SEARCH HEALTH STUDIES

Mediterranean-Inspired Diet May Slow Cognitive Decline in Stroke Survivors

Stroke survivors are twice as likely to develop dementia compared to the general population. To see how diet relates to brain health in stroke survivors, researchers analyzed the eating patterns and brain function of 106 stroke survivors for more than 4 years. Those most closely following a “MIND diet” had a slower rate of cognitive decline than those who don’t follow a 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. The Mediterranean diet is well-known for its brain benefits, so it’s not surprising that this new diet inspired by the Mediterranean diet is also showing promise for brain health. 
Presentation at the American Heart Association Meeting. Los Angeles, California. January 25, 2018. 

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.)

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.)

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.)

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.)

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.)

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.)

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