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Switching to Whole Grains Can Reduce Abdominal Fat

Visceral fat is a dangerous type of abdominal fat that can surround vital organs like the liver. To see if grain choices might play a role in this fat distribution, researchers randomly assigned 50 Japanese men with a BMI of 23 or greater (midway through the “healthy weight” range or heavier) to a diet with whole grain bread or white bread for 12 weeks, and had their visceral fat estimated using tomography scans. After the 12-week study, the whole grain group lost 4 cm of visceral fat around their middle, while the white bread group showed no significant changes.
Plant Foods and Human Nutrition. 2018 Apr 18. [Epub ahead of print.] (Kikuchi Y et al.)

Oat Noodles (Instead of Refined Noodles) Can Help Reduce Cholesterol, Blood Pressure

Refined wheat and rice noodles are common staple foods throughout Asia today, so replacing some of these foods with whole grain versions could go a long way in improving health. To test the impact, researchers randomly assigned 84 healthy adults (some with mildly high cholesterol) in Taiwan to an oat noodle group or a refined wheat noodle group, providing them with 100 grams (about 1 ½ cups cooked) of their respective noodles across 1 or 2 meals each day for 10 weeks. After the 10-week study, the oat group reduced their total cholesterol by 17% and LDL-c (“bad”) cholesterol by 19% compared with the wheat noodle group. The oat noodle group also significantly lowered their blood pressure by 7-11%, but the wheat noodle group did not. The benefits tended to be stronger in people who started the study with slightly high cholesterol, but the results were still statistically significant for the group as a whole.
Journal of Food and Drug Analysis. 2018 April. [Epub ahead of print.] (Liao MY et al.)

Low GI Pasta Meals Can Lead to Weight Loss

Keep the pasta, lose the pounds! Pasta is a low Glycemic Index food, meaning that it doesn’t spike your blood sugar. To see how low glycemic diets with pasta relate to weight, researchers analyzed 32 randomized clinical trial comparisons involving 2,448 adults (who were mostly middle aged and overweight or obese). Compared with high Glycemic Index diets, the low Glycemic Index diets with pasta (about three ½ cup servings per week) were linked with modest weight loss (0.63 kg, or 1.4 pounds), even without cutting calories.
BMJ. 2018 April 4;8(3):1-13. (Chiavaroli L et al.)

Cruciferous Veggies Linked with Less Plaque Build Up in Arteries

If you want to keep your arteries in tip-top shape, you may want to add an extra helping of broccoli or Brussels sprouts to your meals. In a study of more than 900 older women (ages 70+), those consuming 3 or more servings of vegetables each day had lower levels of plaque in their arteries (as measured by CCA-IMT). When looking at the different types of vegetables, cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, and bok choy) had the strongest relationship, as each 10 gram serving was linked with 0.8% less plaque (as measured by CCA-IMT).
Journal of the American Heart Association. 2018 Apr 4;7(8). (Blekkenhorst LC et al.).

Protein from Nuts and Seeds Linked with Less Death from Heart Disease than Protein from Meat

Protein is important for our muscles, enzymes, and numerous essential body processes, but not all protein is created equal. To see how different protein sources relate to heart disease deaths, researchers carefully analyzed the diets of 81,337 men and women. Those getting more protein from nuts and seeds were significantly less likely to die from heart disease than those not getting as much protein from nuts and seeds. On the other hand, those getting more protein from animal sources had a higher risk of dying from heart disease. The relationship between heart disease death and these foods was so strong, even after controlling for other diet and lifestyle factors, that the researchers concluded that the link “could not be ascribed to other associated nutrients considered to be important for cardiovascular health.”
International Journal of Epidemiology. 2018 Apr 2. [Epub ahead of print] (Tharrey M et al.)

Common Healthy Eating Pattern Across Different Asian Ethnic Groups Linked with Better Cholesterol, BMI, Waist Size

Researchers analyzed the eating habits of 8,433 adults in Singapore who were of Chinese, Malay, and Indian ethnicity. Despite the wide variety in food preferences among these different ethnic groups, researchers were able to identify a common healthy eating pattern based on fruits, vegetables, dairy, wholegrain breads, breakfast cereals, unsaturated cooking oils; and low in fast food, sweetened beverages, meat, and flavored rice. Those most closely following the healthy eating pattern were more likely to have a lower BMI, smaller waist size, and lower levels of total cholesterol, LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, and triglycerides (another type of fat in the blood).
Journal of Nutrition. 2018 Apr 1;148(4):616-623. (Whitton C. et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Less Fat in Liver

Fatty liver is most commonly associated with alcoholism, but obesity and excess body fat can be risk factors for fatty liver as well (which can eventually develop into liver disease). In a study of 1,521 adults, those most closely following a Mediterranean diet were significantly less likely to have fatty liver in the following year. Specifically, each 1-point increase on the Mediterranean diet score was linked with 26% lower odds of developing fatty liver the next year. Diets reflecting the Alternative Healthy Eating Index (another diet scoring tool that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and limits red meat and sweets) were also linked with a smaller, but still significantly lower risk of fatty liver.
Gastroenterology. 2018 Mar 28. [Epub ahead of print]. (Ma J et al.)

Beans, Grains, and Fiber Linked with Lower Risk of Breast Cancer

It’s important to get your fiber from a variety of foods, since different sources of fiber are associated with different health benefits. Researchers analyzed the eating patterns of 2,135 patients with breast cancer and 2,571 controls to see how different foods and fibers might relate to breast cancer risk. Those eating the most fiber (more than 26.5 grams per day) were 25% less likely to have breast cancer than those eating less than 15.2 grams of fiber per day. Similarly, those eating the most beans (more than 3.9 oz per day) and grains (more than 13.8 oz per day, of both whole and refined grains) were 19% and 18% less likely to have breast cancer, respectively, than those eating the least amount of beans and grains.
Cancer Medicine. 2018 Mar 23. [Epub ahead of print] (Sangaramoorthy M et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Healthier Bones and Muscles After Menopause

Women lose bone mass during menopause, so strategies to prevent osteoporosis in this population are of utmost importance. In a study of 103 post-menopausal women (average age 55), researchers analyzed their diet and body composition. Most closely following a Mediterranean diet was linked with better muscle mass and greater spine bone mineral density than those not eating Mediterranean foods like olive oil, fish, and grains. (Note that findings presented at meetings are typically viewed as preliminary until they’ve been published in a peer-reviewed journal.)
Presented at ENDO 2018: The Endocrine Society Annual Meeting. Chicago, Illinois. March 20, 2018.

Brown Rice Stays in Stomach Longer than White Rice, Good for Blood Sugar and Nutrient Absorption

Brown rice and other whole grains have been long known to “stick to your ribs,” and new research explains why. In a small study, 10 healthy adults were fed various types of white rice and brown rice over 7 weeks, with a breath hydrogen test to track how long their stomach stayed full. The brown rice samples all stayed in the stomach significantly longer than the white rice samples, likely because the bran takes longer to break down. Slow stomach emptying helps the body better regulate how nutrients are digested and absorbed, and helps create a more gentle blood sugar response (rather than a blood sugar spike).
European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2018 Mar;72(3):367-373. (Pletsch EA et al.)

Delayed Gluten Introduction May Be Linked with Type 1 Diabetes Risk

In a study of 8,676 babies with a genetic risk for type 1 diabetes, researchers took blood samples every 3 months for at least 9 months after birth and analyzed their diet. Every 1-month delay in gluten introduction was linked with a significantly higher risk of the immune system attacking the pancreatic cells that are important for blood sugar regulation (as measured by islet autoimmunity) as well as higher levels of insulin autoantibodies, which are predictors of type 1 diabetes. In fact, introducing gluten after 9 months was linked with a 57% higher risk of islet autoimmunity than introducing gluten between 4-9 months of age. The researchers suggest that the timing of gluten be studied further, so that healthcare providers can more confidently suggest a recommended window.
Diabetes Care. 2018 Mar;41(3):522-530. (Uusitalo U et al.)

High Fiber Diet Promotes Select Gut Bacteria to Better Manage Diabetes

In line with many other countries, the usual care for patients with diabetes in China is education about balanced diets and blood sugar management strategies. In a small study, 43 patients with diabetes were randomly assigned to either these standard recommendations, or a high-fiber diet with whole grains and traditional Chinese medicinal foods. Both groups significantly improved their blood sugar (as measured by HbA1c) over the 12-week study, but significantly more people in the whole grain group (89% vs 50%) got their blood sugar to a well-managed level (HbA1c < 7%). To see how gut microbes might play a role, researchers also analyzed the gut bacteria of the participants. They found that the fiber from whole grains stimulated select bacteria to produce short chain fatty acids, which in turn, helped the body better manage blood sugar.
Science. 2018 March 9;6380(359):1151-1156. (Zhao L et al.)

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