Search Health Studies

Seafood During Pregnancy Linked with Improved Brain Development in Children

Seafood is well-recognized for its brain health benefits, but researchers wonder if these benefits outweigh the risks of mercury exposure. In this study, scientists analyzed 44 papers on 102,944 mother-child pairs and 25,031 children. They found consistent evidence of brain health benefits for children when mothers ate seafood while pregnant, and that benefits began even at the lowest amounts of seafood (about 4 oz /week). No negative impacts on neurocognitive development were noted even at the highest levels of seafood consumption (more than 12 ounces per week).
Prostaglandins Leukotrienes, and Essential Fatty Acids. 2019 Oct 11;151:14-36. doi: 10.1016/j.plefa.2019.10.002. (Hibbeln CJR et al.)

Healthy Diet Linked with Improvement in Depression in Young Adults

A balanced diet can go a long way towards nourishing our bodies, our brains, and our feelings. In this study, 76 young adults (ages 17-35) with symptoms of depression were randomly assigned to either continue their typical diet or eat a healthier diet with whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, lean protein, and fish for 3 weeks. After the study period, those eating the healthier diet had significantly lower self-reported depression symptoms than the control group, and some of the beneficial results were maintained 3 months after the study as well.
PLoS One. 2019 Oct 9;14(10):e0222768. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0222768. (Francis HM et al.)

Healthy Diet in Midlife Linked with Lower Risk of Cognitive Impairment Later in Life

Eating a healthy diet in mid-life can pay dividends in later decades. In this study, researchers analyzed the eating habits of 16,948 middle-aged adults in China, then assessed their brain function 20 years later. Those most closely following a Mediterranean diet or a Plant-Based Diet were 33% and 18% less likely to have cognitive impairment than those not following those diets. Other healthy diets, including the DASH diet and the alternative Healthy Eating Index, were also linked with significantly lower risks of cognitive impairment.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2019 Oct 1;110(4):912-920. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqz150. (Wu J et al.)

American Diet Slowly Gets a Tiny Bit Better, Still Needs Improvement

The standard American diet is infamous for its high levels of refined carbs, sugar, and saturated fats. To see if nutrition initiatives are taking hold, researchers analyzed the diets of 43,996 U.S. adults in 1999 and then again in 2016. Over this time period, people got 1.23% more calories from high quality carbs (whole grains), 0.38% more calories from plant protein, 0.65% more calories from polyunsaturated fats, and 3.25% fewer calories from low quality carbohydrates (sugar and refined grains). Unfortunately, calories from saturated fat increased by 0.36%, and the general diet is still far from ideal, with 42% of calories still coming from low quality carbs, and saturated fat remaining above 10% of energy intake.
JAMA. 2019 Sep 24;322(12):1178-1187. doi: 10.1001/jama.2019.13771.(Shan Z et al.)

Church-Based Obesity Interventions May Help Improve Health

Faith-based institutions, including churches, can be great places to support people in their journey toward a healthier lifestyle. In a review of 43 articles on church-based obesity interventions, 81% of the studies reported significant improvements, although the effect sizes were small. Most of the studies were comprised of African American women, so more research is needed on the impact of church-based obesity interventions among other groups, such as men of color and Latinos. The authors conclude that “church-based interventions to address obesity will have greater impact if they consider the diversity among populations burdened by this condition and develop programs that are tailored to these different populations.”
Nutrition Reviews. 2019 Sep 20. pii: nuz046. doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nuz046. (Flórez KR et al.)

Racial & Ethnic Minorities Carry Disproportionate Burden of Diabetes at Lower BMI

Being heavier for our stature (as measured by BMI) puts us at a higher risk of diabetes. In this study, researchers analyzed the prevalence of diabetes in nearly 5 million people. Hispanics, Asians, and Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders who were overweight had the same diabetes risk as whites, blacks, and Native Americans who were in the most obese tier (class 4 obesity). Further, they found that the link between BMI and diabetes is strongest in whites and lowest in blacks, indicating that other factors outside of overweight/obesity may increase diabetes risk in racial and ethnic minorities.
Diabetes Care.  2019 Sep 19. pii: dc190532. doi: 10.2337/dc19-0532. [Epub ahead of print] (Zhu Y et al.)

Sourdough Fermentation Methods Improve Quality of Partially Whole Wheat Pasta

Swapping out some of the white flour for whole wheat flour in pasta is a simple way for manufacturers to bump up the nutritional quality of their products. But researchers wonder if different whole wheat pasta formulations might be better than others. In this study, researchers compared the nutritional and sensory (taste, acceptability, etc.) characteristics on two types of partially (28.5%) whole wheat fresh pasta: in one, the whole wheat flour was fermented (essentially a sourdough starter) and in the other, the whole wheat flour was not fermented. The fermented pasta showed a higher content of free essential amino acids and phenolic compounds, lower phytic acid content, and higher antioxidant activity. In consumer testing in a group of 54 people, the fermented pasta was rated higher for overall acceptability (taste, texture, and flavor). Interestingly, when people were told about the use of sourdough fermentation in the pasta, the acceptability ratings were even higher, reflective of the growing appetite for functional foods.
Foods. 2019 Sep 18;8(9). pii: E422. doi: 10.3390/foods8090422. (Fois S et al.)

Whole-Food Plant-Based Diet Linked with Weight Loss, Healthier Gut Microbiome

Researchers randomly assigned 148 overweight and obese adults to a low-fat vegan diet, or to continue their usual diet for 16 weeks. Those in the vegan group lost about a pound per week, and also lost a significant amount of body fat. Additionally, the vegan group (who ate lots of legumes, fruits, vegetables, and nuts) also had higher levels of beneficial bacteriodetes in their gut. This may partially explain some of the health benefits of plant-based diets, because people with diabetes, insulin resistance, and inflammation tend to have low levels of bacteriodetes. (Note that findings presented at meetings are considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.)
Presentation at European Association for the Study of Diabetes 2019 Annual Meeting. Barcelona, Spain. September 17, 2019.

Going Gluten-Free Does Not Improve Digestive Symptoms in Healthy Volunteers

If you don’t have a medically-diagnosed problem with gluten, is there any benefit to going gluten-free? New research suggests not. In this study, scientists randomly assigned 28 people without medical problems with gluten to a gluten-free diet or a gluten-containing diet for 2 weeks. The gluten-containing diet did not generate any symptoms (diarrhea, reflux, constipation, fatigue, etc.) in these healthy volunteers. They concluded that because a gluten-free diet is often less healthy than a typical diet, “there is possibly clinical justification in actively discouraging people from starting it if they have no diagnosable sensitivity.”
Gastroenterology. 2019 September;157:881-883. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2019.05.015. (Croall ID et al.)

Millet-based Lunches Improve Health in Indian Children

Millet is a whole grain that has a rich history throughout India. However, in recent times, millet has been displaced by refined grains like white rice. In this study, researchers introduced millet-based lunches at 2 schools in Karnataka, India, and then compared the health outcomes of those 136 students to 102 students at 2 schools who ate their regular fortified rice-based lunches for 3 months. Those in the millet group significantly improved stunting (an important measure of growth and development) and BMI, while the rice group did not. Additionally, all of the millet meals had high acceptability, with the most popular ones being finger millet ildi (a steam cooked fermented savory cake), little and pearl millet bisi belle bath (a millet-lentil hot meal), and upma (a pearl and little millet-vegetable meal).
Nutrients. 2019 Sep 3;11(9). pii: E2077. doi: 10.3390/nu11092077.(Anitha S et al.)

AMERICANS CAN CORRECTLY CATEGORIZE MOST FOODS AS WHOLE GRAIN OR REFINED GRAIN

In this study, researchers asked 169 low-income adults to look at 11 foods in their original packaging and determine if each was a whole grain or a refined grain. The majority of participants (7 out of 10) correctly identified 4 out of 5 of the whole grain products as whole grain, and nearly as many (6 out of 10) participants correctly identified 5 out of the 6 refined grain products. Specifically, 9/10 people correctly identified whole grain bread, 8/10 correctly identified whole grain crackers & whole grain cereal, and 7/10 correctly identified oatmeal as a whole grain, while popcorn tripped most people up (with only 3/10 people correctly identifying it as a whole grain food). Similarly, 8/10 correctly identified refined crackers, 7/10 correctly identified refined macaroni and tortillas, and 6/10 correctly identified refined bread and cereal, while white rice was tricky for people (with only 4/10 correctly identifying it as a refined grain). Based on interviews with a subset of 60 of the participants, the researchers found that helping people more clearly identify whole grains on the package, and reducing the cost (or perceived cost) of whole grain foods may help increase whole grain consumption in low-income adults.
Current Developments in Nutrition. 2019 May 16;3(7):nzz064. doi: 10.1093/cdn/nzz064. (Chea M et al.)

Whole Wheat Promotes Resilience in Liver, Protects Against Higher Inflammation

Health not only implies being free of disease; health also takes into account how well we adapt to the stresses of everyday life, and the inevitable wear-and-tear on our bodies – in other words, resilience. To see how whole wheat might impact inflammation and resilience, 50 overweight and obese adults were randomly assigned to either 98 grams of whole wheat per day (from bread and cereal) or 98 grams of refined wheat per day for 12 weeks. Scientists then measured markers of inflammation and liver health and used modeling (the “health space” approach) to determine how resilient their bodies were to external stressors based on these findings. In this experiment, whole wheat was shown to protect against higher inflammation, and was also shown to promote resilience in the liver. 
Journal of Nutrition. 2019 Aug 27. pii: nxz177. doi: 10.1093/jn/nxz177. (Hoevenaars FPM et al.)

Pages