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Family Meals Linked with Better Nutrition, Weight in Kids

The number of family meals eaten together has declined in recent decades, and scientists wonder how this might be related to nutrition and childhood obesity. In a review of over 180,000 children and adolescents, researchers at the University of Illinois found that children of families eating three or more meals together each week were 35% less likely to have disordered eating, 24% more likely to eat nutritious foods, 20% less likely to eat unhealthy foods, and 12% less likely to be overweight, compared to children who ate fewer than three family meals each week.
Pediatrics. 2011 Jun;127(6):e1565-74 (Hammons AJ et al.)

Nutrient-Dense Veg Diet and Weight

A group of independent nutrition consultants studied NHANES data (1999-2004) for 13,292 adults, including 851 identified as vegetarians and 4,635 identified as dieters, in an effort to determine if vegetarian diets could provide sufficient nutrients while still managing body weight. The study found that vegetarian diets are nutrient dense, consistent with dietary guidelines, and could be recommended for weight management.
Journal of the American Dietetic Association. June 2011; 111(6):819-827 [Farmer B et al.]

Diverticular Disease and Vegetarian Diet

Diverticular disease is a disease of the colon that is characterized by outpocketings (diverticula) of the colonic mucosa.  This disease can lead to further complications such as diverticulitis (infection of the diverticula), bleeding or perforations of the colon, and intestinal obstruction.  This disease is often associated with diets that are low in fiber and high in red meat.  Using  European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) data, researchers at Oxford followed 47,033 U.K. adults (including 15,459 vegetarians) for more than 11 years, to examine the associations of vegetarianism and the intake of dietary fiber with the risk of diverticular disease.  The study concluded that consuming a vegetarian diet and high intake of dietary fiber were both associated with a lower risk of admission to hospital or death from diverticular disease.  
British Medical Journal. June 2011; 343:d4131 [Crowe F et al.]

Red Meat Increases Colon Cancer Risk in Japan

As Asian populations have changed from traditional to Westernized diets, their consumption of red meat has increased.  While meat consumption is still considered moderate compared to Western standards, the Japanese are nonetheless experiencing negative effects associated with red meat consumption—particularly colon or rectal cancer.  A Japanese study administered a food frequency questionnaire to 80,658 men and women aged 45 to 74 years over the years between 1995-2006. In the 2006 final checkup, 1,145 cases of colorectal cancer were identified.  Higher consumption of red meat was significantly associated with a higher incidence of colon cancer among these men and women.  In terms of physical location, these significant associations were as proximal colon cancer (in the beginning sections of the colon) in women and distal colon cancer (in the lower, rectal parts of the colon) in men.
Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2011; 20(4):603-12. (Takachi et al.)

Vegetarian Diet for Weight Management

A vegetarian diet typically excludes meat from all sources. It is characterized by the inclusion of grains, legumes, fruit, vegetables, and oils and may or may not include dairy products or eggs. A strict vegetarian or vegan diet excludes all animal products, including eggs, milk, and cheese.  Data document that individuals following a vegetarian dietary pattern typically have lower cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and lower body mass index (BMI). This places them at a lower risk for many diseases including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and hypertension. Individuals following a vegetarian diet tend to be leaner than their omnivore counterparts. This is potentially accomplished by avoiding meat and focusing instead on a low-calorie, high nutrient-density diet.  The nutrients with the most positive effects come from plant sources including whole grains, fruits, vegetables, oils, and legumes.  The nutrients include dietary fiber, healthy fats, and vitamins and minerals.  It appears that the vegetarian dietary pattern can naturally induce weight loss and also maintain healthy weight status long term.  
Journal of the American Dietetic Association, June 2011; 111(6):816-8 [Thedford K et al.]

Metabolic Syndrome Factors Improve with Med Diet

In a 12-week randomized trial, 89 women with Metabolic Syndrome were divided into two groups, one consuming a Mediterranean-style low-glycemic-load diet and the other receiving the same diet with the addition of a “medical food” containing phytosterols, soy protein, hops and acacia. At the end of the trial, researchers at the University of Connecticut noted that both groups had similar decreases in waist circumference, blood pressure and plasma triglycerides. Cholesterol levels also improved in both groups, though slightly more in the Med Diet + medical food group.

Journal of Clinical Lipidology, May-June 2011; 5(3):188-96. Epub 2011 Mar 11.

Med Diet Improves Health Markers of Kids with Type 1 Diabetes

Italian researchers at the University of Piemonte Orientale studied the diets of 96 children and adolescents with type 1 diabetes, before and after these young people and their families attended training with a dietitian on how to follow a traditional Mediterranean Diet. After six months, the children’s dietary lipids and cholesterol improved, while fiber consumption increased.
Journal of Endocrinological Investigation, May 27, 2011 [Epub ahead of print]

Patterns of High Blood Pressure and High Sodium Intake in the African Diaspora

High sodium intake is associated with higher blood pressure. This study, from Loyola University in Chicago, examined 2,704 individuals from Nigeria, Jamaica, and the United States, with evaluated blood pressure and sodium levels. The individuals’ ages ranged from 31-48 and 55% were women. Sodium levels decreased from West to East: highest in the U.S., mid-range in Jamaica, and lowest in Nigeria where we find little added sodium in the foods. High blood pressure follows the same pattern: highest in the U.S., mid-range in Jamaica, and lowest in Nigeria. The standard American diet, containing foods higher in sodium, is associated with a higher risk of abnormal blood pressure than traditional diets. 

Journal of Human Hypertension, 2011 May 19. (Tayo et al.)

Chinese Immigrants Increased Portion Size and Consumption of Convenience Food

Dutch researchers conducted an assessment of dietary patterns of Chinese immigrants to Canada.  Following immigration, some positive changes occurred, such as increased fruit and vegetable consumption, and less deep-fat frying.  However, immigrants also reported increased portion sizes, increased frequency of dining out, and increased consumption of convenience foods.
International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. 2011 May 18; 8:42 (Rosenmöller et al.)

Reducing Meat Intake May Cut Risk of Metabolic Syndrome

Researchers from Loma Linda University in California investigated the relationship between diet type and prevalence of the Metabolic Syndrome, a condition characterized by the presence of various risk factors (HDL cholesterol, serum triglycerides, blood glucose, blood pressure, and waist circumference). The researchers found that a vegetarian diet pattern was associated with the lowest prevalence of Metabolic Syndrome. Vegetarians were also less likely to have most of the individual risk factors.
Diabetes Care. 2011 May;34:1225-1227. (Rizzo et al.)

Diabetes Markers Improve on Veg Diet

It has been well documented that the prevalence of type 2 diabetes is significantly lower in vegetarians as compared to non-vegetarians.  It has also been documented that vegetarian diets can help treat type 2 diabetes.  Scientists at Charles University in Prague hypothesized that vegetarian diets treat type 2 diabetes through a combination of total weight loss, reduction in visceral fat, and reduction in fasting blood glucose.  They conducted a 24-week randomized, open study of 74 patients to compare the effects of two diets – conventional and vegetarian , both with the same number of restricted calories – on insulin resistance, volume of visceral fat and plasma markers of oxidative stress.  The study found that the vegetarian diet had a greater capacity to improve insulin sensitivity as compared to an omnivorous control diet.
Diabetic Medicine.  May 2011; 28:549-559 [Kahleova H et al.]

Creatine Supplementation May Improve Memory in Vegetarians

It has been shown that vegetarians have lower dietary intakes of creatine, and while the body synthesizes creatine, vegetarians have shown lower levels of muscle creatine than omnivores. Researchers from the University of Swansea and the London Ambulance Service conducted an intervention study on 121 college females, 70 of whom were either vegans or vegetarians. The participants were randomly assigned to either take a creatine supplement or a placebo before completing a series of cognition tests. While there was no significant difference in cognitive functioning between vegetarians and omnivores at baseline, the authors found that creatine supplementation improved memory in vegetarians but not in omnivores. Because this is one of the first studies to examine the role of creatine in cognitive functioning, further examination is warranted.
British Journal of Nutrition. 2011 Apr;105(7):1100-1105. (Benton and Donohoe)
 

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