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Traditions Promote Long Life

The School of Health Sciences at Cleveland State University studied thirty-seven elders living in the Eastern Afromontane and Albertine Rift regions of Ethiopia; the Mayan Mountains region of Belize; the Western Gats region of India; and the Appalachian Mountains region of the United States who live by their traditions.  The data from each site was grouped into three major categories: (1) philosophy, attitudes, and outlook (2) lifestyle practices, and (3) dietary and nutritional practices. The study found that the elders’ comprehensive yet simple set of practices has implications for today’s population. The elders’ practices promote longevity, sustainably, and healthy lifestyles by following traditional ways of eating and taking care of one’s body, mind, spirit and environment. 
Explore (NY) 2010 Nov-Dec; 6(6):352-8. (Pesek et al.)

Omega-3 May Reduce Risk of Dental Disease

You are told to brush, floss, and rinse every day, but has your dentist told you to consume more Omega 3 fatty acids lately? He should, according the latest study from Japan comparing levels of omega-3 fatty acids and the prevalence of dental diseases. “People with low DHA intake had an approximately 1.5 times higher incidence rate ratio of periodontal disease progression,” wrote the researchers. Omega-3 fatty acids of marine and plant origin were found to have strong anti-bacterial activity against a range of oral pathogens, which may be related to the anti-inflammatory effects of omega-3 fatty acids. “In periodontal diseases, bacteria trigger inflammatory host responses that cause destruction of the alveolar bone and periodontal connective tissue,” explained the researchers. The Mediterranean Diet features ingredients rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as fish, nuts, legumes and vegetables. This pattern of eating is already known to protect against certain kinds of cancer, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes. Now there is one more reason to try it. (Related article).

Nutrition. November-December 2010; 26(11-12):1105-9 [Epub January 25, 2010]

Mediterranean Diet and Fertility Treatment Success

Women all over the world struggle with conception, for various reasons. However, new findings point to a possible role for diet in fertility treatment success. Researchers in the Netherlands found that among 161 couples undergoing fertility treatment, women whose eating habits most closely matched the traditional Mediterranean diet were 40 percent more likely to become pregnant than those with the least Mediterranean-like diets. One potential reason adhering to a Mediterranean Diet positively affects fertility treatment is the high intake of vegetable oils, vegetables, fish, and legumes – and a low intake of snacks. (Related article).

Fertility and Sterility, November 2010; 94(6):2096-101 [Epub Mar 1, 2010]

Vegans and Vegetarians at Greater Risk of Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Researchers from the University of Oxford and King’s College London analyzed data from blood samples of 689 men of which 226 were omnivores, 231 were vegetarians, and 232 were vegans. They found that mean serum Vitamin B12 was highest among omnivores and lowest among vegans, while mean serum folate was highest among vegans and lowest among omnivores. 52% of the vegans and 7% of the vegetarians were found to be deficient in vitamin B12. Because vitamin B12 deficiency can result in irreversible neurological damage, vegans and vegetarians should ensure a regular intake of sufficient vitamin B12 from fortified foods and/or supplements.
European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2010 Sep;64(9):933-939. (Gilsing et al.)

Lifestyle Diseases Rise as Traditions Fall

A study of 97 apparently healthy men between the ages of 20 and 50 living in Mwanza, Tanzania investigated the relationship between eating habits and the spread of Metabolic Syndrome risks. Mwanza in habitants, living on the shore of Lake Victoria, traditionally ate a diet high in fish, but in recent years the diet has shifted to include more exotic foods such as donuts and ice cream.  Scientists using anthropometric measurements, a dietary questionnaire, blood pressure movement, and blood and 24-hour urine collection found that – although Metabolic Syndrome risks often rise with age – 62.5% of the young and 53.3% of the middle aged had MS risks. Young adults in Mwanza ate fish less frequently than the middle-aged. The findings suggest that the lowered intake of fish and raised intake of non-traditional foods may be linked to an increased risk of Metabolic Syndrome in young men.
Journal of Biomedical Science. 2010 Aug 24; 17 Suppl 1:S34 (Hamada et al.)
 

Higher Intake of Soy Isoflavones May Reduce the Risk of COPD

Researchers conducted a study in Japan to evaluate the effect of isoflavones and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) on the risk for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD.)  Researchers found that patients with COPD had a lower intake of both isoflavones and PUFA than the healthy participants.  Isoflavones and PUFA, which are found in traditional Japanese foods such as soy products and fish, may have a protective benefit against COPD.
Molecular Nutrition & Food Research. 2010 Jul; 54(7):909-917. (Hirayama et al.)

Health Benefits of Traditional Latin American Diets

Brazilian scientists carried out a comprehensive review of historic diets native to different parts of Central and South America, and of recent research that sheds light on their protective effects. Benefits of traditional, largely plant-based Latino diets included lower cholesterol, lower diabetes risk, lower blood pressure, and other benefits.
Clinics, 2010; 65(1):1049-54 (Navarro et al.)

Vegetarianism – Key to a Better Mood?

Researchers from Arizona State University examined associations between mood and diet type in the context of polyunsaturated fatty acid intake. Vegetarian diets are usually lower in long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA), which many believe are positively related to neural function and mental health. However, while the vegetarians in this study did consume fewer long-chain omega-3 fatty acids than the omnivores, they reported better moods overall. These results suggest that vegetarian diets are not likely associated with poor mood or depression due to low intake of omega-3 fatty acids and in fact may be associated with improved mood.
Nutrition Journal. 2010 Jun 1; 9:26. (Beezhold et al.)

Crohn's Disease Prevention with Plant-Based Diet

A two-year clinical trial conducted in Japan set out to determine whether consuming a semi-vegetarian diet has a preventative effect against relapse of Crohn’s disease. The participants included twenty-two adult patients suffering from Crohn’s disease who had achieved clinical remission either during medical stay or through surgery. Of these patients, 16 of them consumed a semi-vegetarian diet (SVD) over the course of two years.  Remission was maintained in 15 of 16 patients in the SVD group (94%) vs two of six in the omnivorous group.  The results of this study suggest that consuming a semi-vegetarian diet may help Crohn’s disease sufferers from experiencing symptoms of relapse. 
World Journal of Gastroenterology 2010 May 28;16(20):2484-95 (Chiba et al.)
 

Seaweed Consumption Reduces Breast Cancer Risk

A study by the Department of Preventative Medicine in Hanyang University, South Korea measured the anti-breast cancer effects of seaweed consumption among South Korean women.  Gim and miyeok are the seaweeds most consumed by Koreans.  The study group consisted of 362 women aged 30-65 years old with confirmed breast cancer, and controls visiting the same hospital who were matched to cases according to their age and menopausal status. A 121-item food frequency questionnaire measured food intake.  The daily intake of gim was lower among the women with breast cancer compared to controls.  After results were adjusted for menopausal status, premenopausal women and postmenopausal women both showed inverse associations between gim intake and risk of breast cancer.
British Journal of Nutrition 2010 May;103(9):1345-53. (Yang et al.)

Vegetarian Diets and Childhood Obesity

Scientists at Loma Linda University conducted a meta-analysis to explore the health effects of vegetarian diets and the potential biological reasons for the protective effects of plant foods as a potential approach for preventing childhood overweight and obesity.  The review of the literature found that vegetarian children tend to have lower BMIs than non-vegetarian children. The authors advocate for food policies that support vegetarian diets and that “reduce the cultural and economic forces that make it difficult to promote plant-based dietary patterns.”
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. May 2010; 91(suppl):1525S–9S. [Sabate J and Wien M]

Mediterranean Diet May Help Keep You Smarter

Reading, writing and researching can bulk up your brain, but did you know that your diet could make you smarter? Eating a Mediterranean-style diet — one rich in olive oil, whole grains, fish and fruit — may protect aging brains from damage linked to cognitive problems, new research finds. Dr. Nikolas Scarmeas, an associate professor of neurology at Columbia University Medical Center, New York City, and his colleagues have already shown that a Mediterranean Diet could help lower the risk for Alzheimer’s disease and might lengthen the life of those who have the disease. In his latest study, he may have found out why. After studying a group of male and female participants averaging 80 years of age, he determined that those who most closely followed the Mediterranean Diet had fewer incidents of stroke and brain infarcts – tissue that has died because of reduced or cut-off blood supply. Those who adhered to the Mediterranean Diet to the highest degree lowered their risk of such damage by up to 36%. (Related article).

Presentation at the American Academy of Neurology annual meeting, April 10-17, 2010.

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