SEARCH HEALTH STUDIES

Low Carb Diets Linked with Early Death

There are countless different diets out there, from low carb to high carb to everything in between. But which eating pattern is linked with longer lives? Scientists are on a mission to find out. Researchers analyzed the eating habits and health outcomes of 15,428 adults in the US, following them for 25 years. The “sweet spot” for the lowest risk of mortality was diets that had 50-55% of their calories from carbohydrates, especially those with lots of plant foods, like whole grain bread, nuts, vegetables, and peanut butter. This amount aligns with traditional diets (such as the Mediterranean diet), as well as the US Dietary Guidelines for Americans. On the other hand, low-carb diets that had lots of meat were linked with higher mortality.
The Lancet Public Health. 2018 Aug 16. pii: S2468-2667(18)30135-X. [Epub ahead of print.] (Seidelmann SB et al.)

Gluten Free Kids' Foods No Healthier than Regular Kids' Foods

Many parents buy gluten-free foods for their kids because they think that those foods are healthier. But in reality, evidence suggests otherwise. Researchers in Canada went to 2 major supermarket chains and purchased all foods marketed to kids (with the exception of candy, soda, and a few other “junk foods”) – 374 products total. They then analyzed the nutrition labels of the foods, to see how products marketed as gluten free stacked up to those not marketed as gluten free. For a more direct comparison, they then identified 43 gluten-free foods marketed to kids that had a non-gluten-free counterpart, and compared nutrition between the matched products. Overall, nutrition was poor among all kids’ products, gluten-free or not, and there were few significant differences. Specifically, products marketed as gluten-free had slightly lower levels of sodium, but slightly higher levels of added sugar. Additionally, a higher proportion of gluten-free products had high levels of trans fat. The researchers concluded that “[gluten-free] supermarket foods that are targeted at children are not nutritionally superior to regular child targeted foods and may be of greater potential concern because of their sugar content,” adding that “parents who substitute [gluten-free] products for their product equivalents (assuming [gluten-free] products to be healthier) are mistaken.”
Pediatrics. 2018 Aug;142(2). pii: e20180525. (Elliott C et al.)

For Healthy Teeth, Choose Whole Grains Instead of Refined

Sugar build up between your teeth can cause cavities and other dental problems, but certain food choices can have a protective effect. To see how different carbohydrates play a role, researchers analyzed 28 studies comparing rapidly digestible starches (refined grains) to slowly digestible starches (whole grains). Some evidence suggests that whole grains lower the risk of oral cancer and gum infection (periodontitis), and that refined grains may significantly increase cavities, but more research is needed. The researchers conclude that “the best available evidence suggests that only [rapidly digestible starches] adversely affects oral health.”
Journal of Dental Research.  2018 Aug 3. [Epub ahead of print.] (Halvorsrud K et al.)

Evidence of Ancient Flatbreads Pre-Dates Neolithic Agriculture

Though many Paleo dieters believe that bread is a relatively “new” foodstuff, archeological evidence paints a different picture of what ancient diets were like for our hunting and gathering ancestors. Archeologists analyzed the remains of ancient fireplaces in what is today Jordan, and found the oldest empirical evidence of bread-like products from 14,400 years ago. These ancient flatbreads existed 4,000 years before Neolithic agriculture, and challenge previous assumptions about grains’ role (or lack thereof) in ancient, Epipaleolithic diets.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 2018 Jul 31;115(31):7925-7930. (Arranz-Otaegui A et al.)

Successful Whole Grain Public Health Campaigns Require Multiple Stakeholders

Around the globe, increasing whole grain intake is widely recognized as an important dietary goal to improve public health. In this study, researchers analyzed 8 whole grain interventions in Australia, the US, the UK, the Netherlands, and Denmark, to determine the best practices for promoting whole grains. The authors conclude that “successful interventions included multiple stakeholder involvement, specified target intakes in dietary guidelines, and codes of practice for labeling WG foods.”
Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. 2018 Jul 31. pii: S1499-4046(18)30554-2. (Suthers R 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.)

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.]

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.)

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.]

Not Getting Enough Whole Grains, Nuts, Seeds Linked with Billions of Dollars in Healthcare Costs

Many public health campaigns focus on fruit and vegetable intake, but perhaps a wiser approach would be to expand the focus to whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Researchers analyzed Canadian eating habits against dietary recommendations, and then calculated the disease burden attributable to not meeting specific dietary guidelines. From there, they were able to calculate the direct (hospital visits, medicine, etc.) and indirect (labor) costs associated with not meeting specific dietary recommendations. They found that $13.8 billion (in CAD) per year can be attributed to an unhealthy diet, which is more than the economic burden of not getting enough exercise (at $9.3 billion). Additionally, they found that not getting enough whole grains and not getting enough nuts and seeds were the two biggest contributors to this cost, at $3.3 billion each.
PLoS One. 2018 Apr 27;13(4):e0196333. (Lieffers JRL et al.)

Switching to Whole Grains Can Reduce Abdominal Fat

Visceral fat is a dangerous type of abdominal fat that can surround vital organs like the liver. To see if grain choices might play a role in this fat distribution, researchers randomly assigned 50 Japanese men with a BMI of 23 or greater (midway through the “healthy weight” range or heavier) to a diet with whole grain bread or white bread for 12 weeks, and had their visceral fat estimated using tomography scans. After the 12-week study, the whole grain group lost 4 cm of visceral fat around their middle, while the white bread group showed no significant changes.
Plant Foods and Human Nutrition. 2018 Apr 18. [Epub ahead of print.] (Kikuchi Y et al.)

Oat Noodles (Instead of Refined Noodles) Can Help Reduce Cholesterol, Blood Pressure

Refined wheat and rice noodles are common staple foods throughout Asia today, so replacing some of these foods with whole grain versions could go a long way in improving health. To test the impact, researchers randomly assigned 84 healthy adults (some with mildly high cholesterol) in Taiwan to an oat noodle group or a refined wheat noodle group, providing them with 100 grams (about 1 ½ cups cooked) of their respective noodles across 1 or 2 meals each day for 10 weeks. After the 10-week study, the oat group reduced their total cholesterol by 17% and LDL-c (“bad”) cholesterol by 19% compared with the wheat noodle group. The oat noodle group also significantly lowered their blood pressure by 7-11%, but the wheat noodle group did not. The benefits tended to be stronger in people who started the study with slightly high cholesterol, but the results were still statistically significant for the group as a whole.
Journal of Food and Drug Analysis. 2018 April. [Epub ahead of print.] (Liao MY et al.)

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