SEARCH HEALTH STUDIES

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.]

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.]

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.)

Common Healthy Eating Pattern Across Different Asian Ethnic Groups Linked with Better Cholesterol, BMI, Waist Size

Researchers analyzed the eating habits of 8,433 adults in Singapore who were of Chinese, Malay, and Indian ethnicity. Despite the wide variety in food preferences among these different ethnic groups, researchers were able to identify a common healthy eating pattern based on fruits, vegetables, dairy, wholegrain breads, breakfast cereals, unsaturated cooking oils; and low in fast food, sweetened beverages, meat, and flavored rice. Those most closely following the healthy eating pattern were more likely to have a lower BMI, smaller waist size, and lower levels of total cholesterol, LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, and triglycerides (another type of fat in the blood).
Journal of Nutrition. 2018 Apr 1;148(4):616-623. (Whitton C. et al.)

Beans, Grains, and Fiber Linked with Lower Risk of Breast Cancer

It’s important to get your fiber from a variety of foods, since different sources of fiber are associated with different health benefits. Researchers analyzed the eating patterns of 2,135 patients with breast cancer and 2,571 controls to see how different foods and fibers might relate to breast cancer risk. Those eating the most fiber (more than 26.5 grams per day) were 25% less likely to have breast cancer than those eating less than 15.2 grams of fiber per day. Similarly, those eating the most beans (more than 3.9 oz per day) and grains (more than 13.8 oz per day, of both whole and refined grains) were 19% and 18% less likely to have breast cancer, respectively, than those eating the least amount of beans and grains.
Cancer Medicine. 2018 Mar 23. [Epub ahead of print] (Sangaramoorthy M et al.)

Delayed Gluten Introduction May Be Linked with Type 1 Diabetes Risk

In a study of 8,676 babies with a genetic risk for type 1 diabetes, researchers took blood samples every 3 months for at least 9 months after birth and analyzed their diet. Every 1-month delay in gluten introduction was linked with a significantly higher risk of the immune system attacking the pancreatic cells that are important for blood sugar regulation (as measured by islet autoimmunity) as well as higher levels of insulin autoantibodies, which are predictors of type 1 diabetes. In fact, introducing gluten after 9 months was linked with a 57% higher risk of islet autoimmunity than introducing gluten between 4-9 months of age. The researchers suggest that the timing of gluten be studied further, so that healthcare providers can more confidently suggest a recommended window.
Diabetes Care. 2018 Mar;41(3):522-530. (Uusitalo U et al.)

High Fiber Diet Promotes Select Gut Bacteria to Better Manage Diabetes

In line with many other countries, the usual care for patients with diabetes in China is education about balanced diets and blood sugar management strategies. In a small study, 43 patients with diabetes were randomly assigned to either these standard recommendations, or a high-fiber diet with whole grains and traditional Chinese medicinal foods. Both groups significantly improved their blood sugar (as measured by HbA1c) over the 12-week study, but significantly more people in the whole grain group (89% vs 50%) got their blood sugar to a well-managed level (HbA1c < 7%). To see how gut microbes might play a role, researchers also analyzed the gut bacteria of the participants. They found that the fiber from whole grains stimulated select bacteria to produce short chain fatty acids, which in turn, helped the body better manage blood sugar.
Science. 2018 March 9;6380(359):1151-1156. (Zhao L et al.)

Synthetic Folate (Found in Enriched Grains) Linked with Food Allergies in Kids

In the US, most refined grains are enriched with high levels of folic acid, to help prevent neural tube defects in children, such as spina bifida. However, new research raises questions about the benefits of high levels of synthetic folate in children. In a study of 1,394 children, the kids who developed food allergies were found to have higher levels of UMFA, which is a derivative of synthetic folate. The authors conclude that “more research is needed to conclude whether mothers should consider consuming different sources of folate, like leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits, beans or lentils instead of synthetic forms of folate.” (Note that findings presented at meetings are typically viewed as preliminary until they’ve been published in a peer-reviewed journal.)
Presented at American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology Annual Meeting. Orlando, Florida. March 2-5, 2018.

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Lower Risk of Aggressive Prostate Cancer

Lifestyle habits, like diet, are an important part of a cancer-protective strategy. To see if diet relates to prostate cancer risk, researchers analyzed the eating habits of 754 men with prostate cancer, and 1,277 controls without prostate cancer. Those most closely following a Mediterranean diet were 34% less likely to have an aggressive form of prostate cancer than those not following a Mediterranean diet. A Western diet (filled with fast food, sweets, and red meat) and a prudent diet (filled with low fat dairy, juice, produce, and whole grains) were not found to be linked to prostate cancer risk.
Journal of Urology. 2018 Feb;199(2):430-437. (Castello A et al.)

Shifting the Wheat Breeding Process to Support Whole Grains

The infrastructure for wheat breeding & milling is largely set up to favor refined flour, rather than whole grain flour. In this article, researchers from Washington State University define new quality targets for wheat breeders that take into account fermentation, the bran and germ of the grain, protein strength, and flavor. They also note that different wheats are recommended for different products (pastry, breads, or noodles), and make recommendations for testing breeding lines on the farm to ensure that the new variety will work for farmers, millers, bakers, and consumers alike.
Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems. 2018 January 29. (Jones SS et al.) [Epub]

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.)

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