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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.]

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.)

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.