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Less Acculturated Latinos Enjoy Better Diets

It is known that the healthfulness of the Latino diet deteriorates during the acculturation process, as Latino immigrants adopt the habits of their new culture.  A meta-analysis was conducted to review the literature available on the effect of acculturation on the Latino diet.  The analysis concluded that there was no relationship between acculturation and dietary fat intake or percent energy from fat, despite evidence that fat-related behaviors seem to differ between those who are less or more acculturated.  It also concluded that less acculturated Latin Americans consumed more fruit, rice, beans, and less sugar and sugar-sweetened beverages than more acculturated Latin Americans.
Journal of the American Dietetic Association, August 2008; 108:1330-1344 (Ayala G et al.)

Obesity in Nigeria: Current Trends and Management

Nigeria is facing an increasing prevalence of obesity, with a particularly strong occurrence in populations with hypertension and diabetes. A Nigerian study of these increases says that the rise of obesity rates can easily be attributed to rapid unplanned urbanization, change from local dietary pattern to western style diet which is driven by the proliferation of fast food outlets in major cities across the country. This study makes that connection.
Nigerian Medical Practitioner Vol. 54 No 1, 2008 (11-5). (Akpa et al.)

Vegetarians May Have Increased Risk of Bone Fracture

Researchers at Loma Linda University investigated a cohort of peri- and post-menopausal women over a period of 25 years to compare incidences of wrist fracture with diet type. They found that vegetarians who consumed low amounts of protein suffered the most wrist fractures. However, increasing levels of plant-based protein foods decreased risk by 68% and increasing meat intake decreased risk by 80%. These findings suggest that dietary protein plays a significant role in bone health among middle-aged and elderly females.
Public Health Nutrition. 2008 June 1;11(6):564-572. (Thorpe et al.)

Low Omega-3 Fatty Acid Status in Vegans

Researchers at the University of Vienna compared the ratio of omega-6:omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) in omnivores, vegetarians, vegans, and semi-omnivores to assess essential fatty acid status as it relates to diet. They found that vegans had the highest average ratio of omega-6:omega3 PUFAs. High ratios are believed to be pro-inflammatory and may also contribute to tissue decline and neurological dysfunction. While the authors emphasize the need for further research on this topic, they also urge vegetarians and especially vegans to increase their intakes of omega-3 fatty acids from non-animal sources such as algae.
Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism. 2008 Apr;52:37-47. (Kornsteiner et al.)

Fruits, Vegetables, Fiber Decline with Latina Acculturation

A cross-sectional study conducted by the Population Research Center in Austin, Texas used data from the 2000 National Health Interview Survey and its Cancer Control Module to examine the association of diet with country of birth and language acculturation among 1,245 non-pregnant women of Mexican descent living in the US.  The study found that US-born women consumed fewer grams of fiber per day and a larger percentage of energy from fat than Mexican-born women.  Similarly, greater English language use was associated with decreased consumption of fiber. Researchers concluded that English-speaking, US-born women have a greater risk of declining dietary quality compared to Mexican-born women because the latter are more likely to retain some of their cultural (Mexican) eating patterns.
Journal of the American Dietetic Association; March 2008; 108(3):473-80. (Montez et al.)

Dietary Changes and Colorectal Cancer in Korea and Japan

Asian countries have been transitioning to a Westernized diet, which may be related to the increased incidence of colorectal cancer.  Korean researchers evaluated data regarding meat and cereal consumption in Korea and Japan, along with the incidence of colorectal cancer in those countries.  The transition in Korea is about 20 years behind Japan, but reflects a similar pattern of increased cancer with increased meat consumption and decreased cereal consumption.
Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology. 2008 Jan; 23(1):138-140. (Lee et al.)

Eating Patterns and Diet Quality Among Haitians of Montreal, Canada

People’s eating patterns are greatly influenced by where they live. This study examined the eating patterns of 181 adult Haitians living in Montreal to measure the quality of their diets, as they transitioned from traditional Haitian lifestyles to a more North American way of life. Diet quality was broken down into a categorical spectrum, spanning from “Traditional” to “Western.” The researchers found that people who ate a “Traditional” diet, which was lowest in cholesterol and total fat, tended to be older and to have lived in Montreal for the shortest periods of time. The longer a person had lived in Montreal, the more “Western” their diet became, exceeding the recommended limits of total fat and cholesterol intake. Overall diet quality was significantly healthier in the “Traditional” diets than the “Western” type. The study concluded that it is important to encourage youth to retain their healthy traditional food cultures no matter where they live.
Public Health Nutrition
, May 2007. (Désilets et al.)

Diet and Oral Cancer Risk in Brazil

A study conducted by the University of São Paulo examined the association between Brazilian dietary patterns and oral cancer. Dietary data was collected from 366 patients with oral cancer and 469 controls, using a food frequency questionnaire.  Three diet types were identified: “Prudent,” including frequent vegetables, fruit, cheese and poultry; “Traditional,” including rice, beans, pulses, pasta and meat; and “Snacks,” with frequent consumption of bread, butter, salami, cheese, cakes and desserts.  The study concluded that the traditional Brazilian diet consisting of rice and beans plus moderate amounts of meat may confer protection against oral cancer, independently of other risk factors such as alcohol intake and smoking.
Revista de Saude Publica. 2007 Feb;41(1):19-26 (Marchioni et al.)

Studies Compare Pima Indians in U.S. and Mexico

Two independent studies published 12 years apart in the journal Diabetes Care evaluated the possible impact of the environment on the prevalence of obesity and diabetes in Arizona’s Pima Indians, a group with the highest reported prevalence of obesity and non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. Data were collected on a population of Pima ancestry living in a remote mountainous location in northwestern Mexico, living a markedly different, “traditional” lifestyle in comparison to the Pima people of Arizona.  In the 1994 study, measurements of weight, height, body fat, blood pressure, plasma levels of glucose, cholesterol and HbA1c were obtained in 19 women and 16 men and compared with Pimas of the same sex, age, and diabetes status living in Arizona.  The study found that Mexican Pimas were lighter and shorter with lower BMIs and lower plasma total cholesterol levels than Arizona Pimas.  Only two women (11%) and one man (6%) had diabetes, contrasting with the expected prevalence of 37% and 54% in female and male Arizona Pimas, respectively. Twelve years later, the 2006 study reflected the same: significantly lower incidences of obesity and diabetes in the populations living in Mexico and leading a traditional lifestyle. The Mexican Pimas also enjoyed higher levels of physical activity than their U.S. Pima counterparts.
Diabetes Care 1994 Sep; 17(9): 1067-74 (Ravussin et al.)
Diabetes Care 2006 Aug; 29(8): 1866-71 (Schulz et al.)

Higher Phenols Beneficial in Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

Oxidative DNA damage is one of the metabolic precursors to cancer and coronary vascular disease and phenols are organic compounds with antioxidant properties. A study conducted in Florence, Italy measured the oxidative DNA damage in ten healthy, post-menopausal women when they consumed olive oils with different concentrations of natural phenols. Subjects replaced fats and oils habitually consumed with the study oil (50g/d), which was either a high-phenol extra virgin olive oil (592 mg total phenols/kg) or a low-phenol extra virgin olive oil (147 mg total phenols/kg) for eight weeks in each period.  The study found that during treatment of high-phenol-EVOO, the average oxidative DNA damage was 30% lower than the average during low-phenol-EVOO treatment. Though the sample size was small, the study indicated that consuming an extra-virgin olive oil rich in phenols, particularly hydroxytryosol, may reduce DNA damage.
British Journal of Nutrition 2006 Apr; 95(4): 742-51 (Salvini et al.)

Vegetarian Diet Does Not Affect Growth & Development in Children

Data from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (the EPIC-Oxford study) shows no difference between age at first menstruation or adult height  (measures of growth and development) between lifelong lacto-ovo vegetarian and non-vegetarian women. While the researchers point out that adult vegetarians generally have a lower average BMI, growth and development does not seem to be affected.
Public Health Nutrition. 2005 Aug 1;8(7), DOI 10.1079/PHN2005730. (Rosell et al.)

More Beans, Fewer Heart Attacks

When traditional diets are abandoned, health often declines –as a Harvard School of Public Health study found in Costa Rica. Researchers matched 2119 people who had suffered a first acute myocardial infarction with a similar control group and assessed their diets. After adjusting for many factors, they found that consumption of 1 serving or more of dried beans daily was associated with a 38% lower risk of heart attack.
The Journal of Nutrition, July 2005; 135(7):1770-5 (Kabagambe et al.)