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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 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.)

 

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.) 

Protein from Different Sources Are Linked with Different Impacts on Longevity

While the optimal amount of protein to sustain health is subject to debate, the research is increasingly clear that protein from different sources has different impacts on health. This systematic review attempted to investigate how varied protein diets (total/animal/plant protein) impact the mortality rate. After assessing the results from 31 different studies, the researchers found that eating more total protein and plant protein are both linked to a lower risk of deaths from all causes. In particular, those who eat more plant proteins were at a lower risk of death caused by heart diseases. However, eating more animal protein did not appear to be related to lower mortality. Additionally, higher total protein intake is not associated with a lower death rate caused by cancer.
BMJ. 2020 July 22; 370. doi:10.1136/bmj.m2412 (Naghshi S et al.)

Whole Grains Linked with Lower Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

In a large study of nearly 200,000 US adults, those eating whole grains most frequently had a 29% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes across the approximately 30-year study period than those rarely or never eating whole grains, even after adjusting for other lifestyle factors. When looking at specific whole grain foods, common foods like whole grain breakfast cereal, oatmeal, whole grain bread, and brown rice were all linked with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. The exception was popcorn, which was linked with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes when eaten more than once per day, perhaps due to its association with butter sauces or sugary flavorings.
BMJ. 2020 Jul 8;370:m2206. doi: 10.1136/bmj.m2206. (Hu Y et al.)

Australians Recognize Whole Grains as Healthy, But Still Falling Short on Recommendations

To better understand why people are or are not eating whole grains, researchers surveyed 735 Australian (mostly female) adults about their eating habits and their understanding of whole grains. The scientists found that more than three-quarters of the participants were not eating enough whole grains, less than half of the participants correctly identified whole grains, and only 9% correctly identified how many servings of whole grains are recommended for their age and gender. However, the majority of the participants understood that whole grains do have health benefits, and they reported education, cost, and taste as the main factors that contribute to their choice of whole gains. 
Nutrients. 2020 July 22, 12(8), 2170; doi: 10.3390/nu12082170 (Foster S et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Healthier Gut Microbiome in Aging

Some of the worlds healthiest, longest lived people follow a Mediterranean diet, so researchers wonder about the mechanism behind its link with healthy aging. In this study, researchers analyzed the gut microbiome of 612 older European adults before starting a Mediterranean diet, and then after 1 year of following a Mediterranean diet. Those who followed the Mediterranean diet most closely had significant differences in their gut microbiome, including microbes associated with lower risk of frailty, better brain function, and lower inflammation.
Gut. 2020 Jul;69(7):1218-1228. doi: 10.1136/gutjnl-2019-319654. Epub 2020 Feb 17.

Healthy Lifestyle (Including Mediterranean Diet) Linked with Lower Risk of Alzheimer's

Eating a nutritious diet is one of the many daily lifestyle choices that can have an impact on our health, especially as we age. Researchers followed 2,765 adults in the Chicago area for over 5 years to see if their lifestyle choices were related to their risk of Alzheimer’s dementia. They specifically looked for these 5 healthy lifestyle factors: 1) not smoking, 2) at least 150 minutes per week of exercise, 3) low to moderate alcohol consumption, 4) following a Mediterranean-inspired healthy diet, and 5) participating in late-life “cognitive activities” like reading, crafting, playing games, and socializing. Compared with adults following 0 or 1 healthy lifestyle factor, the risk of Alzheimer’s dementia was 37% lower in those following 2 or 3 healthy lifestyle factors, and 60% lower in those following 4 or 5 healthy lifestyle factors.
Neurology. 2020 Jun 17;10.1212/WNL.0000000000009816. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000009816. (Dhana K et al.)

Spaniards Locked Down During COVID-19 Shift Back to Traditional Mediterranean Diet

Lockdowns and restaurant closures related to the global COVID-19 pandemic have swiftly changed the way people eat, leaving many people with little choice but to eat more home-cooked meals. Researchers analyzed the diets of 7,514 Spaniards during the COVID-19 pandemic, and also asked them about their eating habits before the pandemic. During the pandemic, when people were forced to eat more home-cooked meals, researchers noted that the Mediterranean diet score of these participants (a measure of how closely people follow the Mediterranean diet) significantly increased. The people who improved their diet reported eating more olive oil, vegetables, fruits, or legumes, and less fried foods, snacks, fast foods, red meat, pastries, or sweetened drinks. The authors conclude that, “this improvement, if sustained in the long-term, could have a positive impact on the prevention of chronic diseases and COVID-19-related complications.”
Nutrients. 2020 Jun 10;12(6):E1730. doi: 10.3390/nu12061730.(Rodríguez-Pérez C et al.)

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