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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.)

Traditional Korean Food May Reduce Diabetes Risk

A study conducted by the Korean Food Research Institute measured the anti-diabetic effect of kochujang, a traditional Korean food. In the study, diabetic rats were fed a high fat-diet including 5% of calories from two different kinds of kochujang powder or the equivalent amount of nutrients, for eight weeks.  Kochujang powder was made by fermenting two different kinds of soybeans, red peppers, glutinous rice and malts.  The study found that kochujang improved glucose homeostasis by reducing insulin resistance in the rats.  The diet was also found to reduce hepatic glucose output, triacylglycerol accumulation and to increase glycogen storage.
Nutrition Journal. 2009 Jul-Aug;25(7-8):790-9. (Kwon et al.)

Decreased Breast Cancer Risk with Fatty Fish

A study conducted by the Cancer Epidemiology Branch in Gyeonggi, South Korea examined the association between fish and fish omega-3 fatty acids intake with the risk of breast cancer among Korean women.  358 incident breast cancer patients and 360 controls with no history of malignant cancer were recruited and given a 103-item food frequency questionairre to determine their dietary intake of fish (fatty and lean) and omega-3 fatty acids derived from fish (eicosapentaenoic acid or EPA and docasahexaenoic acid or DHA).  The study found that high intake of fatty fish was associated with reduced risk of breast cancer in both pre- and post-menopausal women.
BMC Cancer. 2009 Jun 30;9:216 (Kim et al.)

Vegetarian, Pescatarian Diets Linked with Decreased Cancer

Combining data from the Oxford Vegetarian Study and the EPIC-Oxford cohort, researchers at the University of Oxford found that the incidence of all cancers combined was lowest among the vegetarians and pescatarians. Specifically, vegetarians were at lower risk for stomach and bladder cancer, as well as cancers of the lymphatic and blood tissues. Pescatarians had the lowest risk of ovarian and prostate cancers. However, the authors note the need for further study, as findings from various studies regarding diet type and cancer incidence have been inconsistent.
British Journal of Cancer. 2009 Jul 7;101:192-197. (Key et al.)

Leafy Greens Help New Mothers In Ghana

Vitamin A deficiency is a major public health problem in developing countries, with women of childbearing age and children being among the most affected. A community based study of postpartum mothers in Ghana set out to determine whether their vitamin A levels would improve if the new moms ate African eggplant leaves (a strong food source of vitamin A). A daily portion of 200g of eggplant leaves was given to mothers in one group for three months, while the control group did not receive any additional vegetables to their diet. After three months, the researchers tested the vitamin A levels in the women’s livers and found a significant improvement in the vitamin A status of the group eating the African eggplant leaves. Vitamin A containing leafy vegetables, like the African eggplant leaves, can be easily cultivated within African communities, making them a sustainable and cheaper alternative to oral supplementation of vitamin A.
African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition, and Development; Vol 9, No 6 (2009). (Tchum et al.)

Obesity and Chronic Disease Rates in Botswana Hospital Workers

In this study, a group of hospital workers underwent physical examinations to measure weight, blood pressure and cholesterol, all of which are high when a person has metabolic syndrome. The workers were divided into age and gender groups. The youngest group (ages 35-54 years) was the most affected by metabolic syndrome, whereas the elderly — who are expected to have the greater risk of hypertension and abnormal cholesterol — were the least affected by these diseases. One reason for this finding is that the population of Botswana is changing from its traditional lifestyle to more modern, less healthy habits, and younger people are more likely to adopt these changes. In contrast, older people, who are less inclined to change their habits, reflected a higher state of health.

South African Medical Journal, May 2009, Vol. 99, No. 5. (Garrido et al.)

Prevalence and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes Lowest Among Vegans

Loma Linda University scientists studied the relationship between various diet types (vegans, lacto-ovo vegetarians, pescatarians, and nonvegetarians) and prevalence of type 2 diabetes in a large cohort of Seventh-Day Adventists in North America. They found that vegans had the lowest prevalence (2.9%) of the disease, while nonvegetarians had the highest (7.6%). Additionally, the vegan diet was associated with a nearly one-half reduction in risk of type 2 diabetes compared with the risk associated with nonvegetarian diets.
Diabetes Care. 2009 May 1;32(5):791-796. (Tonstad et al.)

Health Effects of Vegan Diets

A nationwide poll conducted in 2006 determined that 1.4% of the American population is vegan—they eat no meat, fish, dairy, or eggs.  Scientists at Andrews University in Michigan reviewed existing studies about veganism to assess the pros and cons of adopting such a diet.  Overall, vegans tend to have lower BMI, lower serum cholesterol, and lower blood pressure, decreasing their risk of developing cardiovascular disease.  However, because of the elimination of all animal products, vegans are at greater risk of certain nutritional deficiencies such as vitamins B12 and D, calcium, and omega-3 fatty acids.  It is suggested that vegans consume foods that are fortified with these nutrients or that they take appropriate supplements to prevent deficiencies.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.  May 2009; 89:1627s-33s [Craig WJ]

Low-Fat Vegan Diet May Be Most Effective in Controlling Type 2 Diabetes

Researchers from the George Washington University conducted a randomized, controlled trial on 99 participants with type 2 diabetes. 49 participants were randomly selected to follow a low-fat vegan diet, while the remaining 50 were to adopt a diet following the 2003 American Diabetes Association guidelines (“conventional diet”). The groups followed their assigned diets for 74 weeks. By the end of the trial, the researchers found that both diets had resulted in weight loss, improved glycemic control as measured by HbA1C, and a reduction in blood triglycerides. Once the results were controlled for medication adjustments, however, the low-fat vegan diet appeared to improve glycemic control and blood triglycerides more than the conventional diet. This study illustrates the physiological benefits of adopting a plant-based diet.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2009 May 1;89(suppl):1588S-96S. (Barnard et al.)

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