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Acculturation from South Asian Lifestyle to Western Lifestyle Linked with Heart Disease Risk

Around the world, transitioning from a traditional diet with daily movement to a sedentary Western diet is linked with rising rates of chronic disease. In this study, researchers investigated the lifestyle factors that are associated with heart disease risk in South Asian adults. They found that moving from a traditional diet and lifestyle to one low in fruits and vegetables, low in physical activity, and high in alcohol and smoking is linked with a 2 to 3-fold higher risk of incident heart disease. “There’s a high recidivism in subjects who are placed on an eating plan different from their usual dietary patterns,” said Dr. Sikand, emphasizing the importance of culturally tailored diets. (Note that findings presented at meetings are considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.)
Presentation at National Lipid Association Scientific Sessions. Miami, FL. May 16, 2019. (Sikand G)

High Fat Mediterranean Diet Good for Weight Loss and Waistline

Although it is still widely feared that high fat diets could lead to weight gain, high fat Mediterranean style diets are actually a helpful tool for weight loss. Using data from the republished PREDIMED study (where adults at risk of heart disease were randomly assigned to a low fat diet, a Mediterranean diet with nuts, or a Mediterranean diet with olive oil for nearly 5 years), scientists analyzed the waist circumference and weight of the participants at baseline and again at the end of the study. While all 3,985 participants with follow up data increased their waist size slightly with aging – even as they lost weight – the Mediterranean diet groups had significantly smaller increases in their waistline compared to the low fat control group. Similarly, the Mediterranean diet with olive oil group lost significantly more weight than the low fat group, at nearly 1 pound more, but the greater weight loss seen in the nut group was not statistically significant. The scientists conclude that “the fear of weight gain from high-fat foods need no longer be an obstacle to adherence to a dietary pattern such as the Mediterranean diet,” and that these results “lend support to not restricting intake of healthy fats in advice for bodyweight maintenance and overall cardiometabolic health.”
The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology. 2019 May. [Epub ahead of print] (Estruch R et al.)

Nuts Linked with Brain Health in Older Adults

Nuts and seeds contain healthy fats, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. In this longitudinal study conducted over a 10-year period, researches evaluated the overall diet, nut intake, and brain function of over 4,000 Chinese people aged 55+. The participants with the highest intake of nuts had a significantly higher cognitive function than those who ate a moderate amount of nuts, or no nuts at all. Lifestyle, socioeconomic status, and overall health status did not change this association. This study indicates that a long-term diet rich in nuts may have a protective effect against age-related cognitive decline.
Journal of Nutrition, Health, and Aging.  2019;23(2):211-216. doi: 10.1007/s12603-018-1122-5. (Li, M. and Shi, Z.)

Faith-Based Nutrition Program Linked with Improved Diet Among African American Church Members

African Americans are disproportionately affected by heart disease and other health conditions. In this 9-month long pilot study, researchers teamed up with pastors and church leaders of several predominantly Black churches in the Chicago area to design an intervention to improve the diets of the congregations. The interventions included Bible study, small group sessions led by church leaders, and church-wide activities, all of which focused on increasing the vegetable intake of the participants. These interventions were designed to motivate healthier eating by linking healthy eating patterns to the congregant’s spiritual beliefs. At the end of the 9-month intervention, participants had increased their vegetable intake by an average of one serving per day and their overall diet quality increased. Researchers also found significant decreases in participants’ weight and blood pressure. This study highlights the importance of community and social support in promoting healthy eating patterns. The promising results of this pilot study indicate that faith-based nutrition interventions may be an effective method to improve the diets and health of underserved populations.
Progress in Community Health Partnerships.  2019;13(1):19-30. doi: 10.1353/cpr.2019.0005 (Lynch, E. et al)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Improved Quality of Life in Crohn's Disease

Crohn’s Disease is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease that causes stomach pain and severe diarrhea. Diet is a major factor in the management of Crohn’s disease, however there are no international guidelines on diet for the management of this disease. In this study, researchers evaluated the diet, quality of life, disease severity, and inflammation of 86 patients with Chron’s disease. They found that the patients whose Crohn’s disease was in remission had the highest quality of life, and that those patients had a higher adherence to the Mediterranean diet. This may be due in part to the high concentration of antioxidants and other nutrients in the Mediterranean diet, which may reduce inflammation and improve the symptoms of Crohn’s disease. This study shows that the Mediterranean diet may play an important role in managing the symptoms and improving the quality of life of patients with Crohn’s disease.
European Journal of Nutrition.  2019 Apr 20. doi: 10.1007/s00394-019-01972-z. (Papada E, et al)

Diets High in Red/Processed Meat and Low in Grain Fiber Linked with Colorectal Cancer

In a recent study, researchers enrolled over 400,000 participants and followed them for 5 years, analyzing their diet and health outcomes. The researchers found that the participants who ate the most red or processed meat had the highest risk of developing colorectal cancer. There was also an increased risk of colorectal cancer in participants who drank the most alcohol. Interestingly, the group that ate the most red and/or processed meat also tended to have a higher intake of alcohol, a lower intake of fruits and vegetables, and were more likely to smoke tobacco. The group with the highest intake of fiber from grains had the lowest risk of colorectal cancer. This study indicates that diets high in red or processed meats and lower in whole grains may be associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer.
International Journal of Epidemiology. 2019 Apr 17. pii: dyz064. doi: 10.1093/ije/dyz064. (Bradbury KE, et al)

Tomato Sofrito Linked with Lower Inflammation

Sofrito is a sauce of tomatoes, onion, and olive oil, commonly eaten in Mediterranean cuisine. In a recent study, researchers investigated to potential health benefits of this sauce. A group of 22 healthy men were fed sofrito after following a low-antioxidant and tomato-free diet; blood and urine samples were taken before and after eating the sofrito. The researchers found a significant increase in the amount of carotenoids and polyphenols (healthy compounds with antioxidant properties) in the 24 hours after eating the sofrito; they also found that inflammation was significantly lower following the intervention. This result suggests that consumption of sofrito, a staple of the Mediterranean diet, may have anti-inflammatory health benefits.
Nutrients.  2019 Apr 15;11(4). pii: E851. doi: 10.3390/nu11040851. (Hurtado-Barroso S, et al.)

Switching to Whole Grains May Help Improve Insulin/Blood Sugar Management

Insulin is a hormone that helps your body manage your blood sugar, by keeping it from getting too high or too low. In this study, 13 adults with “pre-diabetes” were given a diet with either whole grains or refined grains for 8 weeks, then given a glucose test to assess how well their blood sugar was being managed. They then had a washout period of their normal diet for 8-10 weeks, before switching to the other diet for 8 weeks and taking the glucose test again, thus serving as their own controls. The whole grain diet improved the function of beta cells (the cells that secrete insulin) compared with the refined grain diet, and this effect was found to be independent of gut hormones (such as grehlin, the “hunger hormone”).
Molecular Nutrition and Food Research. 2019 Apr;63(7):e1800967. doi: 10.1002/mnfr.201800967. (Malin SK et al.)

Mediterranean Diet in Adulthood Linked with Healthier Brain in Midlife

While there is much to learn about preventing dementia and cognitive decline, the Mediterranean diet seems to show promise in protecting brain health across the lifespan. In this study, scientists analyzed the eating habits of 2,621 adults at ages 25, 32, and 45 years, then analyzed their brain function at ages 50 and 55. Those most closely following a Mediterranean diet had a 46% lower risk of having poor cognitive function. Those whose diets scored highly on the A Priori Diet Quality Score (a measure of how nutritious your diet is) also had a reduced risk of poor cognitive function, while the DASH diet (a healthy diet to prevent high blood pressure) did not show a significant relationship with brain health.
Neurology. 2019 Apr 2;92(14):e1589-e1599. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000007243. (McEvoy CT et al.)

Plant-Based Diet Linked with Higher Antioxidant Levels, Healthier Fat Distribution

Biomarkers in blood, urine, and fat tissue can provide valuable insight into a person’s diet. In this study, researchers took samples of blood, urine, and fat tissue of more than 800 volunteers. They analyzed the participants diets and divided them into 5 categories: vegan, lacto-ovo-vegetarian, pescatarian, semi-vegetarian, and non-vegetarian. Researcher found that vegans had a significantly higher concentration of antioxidants than non-vegetarians. The results were similar, but less significant, for the other vegetarian groups. They also found that vegans and vegetarians had less saturated fat and more omega-3 fats in their blood than non-vegetarians. The healthier fat distribution and higher concentration of antioxidants and other biomarkers in the vegetarian and vegan groups may help explain some of the benefits of plant-based diets.
The Journal of Nutrition. 2019 Apr 1;149(4):667-675. doi: 10.1093/jn/nxy292. (Miles FL, et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Improvements in Cardiodiabesity

“Cardiodiabesity” is an umbrella term which refers to the relationship between obesity, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes. Researchers analyzed over 50 studies to answer several key questions about the impact of the Mediterranean diet on cardiodiabesity. The researchers found strong evidence that following the Mediterranean diet reduces obesity, blood pressure, and the risk of cardiovascular disease in healthy and at-risk people. They also found moderate evidence that the Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of developing metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes, and can reduce the symptoms of type 2 diabetes in diabetics.
Nutrients. 2019 Mar 18;11(3). pii: E655. doi: 10.3390/nu11030655. (Franquesa M. et al)

Different Saturated Fats May Have Different Impacts on Health

Replacing saturated fats, like those in butter, cheese, and red meat, with unsaturated fats, like those in walnuts, olive oil, and avocados, can help reduce risk of heart disease. But are all saturated fats created equal? To better assess this relationship, scientists analyzed the diets of 2 large groups of European adults (from Denmark & the U.K.) totaling more than 75,000 participants, and then monitored their health outcomes more than a decade later. In one of the groups (the Denmark group), saturated fats from meat were linked with a higher risk of a heart attack, but other sources of saturated fat were not significantly linked with heart attack risk in either direction. Scientists also noted that lauric acid and myristic acid (saturated fats found in foods like coconut oil) were also linked with lower heart attack risk in the Denmark group, but not the U.K. group. More research is needed to better understand how different foods might relate to heart attack risk.
International Journal of Cardiology.  2019 Mar 15;279:18-26. doi: 10.1016/j.ijcard.2018.10.064. (Praagman J et al.)

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