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Fitting In But Getting Fat

In an ingenious experiment, researchers at the University of California at Berkeley set out to learn if the desire to fit in might cause U.S. immigrant groups to eat less healthy foods. Asian Americans questioned about their ability to speak English were three times more likely to name a prototypically American food as their favorite food; when their American identity was challenged they ordered and ate more typically American dishes, with 182 additional calories and 12 extra grams of fat than when their identity was not challenged.
Psychological Science. July 2011; 22(7):959-67 (Guendelman et al.)

Traditional Lacto-Fermentation in Asian Foods

Korea University researchers explored the role of lactic acid bacteria in many traditional (non-dairy) Asian foods like kimchi. This traditional process controls pathogens and micro-organisms to preserve food safely, while contributing desirable flavors and often improving nutritional value. The authors give examples from throughout Asia and explain the process of lacto-fermentation.
Microbial Cell Factories. 2011; 10(Suppl 1): S5. Epub August 30, 2011. (Rhee et al.)

Body Image Among Latinas and African-American Women

University of Houston researchers surveyed 262 African American women and 148 Latinas to determine their actual weight and their perceived weight. In this group of middle-aged (mean 45.2 yrs), educated (44% college graduates) and obese (mean BMI 34.6) women, most women did not perceive normal weight as desirable. In fact, of those who were normal weight, 73.9% of African-Americans and 42.9% of Latinas desired to be obese.
Ethnicity and Disease. Summer 2011; 21(3):281-7. (Mama et. al.)

Countering the Effect of Depression in Elderly Heart Attack Patients

Many studies have found links between heart disease and depression. Researchers in Greece set out to study whether elderly patients (mean age 75 years) admitted to the hospital for acute heart disease were more likely to suffer another cardiovascular incident within 30 days if they exhibited symptoms of depression. The scientists did, in fact, find that depressive symptoms heightened the risk of this type of relapse, but that higher adherence to the Mediterranean Diet erased the association.

Cardiology Research and Practice, 2011: 429487 [Epub May 9, 2011]

Cardiac Rehab Program: Med Diet Treats Metabolic Syndrome

People with any three of five common symptoms – high blood pressure, high blood sugar, large waist circumference, low HDL cholesterol and high triglycerides – are said to have Metabolic Syndrome, a condition associated with many health risks, including diabetes and heart disease. Because Metabolic Syndrome usually leads to serious disease, researchers at the University of Michigan Medical School set out to design a lifestyle program to combat Metabolic Syndrome. 126 obese over-50 adults with Metabolic Syndrome followed a program consisting of 12 weekly ninety-minute sessions, evenly divided between exercise and nutrition education focusing on the Mediterranean Diet. At the end of the program, patients had lost on average 6.2kg (13.6 lbs), with significant reductions in waist circumference, body fat, blood pressure, triglycerides, and depression. About 20% of those finishing the program no longer had Metabolic Syndrome, and 42% had lost at least one symptom, thanks to the Med Diet and exercise.

Journal of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation and Prevention, July 4, 2011 [Epub ahead of print]

Vegetarians Show Lower Risk Markers

Nutritionists in Slovakia assessed markers of age-related disease in healthy, non-obese, non-smoking women age 60-70 years, comparing 45 vegetarians / semi-vegetarians with 38 non-vegetarians. Vegetarians had significantly reduce total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, C-reactive protein, glucose, insulin and insulin resistance compared to non-vegetarians. They also had much higher antioxidant plasma concentrations.
Bratislavské Lekárske Listy. 2011; 112(11):610-3 (Krajcovicova-Kudlackova et al.)

Latinas' Dietary Preferences and Beliefs on Healthy Foods

Dietary beliefs and preferences differ drastically across ethnic groups.  Smith College researchers conducted a study to determine the preferences and beliefs regarding healthy foods in 345 female Hispanic immigrants living in the New York City area.  The study found that the participants generally believed that their diets were healthier in their countries of origin where they were able to consume fresher foods free of processing and preservatives.  The participants indicated that they are unable to consume the foods they prefer in the United States due to the food environment here and attribute their weight gain or illness to their dietary changes.
Social Science and Medicine, July 2011; 73:13-21 (Park Y et al.)


The "Japan Diet" May Reduce Cardiovascular Risk

Researchers in Tokyo conducted a review of the nutrition transition in Japan in the last 40-50 years relative to the risk of chronic disease.  Many studies suggest that the traditional Japanese diet, featuring a higher intake of fruits, vegetables, fish, and soy and a limited intake of saturated fat and salt is protective against cardiovascular disease.  However, if dietary patterns in Japan continue to be Westernized, the prevalence of chronic disease is expected to increase.
Journal of Atherosclerosis and Thrombosis.  2011;18(9):723-734. Epub Jun 17, 2011 (Tada et al.)

Olive Oil May Be Protective Against Strokes

Older people who consume plenty of olive oil may reduce their risk of stroke by as much as 41%. That’s the conclusion of researchers from the University of Bordeaux, who followed more than 7,000 people over the age of 65, in the French cities of Bordeaux, Dijon, and Montpelier, for more than five years. Compared to those who seldom or never used olive oil, those with the heaviest self-reported use of olive oil lowered their risk of suffering a stroke during the five-year duration of the study from 2.6% to 1.5% – a 41% drop.

Neurology, June 15, 2011 [Epub ahead of print]

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.)

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.]

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.]