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Healthy Diet Associated with Less Severe Symptoms in MS

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a condition in which the immune system attacks the nerves. Because the symptoms and severity vary widely from patient to patient, researchers wonder whether lifestyle changes might help with disease management. In a study of 6,989 patients with multiple sclerosis, those eating a healthy diet (defined as lots of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, and only small amounts of sugars and red/processed meat) were less likely to report having disability and depression. Additionally, an overall healthy lifestyle (based on diet, physical activity, smoking, and weight) was associated with less fatigue, depression, pain and cognitive impairment. 
Neurology. 2018 Jan 2;90(1):e1-e11. (Fitzgerald KC et al.)

Eating Seafood Linked with Better Sleep Quality and Verbal IQ in Children

Researchers analyzed the eating patterns, IQ tests, and sleep patterns (based on parents’ report) of 541 12-year-old children in China. Those eating fish at least 2-4 times per month were significantly less likely to have sleep problems, and also had significantly better verbal IQ scores than children who ate fish less frequently. The researchers also found a dose-response relationship, meaning that the more often children ate fish, the better their IQ score. Their results indicate that better sleep quality may partially help explain the relationship between fish and brain function.
Scientific Reports. 2017 Dec 21;7(1):17961. (Liu J et al.)

Leafy Greens Can Keep Your Brain Young

It is no secret that green vegetables are some of the healthiest foods for our bodies, but new research shows that they are also good for our brains. Researchers in Chicago and Boston analyzed the eating patterns and cognitive abilities of over 950 older adults for an average of five years. The scientists found a significant decrease in the rate of cognitive decline for people who ate more green leafy vegetables (like spinach, kale, collards, and mustard greens). In fact, people who ate just one to two servings of leafy greens per day had the cognitive ability of a person 11 years younger than those who ate none.
Neurology. 2017 Dec 20. pii: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000004815. (Morris MC et al.)

Understanding How the Mediterranean Diet May Help Prevent Colon Cancer

The Mediterranean diet’s protective effects against cancers have been extensively studied and documented, and researchers want to learn more about the mechanisms behind this relationship. Chronic inflammation in one’s intestines (such as with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis) can predispose a person to colorectal cancer, so reducing inflammation is important. In this paper, researchers suggest that bioactive components of the Mediterranean diet (such as omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and phenolic compounds) were found to decrease inflammation (as measured by fibrinogen, C-reactive protein, Interleukin-6, Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha, and homocysteine). The researchers also suggest that the Mediterranean diet’s low levels of refined sugars may be helpful in preventing colorectal cancer by improving insulin resistance and decreasing circulating levels of IGF-1, a hormone associated with cancer risk. By prioritizing fish over red meat, a Mediterranean diet may also reduce the mutagenic compounds from meat that are linked with a higher colorectal cancer risk. Lastly, compounds and antioxidants in fruits and vegetables (a predominant component to a Mediterranean diet) were studied in their protective capacity against development of colorectal cancer. In short, these results “support the adoption of a [Mediterranean Diet] to decrease risk of [colorectal cancer] irrespective of tumor site.”
Frontiers in nutrition. 2017 Dec;59(4). (Donovan MG et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Lower Risk of Colorectal Cancer Precursors

The prevalence of colorectal adenomas, cancer precursors in the large intestine, differs by race and ethnicity, with a higher prevalence among black people than among white people. To see how the Mediterranean diet relates to colorectal adenomas across different races, researchers analyzed the eating pattern and colorectal health of 41,973 men. They found that a Mediterranean diet was linked with a lower risk of colorectal adenomas among all races, but interestingly that the diet had a greater protective association among Asian and black participants than for white participants. These findings demonstrate that the use of a Mediterranean diet may be an effective way to reduce prevalence of colorectal adenomas in men, especially among black and Asian men.  
Nutrition Research. 2017, Dec;48:76-84. (Haslam A et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Less Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease in At-Risk Patients

Fatty liver disease used to be mostly associated with alcoholism, but today it’s on the rise even in those who don’t drink alcohol because of lifestyle factors like diet. Researchers analyzed the eating patterns and liver health of 584 adults (average age 56) with at least one cardiovascular risk factor (such as diabetes, obesity, or high blood pressure), to see how diet might relate to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Those most closely following a Mediterranean diet were significantly less likely to have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease than those not following a Mediterranean diet (71.4% vs. 96.5%). In patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, those most closely following a Mediterranean diet were more likely to have less insulin resistance, which indicates that their blood sugar is better managed.
American Journal of Gastroenterology. 2017 Dec;112(12):1832-1839.

Mediterranean Diet May Help Improve Depression

The Mediterranean diet is renowned for its heart-healthy properties, so researchers wonder if this eating pattern might protect mental health as well. To study this relationship, researchers randomly assigned more than 100 adults to either receive Mediterranean foods and fish oil supplements and take a Mediterranean cooking class every other week, or attend social groups every other week. After three months, the Mediterranean diet group was eating more vegetables, fruit, nuts, whole grains, and legumes, fewer unhealthy snacks, and less red meat. Additionally, participants in the Mediterranean diet group had a significantly better improvement in their depression than those attending the social groups. The improvements in diet and depressive symptoms held steady even three months after the study ended (though the Mediterranean diet group was still receiving fish oil supplements at that time). The researchers concluded that “getting back to basics by promoting cooking skills and family/group meals could be such a simple yet powerful and empowering approach to healthcare and prevention.”
Nutritional Neuroscience. 2017 Dec 7:1-14. [Epub ahead of print.] (Parlatta N et al.)

Moderate Cheese Intake Linked with Lower Risk of Heart Disease, Stroke

“Everything in moderation,” is a favorite adage of nutrition professionals, and for a good reason. Researchers in China analyzed the eating patterns and health outcomes of thousands of adults across 15 studies, to see how eating different amounts of cheese relates to heart disease. They found that eating more cheese was related to a 10-14% lower risk of heart disease and a 10% lower risk of stroke than eating less cheese, and that the greatest benefit was associated with eating about 1 ½ ounces (40g) of cheese per day. However, keep in mind that this is less cheese than most US and European adults are currently eating, at 42.5g and 49g respectively. Nonetheless, the researchers note that this adds to the growing body of evidence that not all saturated fats are created equal, and that cheese may not have the same health effects as red meat.
European Journal of Nutrition. 2017 Dec;56(8):2565-2575. (Chen GC et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Less Rehospitalization in Elderly Heart Failure Patients

The Mediterranean diet is well known for its role in preventing heart disease, but researchers wonder if this protective effect translates to patients who already have heart failure. In a Spanish study of 991 elderly patients admitted to the emergency room with acute heart failure, those following a Mediterranean diet were 24% less likely to be hospitalized one year later. After 2 years, those following a Mediterranean diet appeared to be less likely to die, but the results were not statistically significant, especially after adjusting for age and other health conditions.
JACC Heart Failure. 2017 Nov 27. pii: S2213-1779(17)30683-2. (Miro O et al.)

Whole Grain Wheat and Rye Both Linked with Gut Health

Whole grains are a popular healthy choice, but between whole wheat and whole rye, does it matter what you choose? Scientists put these grains to the test, randomly assigning 70 overweight but otherwise healthy, middle-aged adults to a 6-week diet replacing all of their grain foods with whole wheat, whole rye, or refined wheat. There were no significant differences between the whole wheat and whole rye groups. Despite seeing no significant changes to the composition of the gut microbiome, the refined wheat group saw a greater drop in fecal butyrate (compounds associated with better health). The whole grain groups were less likely to feel bloated and more likely to have regular stools, but also more likely to pass gas. The authors conclude that “whole-grain foods have the potential for maintaining or improving some subjective and functional markers of gut health compared to refined grain foods.”
Journal of Nutrition. 2017 Nov;147(11):2067-2075. (Vuholm S et al.)

High Glycemic Index Foods Linked with Bladder Cancer

Carbohydrates are the building blocks of a balanced diet, but not all carbs are created equal. To see how diet might relate to bladder cancer risk, researchers analyzed the diets of 578 adults with bladder cancer and 608 controls without bladder cancer. Those regularly eating high glycemic index and glycemic load foods (foods that are more rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream, thus spiking your blood sugar) were more likely to have bladder cancer, as were those who regularly ate refined grains like bread and pasta. However, these results were not as strong in people who regularly eat vegetables. People who regularly eat whole grains and/or legumes tended to be less likely to have bladder cancer, but the results were not statistically significant.
British Journal of Nutrition. 2017 Nov;118(9):722-729. (Augustin LSA et al.)

Dry Whole Wheat Pasta at Lower Temperatures for Higher Quality

Given the growing interest in whole grain pasta, researchers wonder how different processing techniques can impact the quality of the product. In this study, researchers analyzed 20 samples of whole wheat spaghetti sold in Italy for cooking behavior, markers of heat damage and protein structure, as well as taste and aroma (using an electronic nose and tongue model for a more objective measurement). They found that whole wheat pasta produced using a low or medium temperature drying cycle (rather than high temperature) has less heat damage, is more likely to taste of umami (savory), and is less likely to taste bitter. The researchers also note that the amount of protein in the pasta sample had virtually no impact on the measures of quality tested, indicating that the drying process plays a much bigger role in preserving quality.
Journal of Food Science. 2017 Nov;82(11):2583-2590. (Marti A et al.)

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