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Inadequate Vegetables, Fruits, Whole Grains, Omega 3’s Linked with Cardiometabolic Death

Researchers created models to estimate the percentage of US cardiometabolic deaths (deaths from heart disease, stroke, or type 2 diabetes), that can be attributed to specific aspects of a poor diet. After analyzing decades of eating pattern data from large, nationally representative surveys (NHANES), the researchers estimated that nearly half of all cardiometabolic deaths can be attributed to poor diet. Specifically, they found that high sodium diets, low nut & seed intake, high intake of processed meats (like sausage or bacon), low seafood omega-3 fats, low vegetable intake, low fruit intake, high intake of sugar sweetened beverages (like soda), and low intake of whole grains contributed the most to cardiometabolic deaths, at about 5.9-9.5% each. The researchers note that the importance of eating more healthy foods (like whole grains or vegetables) is very important, in addition to decreasing less healthy foods (like soda or bacon).
JAMA. 2017 Mar 7;317(9):912-924. (Micha R et al.)

Whole Plant Foods, Not Fads, Best for Heart Health

Magazines and news articles often jump from one “superfood” or fad diet to the next, but not all nutrition advice is backed up by substantial evidence. In this review, researchers analyzed the scientific support for various trending “heart healthy” foods and diets. Eating berries, nuts, extra virgin olive oil, leafy green vegetables, and plant-based diets are all strongly linked with better heart-health based on numerous studies. On the other hand, coconut oil, palm oil, eggs, juicing, and southern diets are linked with potential harm. Additionally, the researchers found no support that gluten-free diets are beneficial for people without gluten related disorders. The authors conclude that “Evidence-based healthy dietary patterns are high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts in moderation, although some may include limited quantities of lean meats (including poultry and seafood), low-fat dairy products, and liquid vegetable oils.”
Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2017 March 7;69(9):1172-87.

Eating More Soy Linked with Less Breast Cancer Death

Soy foods (like tofu, edamame, or soy milk) have a complicated relationship with breast cancer, since soy has estrogen-like properties. To see if eating isoflavones (the major estrogen-like compound in soy) relates to breast cancer outcomes, researchers analyzed the eating habits and health outcomes of more than 6,000 newly-diagnosed breast cancer patients (all women) in the US, Canada, and Australia. Scientists found that women eating the most isoflavones (the amount in at least ¼ cup soymilk per day) were less likely to die over the 9-year study period, but the results were only statistically significant in women with hormone-receptor-negative breast cancers (the breast cancers unlikely to respond to hormonal therapy).
Cancer. 2017 Mar 6. [Epub ahead of print] (Zhang FF et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with up to 40% Lower Risk of Breast Cancer

About ⅓ of breast cancer cases are hormone-receptor-negative, meaning that they are unlikely to respond to hormonal therapy. To see if diet relates to breast cancer risk, researchers analyzed the eating habits and health outcomes of more than 62,500 post-menopausal Dutch women for about 20 years. Those most closely following a Mediterranean diet were 40% less likely to develop estrogen-receptor-negative breast cancer, although overall breast cancer risk and the risk for other types of breast cancer were not significantly lower. Nut intake was the only food significantly associated with a lower risk of estrogen-receptor-negative breast cancer. For total and estrogen-receptor positive breast cancer, whole grain intake contributed the most to the lower risk, although not significantly.
International Journal of Cancer. 2017 Mar 5. [Epub ahead of print] (van den Brandt PA).

Home-cooked Family Meals Enjoyed Without TV On Linked with Less Obesity

Home-cooked meals enjoyed with others are good for the heart, the soul, and even the waistline. Researchers analyzed the eating habits and body mass index (based on height and weight) of 12,842 adults in Ohio. They found that adults eating all home-cooked family meals were 26% less likely to be obese than those who only ate some or no home-cooked family meals (relying on takeout, microwave dinners, or fast food instead). Additionally, those who never watched TV or movies while eating dinner were 37% less likely to be obese than those who always did. However, the frequency of eating family meals together was not linked to obesity, meaning those eating 6-7 family meals each week were just as likely to be obese as those eating just 1-2 family meals.
Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2017 Feb 24. pii: S2212-2672(17)30069-2. [Epub ahead of print] (Tumin R et al.)

Healthy Diet with Seafood & Plant Proteins Linked with Less Pain in Obesity

Many people with obesity also suffer from chronic pain, so researchers wondered if certain eating patterns might help explain this relationship. In a study of 98 obese adults, researchers in Ohio found that scoring higher on the Healthy Eating Index (eating more servings of fruit, whole grains, plant proteins, seafood, and monounsaturated fats, and only moderate amounts of sodium and refined grains) was significantly related to lower levels of pain, even after controlling for medication, conditions like arthritis, and other health factors. When looking at individual food groups, only seafood and plant proteins (like beans or tofu) were significantly linked with less pain. Many traditional diets, including the Mediterranean diet, emphasize seafood and plant proteins as part of an overall healthy diet, and could serve as a delicious blueprint for those looking to reap the benefits of a more nutritious diet.
Pain. 2017 Feb;158(2):273-277. (Emery CF et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Improves Function of Good Cholesterol

HDL is often referred to as good cholesterol, because it helps take “bad” (LDL) cholesterol from the bloodstream back to the liver for removal, protects blood vessels, and acts as an antioxidant. We used to only be able to measure the amount of HDL, but now, scientists are able to measure how well the HDL is functioning as well. To see how a Mediterranean diet affects HDL function, researchers analyzed data from 296 participants in the PREDIMED trial (a randomized, controlled study where people at risk of heart disease were assigned to either a Mediterranean diet with nuts, a Mediterranean diet with olive oil, or a low fat diet). Both Mediterranean diet groups improved cholesterol efflux capacity (how well the LDL is transported out by the HDL). However, the olive oil group also had improved HDL antioxidant properties, and improved blood vessel protection.
Circulation. 2017 Feb 14;135(7):633-643. (Hernaez A et al.) 

Whole Grains May Help Your Body Burn More Calories

Whole grains are often associated with lower body weights, and new research is uncovering why. In a randomized trial, scientists assigned 81 healthy adults in Boston to diets with either whole grains or refined grains for 6 weeks, keeping all other foods and nutrients consistent between the groups. Although the diets were designed to be isocaloric (meaning that people were supposed to maintain their same body weight), the resting metabolic rate (how many calories your body burns at rest) became significantly higher (by 43 calories) in the whole grain group. In fact, the whole grain group significantly improved their metabolism over the 6-week study compared with the refined grains group, burning 92 more calories per day. The researchers suspect that this is partly due to the fact that the whole grain group excreted more energy in the stool, and had more frequent bowel movements.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2017 Feb 8. pii: ajcn139683. [Epub ahead of print.] (Karl JP et al.)

Whole Grains Can Improve Gut Microbiota

Researchers randomly assigned 81 healthy adults in Boston to diets with either whole grains or refined grains for 6 weeks, keeping all other foods and nutrients consistent between the groups. The researchers found that making all of your grains whole is linked with “modest, positive effects on gut micriobiota,” (due to higher concentrations of “good” gut microbes and short chain fatty acids – an indicator of colon health and dietary fiber breakdown) as well as increased stool weight and stool frequency.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2017 Feb 8. pii: ajcn146928. [Epub ahead of print.] (Vanegas SM et al.)

Mediterranean Diet May Help Improve Depression

To see how food might play a role in treating depression, Australian scientists randomly assigned 56 adults with moderate to severe depression to either 7 hours of dietitian-led counseling about a modified Mediterranean diet, or 7 hours of social support (keeping participants company, without using psychotherapy strategies) over the course of 12 weeks. The adults in the nutrition counseling group improved their diets by eating significantly more servings of whole grains, fruit, dairy, olive oil, pulses, and fish. After 12 weeks, 32% of the nutrition group and 8% of the social support group improved their depressive symptoms enough to achieve remission, and the nutrition group also scored significantly better on various markers of depression.
BMC Medicine. 2017 January 30;15:23. ( Jacka FN et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Less ADHD in Kids

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) seems to be on the rise, so health experts wonder if diet might be related. To test this hypothesis, researchers in Spain matched 60 children newly diagnosed with ADHD to 60 children without ADHD (of the same age and sex), and analyzed their eating habits based on how closely they follow a Mediterranean diet. Children most closely following a Mediterranean diet (eating a second serving of fruit daily, eating vegetables daily, and eating pasta or rice almost every day) were significantly less likely to have ADHD. Children with ADHD were also more likely to eat more fast food, soft drinks, and candy, and were more likely to skip breakfast.
Pediatrics. 2017 Jan 30. pii: e20162027. [ePub ahead of print.] (Rios-Hernandez A et al.)

Whole Grains & Fiber Linked with Less Colorectal Cancer

Because colorectal cancer forms in the large intestine, diet is thought to be a potential risk factor. To see how food fits into the puzzle, scientists at Harvard analyzed the eating patterns and health markers of 137,217 adults for more than two decades. Those eating a healthy diet rich in fiber and whole grains were significantly less likely to develop a certain type of colorectal cancer (Fusobacterium nucleatum–positive, but not Fusobacterium nucleatum-negative) than those eating a “Western diet” rich in red meat, refined grains, and dessert. Fusobacterium nucleatum is a type of gut bacteria thought to contribute to colorectal cancer, as it’s often elevated in colorectal cancer patients. Based on their findings, the scientists suspect that the cancer-protective effect of fiber and whole grains may have to do with their role in improving the gut microbiome.
JAMA Oncology.  2017 Jan 26. [Epub ahead of print.] (Mehta RS)

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