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Healthy Immigrant Effect Linked with Brain Health

In Canada, immigrants account for around 20% of the population. They tend to be healthier and have a longer life span compared to those who were born in Canada. This phenomenon is called the “healthy immigrant effect.” In this study of 8,574 middle-aged adults, researchers investigated whether the healthy immigrant effect plays a role in brain health. The results indicated that the long-term immigrants (>20 years) were more likely to have significantly higher verbal fluency scores (a marker of brain health) than the Canada-born individuals. Those who ate more pulses, nuts, fruits, and vegetables, also appeared to be more likely to have higher verbal fluency scores.
Journal of Nutrition, Health, & Aging. 2020 June 1;24(6):672-680. doi:10.1007/s12603-020-1402-8 (Fuller-Thomson E et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Lower Incidence of Colorectal Cancer

Healthy, higher fiber diets with whole grains can help lower the risk of colorectal cancer, so researchers wonder if overall dietary patterns, like the Mediterranean diet, might also be impactful. In an analysis of 13 studies, scientists found that most closely following a Mediterranean diet was linked with a lower frequency of new colorectal cancer cases, but there was no significant impact on the risk of death from colorectal cancer nor all-cause mortality in the study groups.
Am J Clin Nutr. 2020 Jun 1;111(6):1214-1225. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqaa083. (Zhong Y et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Improves Quality of Life, BMI in Patients with IBD

The Mediterranean diet is well known for its anti-inflammatory properties, so it stands to reason that the Mediterranean diet may be helpful in the management of inflammatory bowel diseases. In a study of 284 Italian adults with inflammatory bowel diseases (including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis) who were assigned to a Mediterranean diet for 6 months, eating a Mediterranean diet improved their quality of life, BMI, and waist circumference and reduced signs of fat in the liver, but did not significantly impact their cholesterol or liver function.
Inflamm Bowel Dis. 2020 May 22;izaa097. doi: 10.1093/ibd/izaa097. Online ahead of print. (Chicco F et al.)

Less Processed Whole Grain Foods Linked with Better Blood Sugar Control in People with Diabetes

Replacing refined grains (like white bread or white rice) with whole grains (like whole grain bread or brown rice) is a simple swap that can yield measurable health benefits. But what if you are already eating whole grains and are ready to take the next step? In this study, researchers randomly assigned 63 adults in New Zealand with type 2 diabetes to a diet with either intact, minimally processed grain foods (whole oats, brown rice, whole wheat bread made with coarse whole grains) or more processed, finely milled whole grains (instant oats, brown rice pasta, whole grain bread made of finely milled flour). Those in the less processed group had a significantly lower post-meal blood sugar response and lower blood sugar variability throughout the day, indicating better blood sugar control.
Diabetes Care. 2020 May; dc200263. doi:10.2337/dc20-0263.(Åberg S et al.)

Whole Wheat Flour Has More Minerals, Antioxidants than Refined

Researchers analyzed 168 types of wheat flour purchased throughout the UK and Germany to compare their nutritional profiles. While spelt and organic wheat varieties had significantly higher levels of antioxidants and minerals than their conventional/modern counterparts, a far greater impact on nutrition was observed when comparing whole grain wheat to refined wheat. Whole grain wheat flours had 2-4.3x higher antioxidant concentrations and activity, 144% more phosphorous, 125% more potassium, and 209% more magnesium than refined wheat flours. The authors conclude that “refining (removal of the bran and germ) (a) has a substantially greater impact on the mineral nutrients and phytochemical concentrations in flour than wheat genetics/species choice (T. aestivum vs T. spelta) and production protocols (organic vs conventional), (b) diminishes the differences in antioxidant activity, and phenolic and mineral concentrations in wheat flour produced with grain from contrasting farming systems and wheat species.”
Food Chem X. 2020 May 4;6:100091. doi: 10.1016/j.fochx.2020.100091. (Wang J et al.)

Eating Fewer Processed Foods Linked with Healthier DNA

Telomeres are parts of a cell that affect how the cell ages. Without telomeres, our DNA strands can become damaged and cells cannot function properly. Telomeres tend to become shorter as we age, but lifestyle choices and habits such as stress, smoking, poor diet, and lack of exercise can contribute to a premature shortening of telomeres as well. In this study, 886 participants aged 57-91 years old were studied to see the association between highly-processed food consumption and telomere length. Results showed that those who had a higher consumption of highly-processed foods had almost twice the odds of having short telomeres in comparison to those who had low consumption of highly processed foods. 
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2020 Apr 24;111(6):1259-1266. doi.org /10.1093 /ajcn/nqaa075 (Pedrero LA et al.)

Olive Oil Linked with Lower Risk of Heart Disease

Not all fats are created equal. Olive oil is a source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and polyphenols, while butter is a source of saturated fats. In this study, researchers followed more than 90,000 people for 24 years. Those eating more than ½ tablespoon of olive oil per day had a 14-17% lower risk of heart disease compared with people who didn’t eat olive oil. The scientists also found that replacing 5g/day of butter, margarine, mayonnaise, or dairy fat with the equivalent amount of olive oil was also linked with a 5-7% lower risk of heart disease.
J Am Coll Cardiol. 2020 Apr 21;75(15):1729-1739. doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2020.02.036. Epub 2020 Mar 5. (Guasch-Ferré M et al.)

Mediterranean Diet May Help Reduce Complications of Type 2 Diabetes

The Mediterranean diet is well known for helping prevent disease, and research suggests it may also be helpful for people who already have chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes. In this review, researchers analyzed existing studies (including randomized clinical trials as well as cohort studies) to see how the Mediterranean diet impacted patients with type 2 diabetes. They found that the Mediterranean diet can help reduce risk factors of diabetes complications, such as high blood pressure, inflammation, diseased blood vessels (angiopathy) and poor blood sugar control.
Adv Exp Med Biol. 2020 Apr 7. doi: 10.1007/5584_2020_513. (Gonçalves Tosatti JA et al.)

Mediterranean Diets Show Blood Pressure Reduction after 1 Year, While Benefits of Other Popular Diets Largely Fade Over Time

Diets can be difficult to stick to over extended periods of time, and the health benefits aren’t always long lasting. In this study, researchers analyzed 121 studies encompassing 21,942 people looking at the impacts of 14 popular diets (Mediterranean diet, low carb diet, low fat diet, etc.) after 6 months and 12 months. After 6 months, most of the diets resulted in a modest weight loss as well as improvements in blood pressure and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. However, after 12 months, weight loss had diminished, and only those on a Mediterranean diet continued to see lower blood pressure.
BMJ. 2020 Apr 1;369:m696. doi: 10.1136/bmj.m696. (Ge L et al.)

Dairy Foods Linked with Lower Risk of High Blood Pressure, Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome

Dairy foods are a complex bunch. On the one hand, they provide a number of important nutrients such as protein, calcium and phosphorus. On the other hand, they can also contribute to saturated fat and sodium intake, and the calories in higher-fat dairy products can add up quickly. In this study, researchers analyzed the eating habits and health outcomes of 147,812 people from 21 countries around the world. Those eating at least 2 servings of dairy foods per day (including milk, cheese and yogurt) were 11% less likely to have high blood pressure, 14% less likely to have diabetes, and also significantly more likely to have smaller waist sizes, lower BMIs, and lower blood sugar, as well as higher levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Interestingly, low-fat dairy was linked with a higher risk of metabolic syndrome (a risky combination of high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol, and/or excess fat around the waist), while full-fat dairy was linked with a lower risk of metabolic syndrome. The authors conclude that there is a “need for large randomized trials of dairy intake, including an evaluation of different types of dairy (fermented vs non-fermented) and fat content (whole fat vs low fat).”
BMJ Open Diabetes Res Care. 2020 Apr;8(1):e000826. doi: 10.1136/bmjdrc-2019-000826. (Bhavadharini B et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Healthier Vitamin D Levels

A traditional Mediterranean diet includes frequent seafood and frequent but small portions of dairy foods, leaving some to wonder how a Mediterranean diet relates to markers of bone health. In this study, researchers analyzed the diets and vitamin D levels (using 25(OH)D blood levels) of 284 overweight and obese adults in Italy. Vitamin D levels in the blood are important to study, as they can indicate whether someone’s bones are strong or at risk of osteoporosis. Those most closely following a Mediterranean diet were significantly more likely to have higher vitamin D levels, as well as to have healthier BMI, waist size, insulin levels, and triglycerides (a type of fat in the blood). Seafood, which is abundant in the Mediterranean diet, is an important source of vitamin D, and the authors suggest that vitamin D may partially explain the Mediterranean diet’s protective effect on osteoporosis.
Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2020 Mar 29;1-7. doi: 10.1080/09637486.2020.1744533. Online ahead of print. (Zupo R et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Better Lung Function in Aging

Lung function gradually declines with aging, but certain lifestyle changes may be able preserve lung function for a longer period of time. In a study of more than 2,000 adults ages 50+, those most closely following a Mediterranean diet had better lung function (as measured by peak expiratory flow rate) than those not following a Mediterranean diet, even after adjusting for factors like age, smoking history, and physical activity. When looking at specific foods, grains, dairy foods, and fish were all linked with better lung function.
Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2020 Mar 23:1-6. doi: 10.1080/07315724.2020.1740114. [Epub ahead of print] (Papassotiriou I et al.)

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