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Whole Grains Linked with Healthier Arteries

Aortic stiffness, a thickening or hardening of the body’s main artery, naturally occurs due to aging but is accelerated by conditions like obesity and diabetes. Because aortic stiffness is a significant predictor of heart disease, heart failure and stroke, scientists wonder if lifestyle choices can help delay this progression. Researchers recruited 22 obese men to look at the stiffness of the aorta and ask questions about their dietary intake (e.g. fruits, vegetables, whole grains, meat, dairy, milk, etc.). Of all food choices, whole grains were the only factor significantly associated with less aortic stiffness.
Nutrition. 2018 Jan;45:32-36. (Campbell M et al.)

Cultural Identity Shapes Food Enjoyment

Emphasizing cultural models of healthy eating can be a useful approach to encourage good nutrition in diverse populations. In this study, researchers devised 3 similar experiments to see how cultural identity relates to food enjoyment. In the first two experiments, nearly 200 Southern people were shown images of Southern foods (like black-eyed peas, and fried catfish) and non-Southern foods (like pizza and tuna sandwiches) and asked how tasty, how healthy, and how filling they thought the foods would be. The researchers found that for people who identified as Southern and were primed with exercises related to Southern heritage (such as listing things done often or well by Southerners), the Southern foods were perceived to be more tasty, regardless of how healthy they were perceived to be. In the final experiment of 71 Canadians, those who were primed with exercises related to Canadian culture and identity found maple syrup to taste more pleasant compared with honey. The researchers conclude that “social identity may trigger positive evaluations of foods, which may lead people to consume more social identity-relevant foods regardless of the perceived health content,” and that “forging a connection between a meaningful and chronically salient social identity and a healthy food may enhance positive evaluations of that food.”
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. 2018 January;74:270-280. (Hackel LM et al.)

How Whole Grains May Improve Your Gut Bacteria

The microbiome is increasingly under study, and researchers are especially interested in what the bacteria are doing in the body. Given that whole grains are full of diverse types of fiber including resistant starch and non-starch polysaccharide, researchers hypothesize that this whole grain fiber feeds intestinal bacteria and in turn, the bacteria produce molecules that are beneficial for myriad reasons. Chemicals produced by gut bacteria including various fatty acids may contribute to health by reducing tumor growth of colon cells, strengthening the immune system, and regulating the hormones that affect appetite. The researchers also note that several human and animal studies support this exciting hypothesis.
Food Research International. 2018 Jan;103:84-102. (Gong L et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Related to Life Satisfaction, Physical Function, and Improved Health in Older Adults

The Mediterranean diet is good for our physical health, but new studies show that the Mediterranean diet might also be good for our mental health. To see how the Mediterranean diet relates to quality of life, researchers analyzed the eating patterns and health factors of 351 older Spanish adults (ages 60+). Participants who most closely followed a Mediterranean diet were more physically active and had significantly better health-related quality of life. In both men and women, following a Mediterranean diet was linked with better mental function. Among men, those most closely following a Mediterranean diet were more likely to have healthy blood sugar and cholesterol levels, as well as improved physical function. Among women, those most closely following a Mediterranean diet were more likely to have better life satisfaction. 
The Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging. 2018;22(1):89-96. (Zaragoza-Marti A et al.)

Mediterranean Diet May Reduce Dependence on Multiple Meds

Polypharmacy occurs when patients have to take many medications at once, usually more than five daily medications. Because polypharmacy can result in confusion and frustration, low medication adherence, and ultimately increased health risk, especially in elderly populations, lifestyle changes to prevent or reduce polypharmacy are of great interest. To see how the Mediterranean diet relates to polypharmacy and cardiometabolic disorders like obesity and heart disease, researchers analyzed the diet, health conditions, and medications of 476 elderly adults in Rome. Those not following a Mediterranean diet (medium-low adherence) were more likely to need multiple medications, and have high blood pressure, unhealthy cholesterol levels, and diabetes. Looking at individual food components, olive oil, vegetables, fish, legumes, and nuts were all significantly related to a lower risk of polypharmacy. The authors conclude that following a Mediterranean diet “might potentially delay the onset of age-related health deterioration and reduce the need of multiple medications.”
The Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging. 2018 Jan;22(1):73-81. (Vicinanza R et al.)

Great Potential for Using Teff in Food Products

Teff, a gluten-free grain native to the Horn of Africa, is best known as the base of injera bread, the spongy Ethiopian flatbread. Despite its huge potential, especially in gluten-free cuisine, teff products only make up a small percentage of the overall grain market. In this study, researchers analyze how teff affects the taste and texture of various food products, including bread, pasta, cookies, injera, and beverages. They also found that teff improves the nutrition of food products, providing fiber, iron, protein, and other essential nutrients, and note that teff is well-suited for harsh and dry environmental climates, like those found in India and China. In short, the authors conclude that “there is great potential to adapt teff to the other parts of the world for healthy food and beverage production.”
Food Chemistry. 2018 Jan 15;239:402-415. (Zhu F et al.)

Eating Fish Linked with Less Diabetic Eye Damage

Damage to the blood vessels in the eye (diabetic retinopathy) is a serious complication of diabetes that can lead to blurriness and blindness if untreated. In this study, researchers analyzed the eating patterns and eye health of 357 patients in Singapore with type 2 diabetes. Eating just one additional serving of fish per week is linked with a 9% lower likelihood of severe diabetic retinopathy. In patients without retinopathy, those eating more fish were more likely to have wider vascular caliber, an eye vessel measurement that can indicate a lower risk of chronic disease.
Scientific Reports. 2018 Jan 15;8(1):730. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-18930-6. (Chua J et al.)

Whole Grains Linked with Longer Lives

From Sardinia, Italy, to Nicoya, Costa Rice some of the longest-lived people in the world enjoy a diet filled with whole grains. To better understand this relationship, researchers analyzed data from 19 cohort studies encompassing more than one million participants. They found that each one-ounce daily serving of whole grains was associated with a 14% lower risk of death from heart disease, a 3% lower risk of death from cancer, and a 9% lower risk of total mortality.
European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2018 Jan;72(1):57-65. (Zhang B et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with 38% Lower Risk of Frailty

Frailty and associated weakness can put elderly adults at risk of health and safety problems, so lifestyle strategies to help elders age strongly are of utmost importance. To see how following a Mediterranean Diet relates to frailty, researchers analyzed data from 4 studies encompassing 5,789 older adults (ages 60+). Most closely following a Mediterranean diet was linked with a 38% lower risk of frailty than not following a Mediterranean diet.
Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. 2018 Jan 11. (Kojima G et al.) [Epub ahead of print.]

Healthy Diet Associated with Less Severe Symptoms in MS

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a condition in which the immune system attacks the nerves. Because the symptoms and severity vary widely from patient to patient, researchers wonder whether lifestyle changes might help with disease management. In a study of 6,989 patients with multiple sclerosis, those eating a healthy diet (defined as lots of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, and only small amounts of sugars and red/processed meat) were less likely to report having disability and depression. Additionally, an overall healthy lifestyle (based on diet, physical activity, smoking, and weight) was associated with less fatigue, depression, pain and cognitive impairment. 
Neurology. 2018 Jan 2;90(1):e1-e11. (Fitzgerald KC et al.)

Eating Seafood Linked with Better Sleep Quality and Verbal IQ in Children

Researchers analyzed the eating patterns, IQ tests, and sleep patterns (based on parents’ report) of 541 12-year-old children in China. Those eating fish at least 2-4 times per month were significantly less likely to have sleep problems, and also had significantly better verbal IQ scores than children who ate fish less frequently. The researchers also found a dose-response relationship, meaning that the more often children ate fish, the better their IQ score. Their results indicate that better sleep quality may partially help explain the relationship between fish and brain function.
Scientific Reports. 2017 Dec 21;7(1):17961. (Liu J et al.)

Leafy Greens Can Keep Your Brain Young

It is no secret that green vegetables are some of the healthiest foods for our bodies, but new research shows that they are also good for our brains. Researchers in Chicago and Boston analyzed the eating patterns and cognitive abilities of over 950 older adults for an average of five years. The scientists found a significant decrease in the rate of cognitive decline for people who ate more green leafy vegetables (like spinach, kale, collards, and mustard greens). In fact, people who ate just one to two servings of leafy greens per day had the cognitive ability of a person 11 years younger than those who ate none.
Neurology. 2017 Dec 20. pii: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000004815. (Morris MC et al.)

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