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MUFAs are Protective Against Heart Disease and Metabolic Syndrome

Our understanding of the role of fats in our diet is shifting from a focus on the total quantity of fat to one emphasizing the quality of fats. Scientists at the University of Manitoba carried out a thorough review of research detailing the association of mono-unsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) with cardiovascular disease and with metabolic syndrome. They concluded that MUFAs are cardioprotective and reduce the risk of obesity, particularly when they are substituted for saturated fats.
Lipids, February 10, 2011 [Epub ahead of print]

Omega-3s in Med Diet Protect Brain Health

Consistent research shows that the Med Diet helps us keep our wits about us as we age. But what explains this connection? A new French study of 1050 elderly subjects showed a strong correlation between adherence to the Med Diet and higher blood levels of healthy fats. In conclusion, the scientists credited the better cognitive function of those eating the Med way to higher levels of DHA (an omega-3 fatty acid) and lower ratios of omega-6s to omega-3s.
British Journal of Nutrition, February 2011. 8:1-10 [Epub ahead of print]

Brain MRIs show Less Disease with Med Diet

Scientists at the Taub Institute for Research in Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Brain (at U.C. Davis) collected high-resolution MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) data on the brains of 707 elderly New Yorkers. They then studied dietary assessments of these people from the past 5.8 years (on average), and divided the participants into three groups according to Mediterranean Diet adherence. They found that participants in the top-adherence group had 36% less evidence of cerebrovascular disease, and those in the middle group had 22% reduced odds, and concluded that “higher adherence to the Mediteranean Diet is associated with reduced cerbrovascular disease burden.”

Annals of Neurology, February 2011; 69(2): 257-68

Med Diet May Lessen Harm from Smoking

Researchers in Greece and the Netherlands collaborated to test whether adherence to the Med Diet could mitigate any of the dangers of smoking – include the harm from second-hand smoke. Based on a review of both epidemiological and lab studies showing the Mediterranean Diets protective effect against biochemical and molecular processes that lead to cancer, the scientists concluded that that the Med Diet might lessen the ravages caused by smoking. This could be especially useful to those who are the potential victims of passive smoking. 

Public Health, January 27, 2011 [Epub ahead of print]

Diet, Breast Cancer Risk in Chinese Women

Hong Kong scientists evaluated the dietary intakes of Chinese women to identify patterns which may affect the risk of breast cancer.  A diet with the highest intake of vegetables, fruits, soy, milk, protein, and fish was associated with a 74% lower risk of breast cancer, compared to those eating the least of those healthy foods; those eating the most refined grains, meat, and pickles had 254% increased risk compared to those eating the least of those unhealthy foods. Not surprisingly, the women who combined a high intake of the healthy foods and a low intake of the unhealthy foods shows the overall lowest risk.
Cancer Causes & Control.  2011 Jan; 22(1):115-24.  (Zhang et al.)

Kidney Failure and Diet Change in South Asians

Diabetic nephropathy is the most common cause of end-stage renal failure in many countries around the world.  As Western diets become more acidifying, so do the diets of immigrants adapting to the Western diet.  This diet acculturation may be to blame for the up to 40 times higher chance of development of end-stage renal failure in association with diabetes in South-Asian immigrants compared with whites, in Western countries.
Journal of Nephrology. 2011 Jan-Feb;24(1):11-7. (van den Berg et al.)

Plant Calcium Beneficial to Bone Density

In cultures that do not traditionally consume dairy products, vegetables can be an important source of calcium — while at the same time providing key vitamins and minerals that are also essential to bone health. That’s the finding of Korean researchers at Chung Ang University in Seoul, after studying 144 post-menopausal women with osteoporosis and age-matched controls. In their study, the women with the highest intake of vegetables and plant-based calcium had significantly better bone density.
Nutrition Research. January 2011; 31(1):27-32 (Park et al.)

Mediterranean Diet for Pregnant Moms Reduces Babies’ Wheezing

At the University of Edinburgh, researchers did a systematic review of 62 studies to determine how the diet of pregnant women may affect asthma and allergies in their babies.  The strongest connection found was between the Mediterranean Diet and asthma: babies whose mothers followed the Med Diet had a nearly 80% lower risk of wheezing. Vitamins A, D and E were also associated with reduced risk of asthma.

Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Dec. 23, 2010 [Epub ahead of print]

Med Diet Slows Brain Aging

Cognitive decline is not inevitable as we age, and in fact a new study shows that eating a Mediterranean Diet can make your mental age years younger. Researchers in Chicago studied the dietary habits of 4,000 Midwesterners aged 65 and older, and scored them for adherence to either the Med Diet or the U.S. Dietary Guidelines. They then tested the people every three years for skills including word memory and math. Those who scored highest on the MedDiet scale – by enjoying fish, legumes, vegetables, wine, fruit and olive oil regularly – had slower cognitive decline over time, while those scoring higher on the Dietary Guidelines scale showed no advantage in keeping their wits about them. (Related article).
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. December 22, 2010 [Epub ahead of print]

Med Diet Improves Longevity Markers, Insulin Sensitivity

Scientists at the University of Naples studied 192 overweight and obese men, putting half the men on a Med Diet (if overweight) or a Med Diet plus exercise and calorie restriction (if obese), while the other half followed a conventional diet. After two years, the Med Diet group had lost, on average 14 kg (31 lbs), while the control group had lost just 2 kg. Moreover, the Med Diet group showed “significant amelioration of multiple risk factors” including improved cardiovascular markers, reduced oxidative stress, and improved insulin sensitivity.
Cardiology Research & Practice
, Dec. 20, 2010; 2011:293916

Turmeric Component May Reduce Inflammation

Scientists at the University of Buffalo reviewed several studies to assess the effect of curcumin, which is the active ingredient in turmeric.  Experiments using animal models suggest that curcumin may have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects and may regulate lipid metabolism.  These properties suggest that curcumin may have a role in the treatment of conditions associated with obesity.
Nutrition Review. 2010 Dec; 68(12):729-738.  (Alappat et al.)

Turmeric (Curcumin) and Obesity

Turmeric is a common spice in Asian cuisines. According to this paper from the University of Buffalo, curcumin (the active ingredient in turmeric) may regulate lipid metabolism and thereby help downregulate obesity.
Nutrition Reviews. December 2010; 68(12):729-38 (Alappat et al.)