SEARCH HEALTH STUDIES

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.)

Demand for More Whole Grains in Senior Care 

Fiber is important for the elderly to help prevent constipation and improve quality of life, and yet many older adults are falling short on fiber. In this study, 681 dietitians working in long-term (elderly) care answered questionnaires exploring barriers to whole grain consumption for older adults. Overall, 89.5% of dietitians reported that they would like to serve more whole grains. Twenty seven percent of dietitians reported that cost was a barrier to serving whole grains in long term care, and yet 75% of dietitians report that their patients need fiber supplements, averaging upwards of $11-20 a month per patient. Given that whole grains are a natural source of fiber, whole grains may be able to offset some of the cost of fiber supplementation. Other factors influencing the decision to purchase whole grains included dietary needs (such as special considerations for kidney disease), existing food contracts, nutritional content, and acceptance by residents.
Journal of Nutrition in Gerontology and Geriatrics. 2017 Oct-Dec;36(4):178-188. (Coffman CA et al.)

Certain Rye Products Are Especially Satiating

Rye has long been studied for its satiating properties, but researchers wonder why rye leaves you feeling fuller for longer, and whether certain rye products are more filling than others. To test these differences, researchers provided various whole grain rye products (sourdough bread, flakes, puffs, and smoothies – each with the same number of calories) to 26 participants, who resumed their usual diet and exercise routine for two days between each intake of the rye samples. The rye puffs and rye bread, which have a porous structure, were the most filling, whereas the liquid beverage was the least filling. The porous structure of the rye puffs and bread is thought to stretch and fill up the stomach, signaling to your body that you’re satisfied.
Food Quality and Preference. 2017 September;60:178-187. (Pentikainen S et al.)

Healthy Eating in Mid-Adulthood Linked with Healthier Body Composition Down the Road

It is never too late to begin the journey to healthy eating. In fact, adopting healthier habits in mid-adulthood may be especially important. To see the effect diet has on body fat distribution, researchers analyzed the eating patterns of approximately 2,000 adults (average age = 48 years), and then assessed their body composition 20 years later. Those with higher-quality diets in mid-adulthood (most closely following a Mediterranean Diet, DASH Diet, or scoring higher on the Healthy Eating Index – all of which prioritize vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes, and limit sweets and processed or red meats) had lower total body fat and a lower BMI, which are critical in chronic disease prevention. Following a high-quality diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, over a period of time is important to maintain a healthy level of body fat and to prevent fat tissue from accumulating in the liver.
Obesity. 2017 Aug;25(8):1442-1450. (Maskarinec G et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Improved Cognitive Performance in Elderly

As global life expectancy grows, dementia is an increasing concern. Healthy eating patterns like the Mediterranean Diet are thought to help decrease the risk of such diseases. Researchers recently analyzed the diets of 1,865 Greek adults over the age of 64 as part of The Hellenic Longitudinal Investigation of Ageing and Diet (HELIAD) study. The researchers concluded that closer adherence to the Mediterranean Diet may be associated with improved cognitive performance—particularly memory—and lower dementia rates. Fish and whole grains in particular were singled out for their association with cognitive benefits.
PLOS One. 2017 August 1. 12(8): e0182048. (Anastasiou CA et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Lower Risk of Gallbladder Removal

Cholecystectomy, or the removal of the gallbladder, is a common treatment for gallstones, which affect 10-15% of the adult population. Some studies suggest that foods typical of the Western diet (high in calories, cholesterol, etc.) may increase the risk of gallstone disease. Researchers analyzed whether a healthful diet, like the Mediterranean diet, could potentially prevent cholecystectomy in a group of 64,052 French women. They found that those more closely following the Mediterranean diet had a lower risk of cholecystectomy. Specifically, a higher intake of legumes, fruit, vegetable oil, and whole grain bread was associated with a lower cholecystectomy risk, and a higher intake of ham was associated with a higher risk.
American Journal of Gastroenterology. 25 July 2017. [Epub ahead of print.] (Barré A et al.)

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