SEARCH HEALTH STUDIES

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.)

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.

Substituting Whole Grains for Refined Linked with Lower Risk of Death, Cancer Reoccurrence

The link between whole grains and colorectal cancer prevention is well established, but researchers wonder how this relationship plays out in patients who have already been diagnosed with colon cancer. In this study, researchers analyzed the eating habits and health status of 1,024 patients with stage III colon cancer. After 7 years, patients eating 3 or more servings of refined grains per day had a significantly higher risk of cancer reoccurrence or death from any cause. Replacing 1 serving of refined grains with 1 serving of whole grains daily was linked with a 23% lower risk of cancer reoccurrence or death from any cause. Eating 3 or more servings of whole grains daily trended towards lower risk as well, but the relationship was not statistically significant.
JNCI Cancer Spectrum. 2018 Feb;2(2):pky017. (Brown JC et al.)

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. 

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