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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.

Vegetarian Diet to Reduce Heart Disease

Heart disease is the primary cause of death in the United States.  The risk factors for heart disease include high BP, elevated cholesterol, diabetes, tobacco use, lack of exercise, and obesity.  Through a review of the literature, scientists at the University of Tennessee evaluated possible links between cardiovascular disease and vegetarian diets.   Research indicates an inverse relationship between fruits, vegetables, and fiber consumption and the risk of heart disease.  Diets low in saturated fat are also associated with decreased risk of heart disease.  Vegetarian diets follow these rules and vegetarians tend to have fewer chronic diseases such as heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. The authors conclude that a well-planned vegetarian diet with adequate supplementation may be effective for primary prevention of heart disease.
Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners.  March 2010; 22:134-139. ([Stitcher MA et al.]

Sunscreen for Dinner?

Skin cancer is increasing, even though we’re slathering on more sunscreen than ever. A recent study from Israel shows that our best sun protection may come from within. Whereas ultraviolet A radiation reduces antioxidants and damages cell components, a diet rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, like the diet eaten in Mediterranean regions where melanoma rates are extremely low, can help protect us from skin cancer. (Related article).

Nutrition Reviews. February 2010; 68(2):75-86.

The Diet Quality of Rural Older Adults in the American South

This study at the University of North Carolina compared the diet quality of multiethnic older adults in the southern United States. Data were collected from 635 older adults through home visits and given scores (1-100) using the Healthy Eating Index (HEI) to gauge quality. The average total HEI score was 61.9/100 with fewer than 2% meeting the recommended minimum of 80/100. After controlling for age, sex, marital status, poverty status, and education, African Americans had higher total HEI-2005 scores compared to American Indians and non-Hispanic whites. African Americans ate the most  fruit, beans, and meat; African Americans and American Indians consumed the most whole grains; non-Hispanic whites consumed the most milk; and, American Indians consumed energy from solid fat, alcohol, and added sugars most often. The overall diet quality of these rural elders was not adequate as determined by the HEI; however, intakes of dark green and orange vegetables were adequate, and many participants were in compliance with the added fat and sugar guidelines.

Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2009 Dec;109(12):2063-7. Savoca et al.

Vegetarians May Have Lower Bone Mineral Density

Researchers from Pham Ngoc Thach University of Medicine in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam compiled data from nine different studies on bone mineral density (BMD) and diet type. While two of the nine showed vegetarians to have significantly lower average BMDs than omnivores, thus putting them at greater risk for osteoporosis, the pooled data showed no significant statistical difference. The results did suggest that vegetarian diets, and especially vegan diets, are associated with a lower BMD; however, the magnitude of the association is clinically insignificant.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2009 Oct 1;90:943-50. (Ho-Pham et al.)

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