income level. Additionally, they conclude that “consumption of nuts, particularly peanuts given their general affordability, may be considered a cost-effective measure to improve cardiovascular health.”
JAMA Internal Medicine. 2015 Mar 2. [Epub ahead of print] (Luu HN et al.)

Traditional Japanese Diet Linked with Lower Risk of Dementia

The Mediterranean Diet is well-studied for its role in preventing dementia, but researchers wonder if a diet rooted in Asian culinary traditions might also be effective. Researchers analyzed the eating habits of 1,006 elderly Japanese adults and monitored them for any signs of dementia. Those eating a diet with lots of soy, vegetables, algae, and dairy, which the researchers note is “roughly correspondent to a customary Japanese diet,” were 44% less likely to develop all-cause dementia, 35% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease, and 55% less likely to develop vascular dementia.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2013 May;97(5):1076-82. (Ozawa M et al.)