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Mediterranean Diet in Teens Linked with Better Sleep, Academic Performance

The Mediterranean diet is full of foods that promote brain health, so it stands to reason that this eating pattern may be especially beneficial for students. To see how the Mediterranean diet relates to sleep and brain health, researchers analyzed the eating patterns, sleep quality, sleep duration, school grades, and exam scores of 269 13-year-olds in Spain. Closely following a Mediterranean diet was linked with better sleep quality, as well as higher GPAs, and better grades in math, language, and core subjects. The researchers suggest that better sleep quality may play a role in the Mediterranean’s relationship with improved academic performance.
Acta Paediatrica. 2018 Jul 17. [Epub ahead of print.] (Adelantado-Renau M et al.)

Med Diet Linked with Less Death, Heart Attacks in People with History of Heart Disease

Even if you already have heart disease, it’s never too late to improve your health. Researchers analyzed the eating habits and health status of 3,562 adults with heart disease, to see how different eating patterns relate to further health complications down the road (like death or heart attacks). Those most closely following a Mediterranean diet were 20% less likely to die from all causes and 22% less likely to have a cardiovascular event (like a heart attack) during the 7-year follow up. On the other hand, a “Southern Diet” (lots of added fats, fried food, eggs, organ meats, processed meats, and sweetened beverages) was linked with a higher risk of death from all causes during the 7-year follow up. 
Journal of the American Heart Association. 2018 Jul 12;7(14). pii: e008078. (Shikany JM et al.)

Mediterranean Diet with Vit D Improves Neck Bone Mineral Density in Adults with Osteoporosis

A traditional Mediterranean diet has frequent but small portions of fermented dairy (like artisan cheeses or Greek yogurt), a food group widely associated with bone health. To see how a Mediterranean diet relates to bone health, researchers randomly assigned 1,142 elderly European adults to a Mediterranean diet with a vitamin D3 supplement, or a control group with pamphlets on healthy eating tips. After 1 year, the Mediterranean diet & vitamin D intervention had no effect on bone mineral density for most participants. However, in the small subset of participants (54 people) who already had osteoporosis, the Mediterranean diet & vitamin D intervention significantly reduced the rate of bone loss at the femoral neck, but had no effect on lumbar spine or whole-body bone-mineral density.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2018 Jul 11. [Epub ahead of print.] (Jennings A et al.)

Processing Corn to Remove Bran & Germ Reduces Nutrients

While some processing methods can improve the nutrition of food, some can also detract from it. To see how the nutrients in corn are impacted as corn is processed into cornflakes breakfast cereal, researchers analyzed the nutrient content at 5 points throughout the process (whole kernel, flaked grit, cooked grit, baked grit, and toasted cornflake). The scientists found that a large drop-off in phenolic acid (healthy phytochemicals that have antioxidant properties) occurred after the whole kernel was milled into flaked grits, when the bran and germ were removed. Smaller losses occurred at other points in the processing method as well, but were not as staggering.
Journal of Visualized Experiments. 2018 Jun 16;(136). (Butts-Wilmsmeyer C et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Healthy DNA in Women

If your DNA is a shoelace, telomeres are the plastic endcaps, that protect it. Shorter telomeres are linked with many age-related diseases, such as heart disease and cancer. To see how diet relates to telomere length, scientists analyzed the eating habits and telomere length of 4,758 adults in the US. Most closely following a Mediterranean diet (or other similar healthy diets, like the DASH diet or Healthy Eating Index) was associated with significantly longer telomere length in women, but not in men. 
American Journal of Epidemiology.  2018 Jun 15. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwy124. [Epub ahead of print] (Leung CW et al.)

Quality Carbohydrates, Like Whole Grains, Linked with Numerous Health Benefits

Not all carbohydrates are created equal. After all, everything from quinoa and blueberries to candy bars and soda have carbohydrates. In this review, researchers examined the links between different types of carbohydrates and health. They concluded that whole grains are linked with numerous health benefits, including lower cholesterol, body fat, and healthier blood sugar management, as well as lower risks of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, many cancers, and death from all causes. Given that much of the research on whole grains is done using more processed whole grain products (like breakfast cereals and breads), the authors note that more research is needed to determine if intact whole grains without as much added sugar may have even greater health benefits.
BMJ. 2018 June 13. (Ludwig DS et al.) [Epub ahead of print.]

Improving Diet Could Save US Billions in Healthcare Costs

When it comes to good nutrition, every little bite adds up. To see how much eating healthier could impact healthcare costs, researchers analyzed the relationship between diet, health problems, and healthcare spending. They found that if Americans were to make their diets even 20% more Mediterranean, the US would save $25.7 billion dollars per year. Similarly, if Americans were to make their diets align 20% more with the Healthy Eating Index 2015 (which emphasizes healthy foods like whole grains, lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and dairy), the US could save $38.1 billion per year. If Americans’ diets were to align an impressive 80% with the Mediterranean diet or Healthy Eating Index 2015, the US could save $135 billion or $66.9 billion per year, respectively. (Note that findings presented at meetings are considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.)
Presentation at the American Society for Nutrition Scientific Sessions and Annual Meeting. Boston, MA. June 11, 2018. (Scrafford, C et al.)

Whole Grain Recommendations Vary Throughout Southeast Asia

Whole grains are an important food group to help reduce the risk of diet-related disease, but many people fall short of recommendations. In this review, researchers analyzed studies on whole grain foods in Southeast Asia, as well as whole grain food labeling regulations and whole grain dietary guidelines. Most whole grain studies were related to food technology, rather than whole grain eating habits, though the authors did find research indicating that whole grain intake remains low across Southeast Asia. In the 10 member states of Southeast Asia, only 4 countries had suggestions for whole grain intake in their dietary guidelines: Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines. When it comes to food labeling, Indonesia and Singapore both require the percentage of whole grains to be listed in products labeled as “whole grain.” Indonesia also has a minimum requirement of 25% whole grain in “whole grain” labeled products, while Malaysia is currently drafting regulations regarding whole grain labeling. The authors conclude that “better understanding of the consumer base in the region is also likely to benefit public healthy messaging around increasing intake of whole grains at a population level and should also help in the development of innovative whole grain food products.”  
Nutrients. 2018 Jun 11;10(6). pii: E752. (Brownlee IA et al.)

Seafood Intake in Mothers and Fathers Linked with Shorter Time to Pregnancy

For couples trying to grow their family, a healthy diet with seafood may help tilt the odds in their favor. Researchers followed 501 couples planning to get pregnant for up to a year, tracking their eating habits and pregnancies. Couples in which both male and female partners ate at least 8 servings of seafood per month had a significantly shorter time to pregnancy than those consuming less. Even if just one partner ate seafood at least 8 times per month, there was still a significantly shorter time to pregnancy than if they ate it fewer than 2 times per month (with the relationship being slightly stronger in women than in men). Couples eating the most seafood (at least 8 times per month) also tended to have sexual intercourse 22% more frequently than those eating less.
Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. 2018 May 23. (Gaskins AJ et al.) [Epub ahead of print.]

Mediterranean Diet May Be Linked with Fewer Deaths Related to Air Pollution

Air pollution is a concern in many countries around the world, so researchers wonder whether a healthy diet may offset some of these risks. To test this theory, researchers followed more than half a million people across 6 states in the US, estimating their exposure to air pollutants and assessing their eating patterns. Those most closely following a Mediterranean diet were significantly less likely to die from all causes and heart disease specifically over the 17-year study period than those not following a Mediterranean diet, even at the same level of air pollution exposure. The researchers suspect that the antioxidants in the healthy foods of the Mediterranean diet may play a role in this relationship. (Note that findings presented at meetings are typically viewed as preliminary until they’ve been published in a peer-reviewed journal.)
Presented at the American Thoracic Society International Conference. San Diego, California. May 21, 2018

Traditional Mediterranean and Japanese Diets Linked with Lower Risk of Death from Heart Disease

At first glance, Japanese and Mediterranean cuisines might seem worlds apart. However, the overall eating patterns share more similarities than one might think. Researchers analyzed the diets and long-term (50-year) data on death from heart disease in 12,763 men in the Seven Countries Study from the 1960s. The researchers noted a very similar eating pattern between the Mediterranean group and the Japanese group, with lots of seafood and vegetables, and low amounts of animal foods and animal fat. They also found that eating more vegetables and starch, and more closely following a “Mediterranean” diet (as the Mediterranean and Japanese groups did) were linked with significantly lower risks of death from heart disease. Sweets, animal foods, and hard fats (like butter or lard) were linked with increased risk.
European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2018 May 17. (Kromhout D et al.) [Epub ahead of print.]

Healthier Diet with Whole Grains, Fruits, Veg Linked with Bigger Brains

Brains tend to shrink in people who are suffering from dementia and other cognitive diseases, so researchers wonder if lifestyle factors may relate to brain structure. Scientists analyzed the eating habits and brain volume (using MRIs) of more than 4,000 adults without dementia. Eating lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, dairy, and fish, and drinking fewer sugary drinks was linked with larger brain volumes. Healthier diets were also linked with more gray matter, white matter, and hippocampal volume in the brain.
Neurology. 2018 May 16. (Croll PH) [Epub ahead of print.]

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