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Red Mold Rice has Antidiabetic Effects

Red mold rice is a fermented food product common in China (where it’s used to enhance flavor and color of foods) and valued in Chinese medicine.  Scientists at National Taiwan University reviewed the properties of this functional food, highlighting potential antidiabetic and antioxidant effects.
Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology.  2012 Apr;94(1):47-55  (Shi et al.)

B-12 Status and Vegans

Individuals who choose to follow a vegan diet are at increased risk for being deficient in vitamin B-12, which occurs in meaningful bio-available amounts only in animal foods.  This type of vitamin deficiency is very serious and can cause many irreversible health problems, yet vegans often don’t take B-12 supplements because they consider them “un-natural.” Polish scientists followed 20 healthy adult volunteers for five years after they switched from an omnivorous diet to a strict vegan diet. Ten consumed only natural products, while the other ten consumed foods fortified with B-12. Not surprisingly, B-12 serum levels were down in the natural group, but not in the fortified group.   
Acta Scientiarum Polonorum, Technologia Alimentaria April 2, 2012; 11(2):209-213. [Lisowska A et al.]

Lower Breast Cancer Risk with Med Diet

935 women and 817 controls participating in the MASTOS case-control study in Cyprus answered a 32-item Food Frequency Questionnaire to assess their adherence to a Mediterranean Diet. Although overall Med Diet adherence did not prove to be correlated with breast cancer risk in this study, researchers found that a diet high in fish, vegetables, legumes and olive oil may reduce the risk of breast cancer.
BMC Cancer. 2012 March 23; 12:113. [Demetriou et al.]

Risks of Iron Deficiency Equal Among Vegetarians and Omnivores

Researchers from Central Washington University and California Polytechnic State University compared the iron intakes and serum iron levels of 19 vegetarian college women with 20 non-vegetarian college women. They found that 66% of vegetarians and 65% of non-vegetarians failed to meet the recommended daily allowance of iron (14-18mg). Furthermore, there was no significant difference in serum iron levels between the two groups. In fact, both vegetarians and non-vegetarians had high rates of iron deficiency. These results suggest that while female college students have a high risk of iron deficiency, a vegetarian diet alone does not increase this risk.
Health. 2012 Mar;4(3):113-119. (Hawk et al.)

Higher Quality of Life with Med Diet

While many studies assessing the benefits of the Mediterranean Diet are carried out with older adults, the SUN project in Spain studies recent university graduates largely in their middle- or late-thirties. After four years of follow-up, researchers at the University of Las Palmas found that a higher adherence to the Mediterranean Diet was significantly associated with better physical health (vitality, bodily pain, general health) and with most measures of mental health (social and emotional functioning).
European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2012 March; 66(3):360-8. [Henríquez Sánchez et al.]

Green Tea May Aid Weight Control

Chinese researchers seeking to evaluate the effect of green tea in combination with inulin for potential impact on body weight and fat mass asked 30 obese and overweight adults to drink either regular tea or catechin-rich green tea with inulin, for six weeks.  Researchers concluded that continuous intake of green tea and inulin may support weight management, and that the positive effects continued were sustained two weeks after ending consumption.
British Journal of Nutrition.  2012 Mar; 107:749-754  (Yang et al.)

Hawthorn and Kiwifruit Extracts May Improve Lipid Status

Traditional Chinese therapeutic foods such as hawthorn and kiwifruit extracts were evaluated for their effect on dyslipidemia in a clinical trial conducted in Australia.  Researchers found evidence which suggests that consuming these extracts for 4 weeks may increase levels of HDL-c “good cholesterol” which could reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 508683 (Sun et al.)

Higher Med Diet Score: Lower Diabetes, CVD, Mortality

Scientists at the University of Palermo in Italy used both a 13-question Med Diet Score and a 136-item Food Frequency Questionnaire to assess the diet quality of more than 9100 subjects. They then studied correlations between the subjects’ adherence to a Mediterranean Diet and their health. They found that increased adherence to a Med Diet was associated with a decreased incidence of both diabetes and cardiovascular events, and a decrease in all-cause mortality.
Nutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Diseases. 2012 March 6 [Epub ahead of print] [Dominguez et al.]

Nutrition Transition Alters Cancer Risks

Researchers in China systematically evaluated rates of cancer mortality in China, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea and Singapore, and noted changes that began to occur about 10 years into a “nutrition transition” characterized by increased intake of energy, animal fat, and red meats. Breast, colon, and prostate cancer mortality increased “remarkably,” while esophageal and stomach cancers showed a “precipitous decrease.”
European Journal of Cancer Prevention. 2012 Feb 18; Epub ahead of print (Zhang et al.)

A Little Wine May Be Protective, Post Heart Attack

While many studies have shown that moderate consumption of wine may help prevent cardiovascular disease, scientists in Dijon, France set out to see if moderate wine intake after myocardial infarction would be beneficial. Their two-week clinical intervention trial divided patients into two groups: one following a Med-inspired diet with water, and the other following the same diet with 250ml of red wine. Those drinking the red wine showed a decrease in total cholesterol and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol as well as an increase in antioxidant status and in fluidity of red blood cell membranes.
Molecular Nutrition and Food Research. 2012 February; 56(2):345-51. [Rifler et al.]

Vegetarian Diet Helps Maintain Good Mood

Researchers at Benedictine University in Illinois conducted a randomized control trial to determine the effects on mood of consuming a vegetarian diet, compared with an omnivorous diet or a meat-restricted fish diet.  Omnivorous diets are high in arachidonic acid (AA) and research has shown that high intakes of AA can promote changes in the brain that can disturb mood.  Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are fats found in fish which are thought to improve mood by opposing the negative effects of AA. This study randomly selected thirty nine omnivores and assigned them to either a group consuming meat, fish and poultry daily (OMN); a group consuming fish 3-4 times weekly but avoiding meat and poultry (FISH), or a vegetarian group avoiding meat, fish and poultry (VEG).  Mood was tested using the Profile of Mood States questionnaire and the Depression Anxiety and Stress Scales.  The study found that the VEG participants, who through the diet reduced their EPA, DHA and AA intakes, had mood scores that improved significantly after two weeks whereas OMN and FISH participants had mood scores that remained unchanged.  In conclusion, the results of this study suggest that restricting meat, fish, and poultry may improve some domains of short-term mood states in modern omnivores.
Nutrition Journal 2012 Feb 14;11:9 (Beezhold et al.)

Lacto-Vegetarian Diet Cuts Heart Risk

It is known that vegetarians have lower incidence of risk factors for coronary heart disease including lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, lower prevalence of obesity, and healthier lifestyle overall.  It is hypothesized that this reduction in risk factors is due to the consumption of a primarily plant-based diet.  To test this idea, Swedish scientists asked 20 volunteers to switch from their usual omnivorous diet to a lacto-vegetarian diet (no meat, fish or eggs, but dairy is allowed) for a full year. Dietitians offered advice and cooking classes, and researchers took dietary surveys and blood samples at the start and every three months throughout the year. Subjects lost a significant amount of weight and significantly lowered their BMIs; they also significantly lowered their blood pressure, total cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol – all risk markers for coronary heart disease
Open Journal of Preventative Medicine. February 2012;2(1):16-22.  [Johansson et al.]