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Mediterranean Diet Linked with Lower Risk of Colorectal Cancer Precursors

The prevalence of colorectal adenomas, cancer precursors in the large intestine, differs by race and ethnicity, with a higher prevalence among black people than among white people. To see how the Mediterranean diet relates to colorectal adenomas across different races, researchers analyzed the eating pattern and colorectal health of 41,973 men. They found that a Mediterranean diet was linked with a lower risk of colorectal adenomas among all races, but interestingly that the diet had a greater protective association among Asian and black participants than for white participants. These findings demonstrate that the use of a Mediterranean diet may be an effective way to reduce prevalence of colorectal adenomas in men, especially among black and Asian men.  
Nutrition Research. 2017, Dec;48:76-84. (Haslam A et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Less Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease in At-Risk Patients

Fatty liver disease used to be mostly associated with alcoholism, but today it’s on the rise even in those who don’t drink alcohol because of lifestyle factors like diet. Researchers analyzed the eating patterns and liver health of 584 adults (average age 56) with at least one cardiovascular risk factor (such as diabetes, obesity, or high blood pressure), to see how diet might relate to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Those most closely following a Mediterranean diet were significantly less likely to have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease than those not following a Mediterranean diet (71.4% vs. 96.5%). In patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, those most closely following a Mediterranean diet were more likely to have less insulin resistance, which indicates that their blood sugar is better managed.
American Journal of Gastroenterology. 2017 Dec;112(12):1832-1839.

Mediterranean Diet May Help Improve Depression

The Mediterranean diet is renowned for its heart-healthy properties, so researchers wonder if this eating pattern might protect mental health as well. To study this relationship, researchers randomly assigned more than 100 adults to either receive Mediterranean foods and fish oil supplements and take a Mediterranean cooking class every other week, or attend social groups every other week. After three months, the Mediterranean diet group was eating more vegetables, fruit, nuts, whole grains, and legumes, fewer unhealthy snacks, and less red meat. Additionally, participants in the Mediterranean diet group had a significantly better improvement in their depression than those attending the social groups. The improvements in diet and depressive symptoms held steady even three months after the study ended (though the Mediterranean diet group was still receiving fish oil supplements at that time). The researchers concluded that “getting back to basics by promoting cooking skills and family/group meals could be such a simple yet powerful and empowering approach to healthcare and prevention.”
Nutritional Neuroscience. 2017 Dec 7:1-14. [Epub ahead of print.] (Parlatta N et al.)

Moderate Cheese Intake Linked with Lower Risk of Heart Disease, Stroke

“Everything in moderation,” is a favorite adage of nutrition professionals, and for a good reason. Researchers in China analyzed the eating patterns and health outcomes of thousands of adults across 15 studies, to see how eating different amounts of cheese relates to heart disease. They found that eating more cheese was related to a 10-14% lower risk of heart disease and a 10% lower risk of stroke than eating less cheese, and that the greatest benefit was associated with eating about 1 ½ ounces (40g) of cheese per day. However, keep in mind that this is less cheese than most US and European adults are currently eating, at 42.5g and 49g respectively. Nonetheless, the researchers note that this adds to the growing body of evidence that not all saturated fats are created equal, and that cheese may not have the same health effects as red meat.
European Journal of Nutrition. 2017 Dec;56(8):2565-2575. (Chen GC et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Less Rehospitalization in Elderly Heart Failure Patients

The Mediterranean diet is well known for its role in preventing heart disease, but researchers wonder if this protective effect translates to patients who already have heart failure. In a Spanish study of 991 elderly patients admitted to the emergency room with acute heart failure, those following a Mediterranean diet were 24% less likely to be hospitalized one year later. After 2 years, those following a Mediterranean diet appeared to be less likely to die, but the results were not statistically significant, especially after adjusting for age and other health conditions.
JACC Heart Failure. 2017 Nov 27. pii: S2213-1779(17)30683-2. (Miro O et al.)

Whole Grain Wheat and Rye Both Linked with Gut Health

Whole grains are a popular healthy choice, but between whole wheat and whole rye, does it matter what you choose? Scientists put these grains to the test, randomly assigning 70 overweight but otherwise healthy, middle-aged adults to a 6-week diet replacing all of their grain foods with whole wheat, whole rye, or refined wheat. There were no significant differences between the whole wheat and whole rye groups. Despite seeing no significant changes to the composition of the gut microbiome, the refined wheat group saw a greater drop in fecal butyrate (compounds associated with better health). The whole grain groups were less likely to feel bloated and more likely to have regular stools, but also more likely to pass gas. The authors conclude that “whole-grain foods have the potential for maintaining or improving some subjective and functional markers of gut health compared to refined grain foods.”
Journal of Nutrition. 2017 Nov;147(11):2067-2075. (Vuholm S et al.)

High Glycemic Index Foods Linked with Bladder Cancer

Carbohydrates are the building blocks of a balanced diet, but not all carbs are created equal. To see how diet might relate to bladder cancer risk, researchers analyzed the diets of 578 adults with bladder cancer and 608 controls without bladder cancer. Those regularly eating high glycemic index and glycemic load foods (foods that are more rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream, thus spiking your blood sugar) were more likely to have bladder cancer, as were those who regularly ate refined grains like bread and pasta. However, these results were not as strong in people who regularly eat vegetables. People who regularly eat whole grains and/or legumes tended to be less likely to have bladder cancer, but the results were not statistically significant.
British Journal of Nutrition. 2017 Nov;118(9):722-729. (Augustin LSA et al.)

Dry Whole Wheat Pasta at Lower Temperatures for Higher Quality

Given the growing interest in whole grain pasta, researchers wonder how different processing techniques can impact the quality of the product. In this study, researchers analyzed 20 samples of whole wheat spaghetti sold in Italy for cooking behavior, markers of heat damage and protein structure, as well as taste and aroma (using an electronic nose and tongue model for a more objective measurement). They found that whole wheat pasta produced using a low or medium temperature drying cycle (rather than high temperature) has less heat damage, is more likely to taste of umami (savory), and is less likely to taste bitter. The researchers also note that the amount of protein in the pasta sample had virtually no impact on the measures of quality tested, indicating that the drying process plays a much bigger role in preserving quality.
Journal of Food Science. 2017 Nov;82(11):2583-2590. (Marti A et al.)

Heart-Healthy, Traditional Mediterranean Diets Can Work Anywhere if Properly Followed

The Mediterranean Diet gets lots of buzz, but do you know what it really means to eat like a Mediterranean? In a meta-analysis of 27 studies, researchers estimate that every 2-point increase in Mediterranean Diet Score (0-9 scale) is related to an 11% lower risk of heart disease. Additionally, the researchers also analyzed the consistency between Mediterranean Diet Scores in different studies, and clarified the importance of using a standard definition of a Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes “vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, and mainly unrefined, minimally processed cereals; an abundant fat intake from virgin olive oil… a moderate consumption of fish and shellfish, a low consumption of meat… the consumption of wine during meals… and fermented dairy products.” In order to successfully transfer Mediterranean diets outside of the Mediterranean, the researchers also note the importance of following the Mediterranean Diet eating patterns (such as drinking a moderate amount of wine with meals throughout the week, rather than binge drinking on weekends) and choosing traditional foods (such as olive oil and beans) rather than untraditional foods (such as margarine and tofu).
Nutrients. 2017 Nov 8;9(11). (Martinez-Gonalez et al.)

Whole Grains Linked with Weight Loss, Less Inflammation

Why worry about calorie counting when whole grains can keep you satiated and help you lose weight? Researchers randomly assigned 50 Danish adults to a whole grain or refined grain diet for 8 weeks each, with a 6-week washout period in between. All of the participants were overweight, obese or had large waist sizes, and also had slightly high levels of blood sugar, cholesterol, or blood pressure before the study. The participants lost significantly more weight on the whole grain diet (- 0.4 pounds) compared to the refined grain diet (+ 2 pounds). This is likely because people naturally ate fewer calories on the whole grain diet, as whole grains are more satiating. Additionally, the whole grain diet (especially rye foods) significantly lowered inflammation (measured by IL-6 and CRP). However, the researchers noted no significant changes in insulin sensitivity (an indicator of how well your body is able to manage blood sugar), or the gut microbiome over the 8-week study.
Gut. 2017 Nov 1. pii: gutjnl-2017-314786. [Epub ahead of print.] (Roager HM et al.)  

Gluten Not Directly Responsible for Symptoms of Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity

Interest in a gluten-free diet has grown tremendously over the past decade. However, new research raises questions about whether gluten is a culprit of intestinal distress. In this study, researchers at the University of Oslo tested reactions to fructan (a compound found naturally in wheat and vegetables like onions, asparagus, and garlic) and gluten (a protein found naturally in wheat, barley, and rye). In a highly-controlled study of 59 people following a self-reported gluten-free diet, researchers tested patients’ symptoms after exposure to gluten, fructan, and a placebo.  Interestingly, 13 participants had significant symptoms after eating gluten, 24 had symptoms after eating fructan, and 22 had symptoms after eating a placebo, a food without gluten or fructan. There was no difference in GI symptoms after the gluten or placebo and more patients had reactions to the fructan as opposed to the gluten. The authors conclude that their findings weaken the use of the term “Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity,” and raise “doubts about the need for a gluten-free diet in such patients.
Gastroenterology. 2017 Nov 1. pii: S0016-5085(17)36302-3. (Skodje GI et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Lower Risk of Colorectal Cancer

While the healthfulness of the Mediterranean Diet has been recognized for decades, new studies continually build on evidence supporting the benefits of this nutritious and delicious diet. Researchers analyzed the eating patterns and DNA of 1,087 people with colon cancer and 2,409 people without colon cancer, to see how diet might relate to cancer risk. They found that closely following a Mediterranean Diet was independently linked with significantly lower risk of colorectal cancer, and that certain genes might also be protective. When looking at specific foods, vegetables and legumes, in particular, were linked with a significantly lower colorectal cancer risk. 
BMC Medical Genetics. 2017 Oct 30;18(1):122. (Alonso-Molero J et al.)

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