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Whole Grains Linked with Better Maintenance of Waist Size, Blood Pressure, Blood Sugar

Larger waist sizes (as measured by waist circumference), high blood pressure, and high triglycerides are all signs of potential heart disease down the road, so researchers wonder how whole grains might play a role in these risk factors. In a study of 3,121 adults (average age 55), researchers analyzed the types of grain foods they ate and their health markers to see how different types of grains might relate to cardiometabolic risk. While all study participants got larger around the waist over the 18-year study period, eating the most whole grains (at least 48 grams whole grain per day, or at least 3 full servings) was linked with significantly smaller increases in waist size compared with eating the least whole grains (less than 8 grams whole grain per day, or less than a half serving). Additionally, eating more whole grains was also linked with significantly smaller increases in fasting blood sugar and systolic blood pressure, while eating more refined grains (4+ servings per day) was linked with greater increases in waist size and a smaller decline in triglycerides (a type of fat in the blood).
Journal of Nutrition. 2021 Jul 13;nxab177. doi: 10.1093/jn/nxab177. (Sawicki CM et al.)

Whole Grain Intake in Latin America Falls Short of Recommendations

Dietary guidelines around the world recommend making more of our grains whole, and researchers wonder if people in different countries are meeting these goals. In a study of 9,128 people across eight Latin American countries, the average person was eating less than one full serving (only 14.7 grams) of whole grain foods per day. Women and older adults were more likely to eat more whole grains, while people with lower incomes were less likely to eat more whole grains. The most commonly eaten whole grains in the survey were oatmeal, masa harina, whole wheat bread, corn chips, and wheat crackers.
European Journal of Nutrition. 2021 Jul 7. doi: 10.1007/s00394-021-02635-8.

Meeting Australian Whole Grain Recommendations in Australia Could Save Over 1.4 billion AUD

Currently, Australian adults are only eating about 21 grams of whole grain per day. In this study, researchers quantified the savings in healthcare and reduction of lost productivity costs associated with a reduction in type 2 diabetes and heart disease through meeting the 48 grams per day whole grain recommendation. If 100% of the Australian adult population were to meet this whole grain goal, researchers estimate a savings of up to 750.7 million Australian dollars (AUD) in healthcare and lost productivity costs for type 2 diabetes, and an additional 717.4 million AUD in healthcare and lost productivity costs for heart disease, totaling more than a 1.4 billion AUD savings. On the low end, even if only 5% or 15% of Australian adults meet the 48 grams per day whole grain goal, there would still be an estimated savings total of 73.4 million AUD to 220.2 million AUD, respectively in healthcare and lost productivity costs related to both conditions.
Nutrients. 2021 May 29;13(6):1855. doi: 10.3390/nu13061855. (Abdullah MMH et al.)

Mediterranean Inspired MIND Diet Linked with Healthier Brain Markers in MS

The Mediterranean diet is well-known for its brain benefits, so scientists wonder how Mediterranean-inspired eating might relate to multiple sclerosis (MS), a brain and spinal cord autoimmune disease. Researchers analyzed the eating habits and brain structures of 180 adults who have had a diagnosis of MS for less than 5 years to see how closely they adhered to a version of the Mediterranean diet called the MIND diet. The MIND diet is a hybrid Mediterranean-DASH diet that emphasizes foods associated with brain health, including whole grains, green leafy vegetables, berries, nuts, olive oil, and fish. In this study, people most closely following the MIND diet had significantly greater thalamic volumes. (The wasting away of the thalamus is a marker of MS disease progression and neurodegeneration, so greater thalamic volume is a good sign that MS might be advancing slower.) Additionally, when looking at specific foods and nutrients, those eating the most full-fat dairy had fewer brain lesions (as measured by lower volumes of T2 lesions) and those eating the most omega-3’s from fish had better microstructural integrity of their normal appearing white matter.
Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders. 2021 May 19;53:103031. doi: 10.1016/j.msard.2021.103031. (Katz Sand IB et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Lower Risk of Memory Decline in Elderly

The Mediterranean diet has long been studied for its link with brain health, and now researchers are starting to understand the mechanisms behind this protective relationship. In a study of 512 older adults (average age 69) who were a mixture of people both with and without a family history of Alzheimer’s, researchers found that more closely following a Mediterranean diet was linked with significantly better memory, larger gray matter volume in the area of the brain related to memory (mediotemporal), and less pTau181 (a predictor of Alzheimer’s progression) and amyloid pathology (misfolded proteins in the brain which are associated with Alzheimer’s progression).
Neurology. 2021 May 5;10.1212/WNL.0000000000012067. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000012067.(Ballarini T et al.)

Diet Quality of Food from Schools and Grocery Stores Improves from 2003-2018, Partly Due to Increasing Whole Grains

Researchers studied the healthfulness of foods from different sources (schools, grocery stores, restaurants) in a group of 20,905 children and 39,757 adults in the period from 2003-2004 to 2017-2018. During this time, the proportion of children eating food of poor diet quality from schools decreased by more than half, from 56% to 24%. Most of these improvements occurred after 2010, in line with the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act (which updated school nutrition standards) and were associated with kids eating more whole grains and less saturated fat, sugary drinks, and salt at schools. Additionally, the proportion of people eating food of poor diet quality from grocery stores decreased from 53% to 45% in kids and from 40% to 33% in adults, largely due to eating more whole grains and fewer sugary drinks. Food from restaurants tended to be less healthy, with very small improvements in diet quality over the study period. The researchers also found that school food improvements after 2010 were the most equitable improvements, as nutrition improved more evenly across racial and sociodemographic lines. On the other hand, most of the improvements in nutrition from grocery store or restaurant foods tended to be concentrated in high-income households.
JAMA Network Open. 2021 Apr 1;4(4):e215262. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.5262. (Liu J et al.)

Maternal Mediterranean Diet May Relate to Children’s Weight Later in Life

Childhood obesity is a rising public health concern and a strong predictor of obesity later in life. Previous studies have discovered that mothers’ diets during pregnancy can potentially impact children’s weight and their risks of developing obesity. This study evaluated how mothers’ dietary patterns during pregnancy affect their children’s BMI (body mass index). A total of 1,459 women participated in the study and completed a questionnaire about the food they ate during pregnancy. Their children were followed up for 15 years to measure their weight and height change. The findings showed that children whose mothers had closely followed the Mediterranean diet during pregnancy are more likely to grow faster and have lower BMI than their peers during childhood. However, the researchers cautioned that differences in breastfeeding might partly explain the BMI differences across the groups. Thus, more studies are needed.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2021 Mar 15;nqaa398. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqaa398. (Monthé-Drèze C et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Slower Prostate Cancer Progression, Better Survival

Many patients diagnosed with prostate cancer don’t need immediate intervention, so strictly monitoring the disease progression is critical. This study collected data from 410 men diagnosed with prostate cancer and measured how closely they were following the Mediterranean Diet. After 36 months of follow-up, those most closely following a Mediterranean diet were less likely to have significant disease progression, and were more likely to have a better rate of survival.
Cancer. 2021 Mar 1; 127(5):720-728. doi:10.1002/cncr.33182. (Gregg JR et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with 20% Lower Risk of Dementia

Dementia is an age-related disease causing memory loss and confusion, and over 50 million people suffer from dementia globally. Because there is currently no effective treatment for it, prevention is pivotal. To investigate whether the Mediterranean Diet has a protective effect on dementia, the researchers studied 16,160 middle-aged adults and followed them for over 20 years. Among all the participants, 459 were diagnosed with dementia. When comparing the dietary patterns between those with and without dementia, the researchers found that those most closely following the  Mediterranean diet,  were 20% less likely to develop dementia. However, the results were not statistically significant when looking at Alzheimer’s dementia.
Nutrients. 2021 Feb 22;13(2):700. doi: 10.3390/nu13020700. (Andreu-Reinon ME et al.)

Parboiling Reduces Arsenic and Preserves Nutrients in Rice

Arsenic is a naturally occurring element found in varying degrees in all soils and water, meaning that some foods, like rice, naturally contain low levels of arsenic depending on where and how it’s grown. Luckily, certain cooking and processing methods can dramatically decrease the level of arsenic rice. In this study, researchers found that parboiling your brown rice can remove up to 54% of unwanted heavy metals like arsenic from your rice (outperforming soaking or rinsing), and can also preserve important micronutrients such as zinc. You can achieve this at home by boiling your rice for 5 minutes and setting it aside for when you’re ready to cook it. You can also buy parboiled rice at the store.  
The Science of the Total Environment. 2021 Feb 10;755(Pt 2):143341. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.143341.(Menon M et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Healthy Gut Microbiota, Possible Lower Risk of Alzheimer’s

There are over 100 trillion microorganisms in the gut, which are thought to play a significant role in various aspects of overall health. In this review article, researchers suggest that the connection between the brain and gut may be associated with the development of Alzheimer’s disease because the gut microbiota may induce inflammation throughout the body, potentially provoking cognitive impairment. Recent studies have found that the composition of the gut microbiome significantly differs between those with and without Alzheimer’s disease. Diet also has a strong impact on the gut microbiome, hence affecting the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. In particular, following a Mediterranean diet is associated with a slower cognitive degeneration. On the other hand, the Western diet which contains high added sugar, processed meat, refined grains, and saturated fats is associated with greater inflammation.
Nutrients. 2021 Jan 25;13(2):361. Published 2021 Jan 25. doi:10.3390/nu13020361 (Leblhuber F et al.)

Plant Based Diets Can Lower Blood Pressure

Studies have shown that plant-based diets can help lower blood pressure, but researchers wonder how strict you must be with your vegetarian diet to see results. A systematic review of 41 clinical trials was performed to see how different plant-based diets, including some with low levels of animal products (the Mediterranean, Vegan, Nordic, high-fiber, and high-fruit and vegetable diets) impacted blood pressure. The results showed that even plant-based diet with limited animal products can be effective in reducing high pressure, indicating that even small steps to improve health can make a measurable difference. 
Journal of Hypertension. 2021 Jan;39(1):23-37. doi: 10.1097/HJH.0000000000002604. (Gibbs, J.et al)

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