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High fibre diet helps you live longer

Eating a diet rich in fibre has long been known to help keep your digestive tract working properly. It’s also thought to lower the risk of heart disease, some cancers and diabetes. Now, a new study suggests it could reduce the risk of death from cardiovascular, infectious and respiratory diseases. People who ate a high-fibre diet decreased their risk of dying over a nine year period compared to those who ate less fibre, according to a new study in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

The findings are based on a diet study from the National Institutes of Health and AARP, which included 219,123 men and 168,999 women ages 50 to 71 when the study began. Researchers from the National Cancer Institute examined food surveys completed by the participants in 1995 or 1996. After nine years about 11,000 people died and researchers used national records to determine the cause.

People who ate at least 26 grams per day were 22 percent less likely to die than those who consumed the least amount of fibre — about 13 grams per day or less. Men and women who consumed diets higher in fibre also had a reduced risk of cardiovascular, infectious and respiratory diseases, the study found. Getting fibre from grains seemed to have the biggest impact, the authors write.

The study has some limitations — mainly, people who ate high-fibre diets might also have been more likely to eat healthier diets overall, attributing to their longevity. Still, the study offers more evidence that fibre is certainly good for you. Federal dietary guidelines recommend people consume at least 14 grams of fibre per 1,000 calories, so about 28 grams for an average 2,000 calorie-per-day diet. But many experts say many people don’t get enough.

 

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Olive oil and veggies help the heart

It's no secret that eating well is good for both body and mind, so it may not come as a surprise that a new study finds women who eat more olive oil and leafy vegetables such as salads and cooked spinach are significantly less likely to develop heart disease.A group of Italian researchers found that women who ate at least 1 serving of leafy vegetables per day were more than 40 percent less likely to develop heart disease over an average of eight years, relative to women who ate two or fewer portions of those vegetables each week. Women who downed at least 3 tablespoons of olive oil daily – such as in salad dressing – were also 40 percent less likely to be diagnosed with heart disease, compared to women who ate the least olive oil.

It's not exactly clear why specifically leafy vegetables and olive oil may protect the heart, said study author Dr. Domenico Palli of the Cancer Research and Prevention Institute in Florence. “Probably the mechanisms responsible for the protective effect of plant-origin foods on cardiovascular diseases involve micronutrients such as folate, antioxidant vitamins and potassium, all present in green leafy vegetables.” Folate reduces blood levels of homocysteine, Palli explained, which is thought to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease by damaging the inner lining of arteries. Other studies have shown people who eat more potassium have lower blood pressure, which can protect the cardiovascular system. Virgin olive oil may be particularly effective at lowering heart disease risk because of its high level of antioxidant plant compounds, he added.

This is not the first study to link olive oil or vegetables to good heart health. Most famously, the traditional Mediterranean diet — rich in vegetables and monounsaturated fats from olive oil and nuts, but low in saturated fat from meat and dairy — has been tied to a decreased risk of heart disease. Mediterranean-style eating has also been credited with lowering risk for some cancers, diabetes, and, more recently, with slowing brain aging. Cardiovascular disease is a major killer, responsible for 30 percent of all deaths worldwide and the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S.

To look more closely at the role of foods in protecting against heart disease, Palli and colleagues reviewed dietary information collected from nearly 30,000 Italian women participating in a large national health study. Researchers followed the women, whose mean age was 50 at the beginning of the study, for an average of 8 years, noting who developed heart disease. In that time, the women experienced 144 major heart disease-related events, such as heart attack or bypass surgery, the authors report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Women who ate at least one daily serving (about two ounces) of leafy vegetables – such as raw lettuce or endives, or cooked vegetables like spinach or chard — had a 46 percent lower risk of developing heart disease than women who ate at most two portions per week. Consuming at least an ounce of olive oil per day lowered their risk by 44 percent relative to women who consumed a half-ounce or less daily, the authors found.

The women's intake of other types of vegetables, such as roots and cabbages, and their consumption of tomatoes or fruit did not seem to be linked to their risk for major heart events. Both fruits and vegetables have been associated with heart benefits in past studies conducted elsewhere in Europe and in North America. The authors caution that the apparent lack of positive effect from high fruit consumption in their results may have something to do with a different attitude toward fruit in Italy. It is cheap, varied and easily available, so eating a lot of fruit is a widespread habit but it does not necessarily signal that the rest of someone's diet is as healthy, the authors wrote. Another issue with the study, Palli noted, is that women had to report how much they ate of various items, and some may not have remembered their diets accurately, or may have changed their eating habits during the study period. In addition, people sometimes over-estimate their healthy behaviors, believing they eat healthier than they really do.

SOURCE: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, published online December 22, 2010.

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Fish diet lowers risk of stroke

Fish diet lowers risk of stroke

Women who eat more than three servings of fish per week are less likely to experience a stroke, a new study suggests. Specifically, fish-lovers in Sweden were 16 percent less likely to experience a stroke over a 10-year-period, relative to women who ate fish less than once a week. “Fish consumption in many countries, including the U.S., is far too low, and increased fish consumption would likely result in substantial benefits in the population,” said Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian of the Harvard School of Public Health. When choosing fish to eat, it’s best to opt for fish that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, found most abundantly in fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and albacore tuna. “But any fish is better than none,” Mozaffarian noted.

 

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“Indeed, these fatty acids likely underlie the benefits of fish on stroke risk”, said study author Dr. Susanna Larsson of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. “These fatty acids may reduce the risk of stroke by reducing blood pressure and blood (fat) concentrations.”

This is not the first study to suggest that people who eat more fish have a lower risk of stroke, and experts already recommend a fishy diet to reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems, Mozaffarian added. “This study supports current recommendations.” Earlier this year, for instance, a study showed that middle-aged and older men who eat fish every day are less likely than infrequent fish eaters to develop a suite of risk factors for heart disease, diabetes and stroke.

In the current study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Larsson and her colleagues looked at 34,670 women 49 to 83 years old. All were free of cardiovascular disease and cancer at the beginning of the study, in 1997. During 10 years of follow-up, 1,680 of the women (4 percent) had a stroke. Stroke caused by blockage of an artery that supplies blood to the brain — also known as a “cerebral infarction” or “ischemic stroke” — was the most common event, representing 78 percent of all strokes in the study. Other types of strokes were due to bleeding in the brain, or unspecified causes.

Women who ate more than three servings of fish per week had a 16 percent lower risk of stroke than women who ate less than one serving a week. “Not a small effect,” Mozaffarian said, noting that it was roughly equivalent to the effect of statin drugs on stroke risk. Furthermore, the researchers asked women about their diets only once, using a questionnaire, which might have caused errors that would underestimate the link between a fishy diet and stroke risk, he explained. “So, the true risk reduction may be larger.”

Interestingly, women appeared to benefit most from eating lean fish, when other research shows fatty fish is better for health. This finding may stem from the fact that most fatty fish, such as herring and salmon, is eaten salted in Sweden, Larsson explained. “A high intake of salt increases blood pressure and thus may increase the risk of stroke,” she said. “So the protective effects of fatty acids in fatty fish may be attenuated because of the salt.”

Indeed, when it comes to fish, not all have equal benefits, Mozaffarian noted – for instance, he said, research has not shown any cardiovascular benefits from eating fast food fish burgers or fish sticks. In addition, women of childbearing age should avoid certain types of fish known to carry relatively high levels of pollutants, such as shark and swordfish, Mozaffarian cautioned. “This is a very, very short list of fish to avoid or minimize — there are many, many other types of fish to consume,” he said. “Women at risk of stroke are generally beyond their child-bearing years, and so for these women, all types of fish can be consumed.”

Larsson and her team speculate that certain nutrients in fish, such as fatty acids and vitamin D, might explain its apparent benefits. The Swedish study cannot prove cause and effect for high fish consumption and lowered stroke risk, however. For instance, fish consumption could be a sign of a generally healthier lifestyle or some other mechanism at work. Last December, Larsson and colleagues published data from the same group of women in the journal Stroke showing that those who eat a lot of red meat may also be putting themselves at increased risk of stroke.

SOURCE: bit.ly/dKunk8 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, online December 29, 2010.

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Stroke deaths higher where fried fish aplenty

The steep rate of death from stroke in a swath of Southern states often referred to as America's “stroke belt” may be linked to a higher consumption of fried fish in that region, new research suggests. A study published in the journal Neurology shows people living in the stroke belt — which comprises North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas and Louisiana — eat more fried fish and less non-fried fish than people living in the rest of the country, and African-Americans eat more fried fish than Caucasians. “Differences in dietary fish consumption, specifically in cooking methods, may be contributing to higher rates of stroke in the stroke belt and also among African Americans,” says study author Fadi Nahab, medical director for the Stroke Program at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.

The research, part of a large government-funded study, Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS), involved 21,675 participants from across the country; the average age was 65. Of the participants, 21% were from the “stroke buckle,” the coastal plain region of North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia where stroke mortality rates are even higher than they are in the rest of the stroke belt. Another 34% were from the rest of the stroke belt and 44% were from the other states.

Participants were interviewed by phone and then given an in-home physical exam. The questionnaire asked how often they ate oysters, shellfish, tuna, fried fish and non-fried fish. The American Heart Association recommends people eat fish high in omega-3 fatty acids—essential fatty acids humans get through their diet—at least twice a week, baked or grilled but not fried. Fewer than one in four overall ate two or more servings of non-fried fish a week. Stroke belt residents were 32% more likely to eat two or more servings of fried fish each week than those in the rest of the country.

African-Americans were more than 3.5 times more likely to eat two or more servings of fried fish each week than Caucasians, with an overall average of about one serving per week of fried fish compared with about half a serving for Caucasians. When it came to eating non-fried fish meals, stroke belt residents ate an average of 1.45 servings per week, compared with 1.63 servings eaten by people elsewhere.

“This is good stuff. It's a well-done study, but I think one thing to bear in mind is that it's not specifically a study of stroke risk. You're looking at a community and seeing how it's behaving on the whole,” says Daniel Labovitz, a stroke neurologist at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx. “This study can't tell you causation. It can't tell you there's a direct link between one thing and another, it just tells you they're associated,” says stroke neurologist Victor Urrutia, an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

How might eating fried fish impact stroke?

It could be that frying the fish leaches out the omega-3s, says Jeremy Lanford, stroke director at Scott & White Healthcare in Roundrock, Texas. Or the increased fat calorie content from the frying oil may contribute to stroke, says author Nahab. He also notes that fish used for frying, such as cod and haddock, tend to be the types lower in healthy fats. More research is needed to tease out whether cooking methods affect stroke risk, Labovitz says. “In other words, is fried fish a problem, or is it another red herring?” he says.

The study was supported by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the National Institutes of Health, and the Department of Health and Human Services. Funding was provided by General Mills for coding of the food frequency questionnaire.

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White rice increases diabetes risk

Japanese women who eat three or more bowls of rice a day face a 50 percent greater risk of developing diabetes than those who eat one bowl, according to research by the National Cancer Center and other institutions. Although it has long been known that consuming large amounts of carbohydrates can increase the risk of developing the disease, the study was the first of its kind to explore the connection between eating rice and developing diabetes.

Conducted over five years from the early 1990s, the study covered about 60,000 people aged 45 to 74 in Iwate, Nagano, Ibaraki, Okinawa and four other prefectures. Of the subjects, 1,103–625 men and 478 women–developed diabetes during the study period.

Women who ate three bowls of rice a day were 1.48 times more likely to develop diabetes than those who ate one serving daily, the study found. Eating four or more bowls of rice a day raised the risk of women developing diabetes to 1.65 times that of women who ate only one bowl of rice a day. However, among women who performed physical labor or exercised vigorously for at least one hour a day, there was no significant difference in their risk of developing diabetes regardless of whether they habitually gorged on the grain.

For men, there was less evidence of a connection between rice intake and diabetes risk.

But regardless of gender, the less physical exercise a person did, the higher their risk of developing the disease.

While it is possible that eating a lot of rice can contribute to the onset of diabetes in some women, the study produced no conclusive evidence that overindulging is a direct cause of diabetes. Researchers at the National Center for Global Health and Medicine who analyzed the study’s results said it was important to monitor rice intake as part of maintaining a balanced diet.

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Good diet never grows old

Older adults who eat a healthy diet tend to live longer than those who indulge in desserts and high-fat dairy products, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. With the projected doubling of our older population by 2030, what people put on their plates may be even more important.

For 10 years, researchers followed the eating habits of 2,500 healthy seniors aged 70 to 79. They found people who ate ice cream, whole milk and other high fat-dairy items had a 40% higher risk of dying during the decade of study than those who ate a healthful diet. People who ate sweets such as doughnuts, cakes, and cookies had a 37% higher risk of dying in that same 10 year study period.

The seniors were placed into one of the following 6 dietary categories depending upon what they ate: 1) Healthy foods 2) High-fat dairy products 3) Meat, fried foods and alcohol 4) Breakfast cereal 5) Refined grains and 6) Sweets and desserts. The people with the more healthful diets not only lived longer they also reported having a better quality of life, for a longer period of time than others.

“Our study and several previous studies suggest that it may be important what people eat at any age and that people can perhaps increase their quality of life and survival by following a healthy diet,” explains lead author Amy Anderson, Postdoctoral Researcher with the University of Maryland's Department of Nutrition and Food Science.

Eating healthy meant including more low-fat dairy products, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, poultry and fish in the diet as opposed to meat, fried foods, sweets, highly sugared drinks and other fatty foods. The healthy group got only 3% of their calories from high-fat dairy products such as cheese and ice cream, for example, while the high-fat dairy group got 17% of their calories from these foods. The healthier group also ate fewer sweets with only 6% of their calories coming from these treats compared to 25% by those in the desserts group.

The study noted that in the past century, the leading causes of death were from infectious diseases. Now people are dying from chronic illnesses such as heart disease and cancer, which are often tied to what we eat.

“I think this research is important, especially now with the baby boomers entering these older age groups. So if people have a higher quality of life and survival , if they're healthier, this can reduce the cost of health care and improve people's daily lives in general,” says Anderson.

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Meal replacements may not help teens keep weight off

A new study at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia found that meal replacements like shakes, bars and prepackaged entrees aren't a good long-term solution for obese teens. For the new study, researchers randomly assigned 113 obese teens and their families to different diets for a year. One group of teens ate self-selected low-calorie meals not exceeding 1,300 to 1,500 total calories per day. The other group ate meal replacements (three SlimFast shakes and one prepackaged entree), along with five servings of fruits and vegetables. Four months into the study, participants in second group were randomized to a second-phase diet: some were put on the low-calorie self-selected diet, while the rest stayed on meal replacements.

At the four-month mark, all participants had lost weight, but the teens on meal replacements lost more — a 6.3% reduction in body mass index (BMI) versus 3.8% for the low-calorie group. But by the end of the one-year study, many participants had regained much of the weight they had lost, resulting in no significant differences in weight loss between the groups: on average, the teens had reduced their BMI 3.4% since the beginning of the study.

The results underscore one of the many difficulties of dieting: keeping the weight off long term. Many dieters regain weight because they can't stick to rigid eating programs for long: one-third of the participants in the current study dropped out before its conclusion. The monotony of the meal-replacement diet couldn't have helped either: teens in the meal-replacement group started out drinking SlimFasts 5.6 days a week (in Month 2); by the end of the study, they were only able to tolerate the shakes 1.6 days each week.

“The potential benefit of (meal replacement) in maintaining weight loss was not supported,” the researchers concluded. So for those of you who are gearing up to begin a weight-loss program in the New Year, it helps to remember that austerity isn't the best strategy long-term. Focus on variety — both with your diet and your exercise regimen — and manageability instead. A regular visit with Nastaran can ensure that you stay on track and keep the weight off long term.

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Wholegrains help lower blood pressure

Starting the morning with a bowl of porridge and eating a whole-grain sandwich at lunchtime can help cut the risk of high blood pressure, according to new research. A study carried out by scientists from Aberdeen University which involved more than 200 volunteers revealed that eating three portions of whole-grain foods every day lowers the risk of high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. A good deal of research has suggested that a whole-grain diet is good for your health, but this study is one of the first to test the theory in a well-designed clinical trial.

Volunteers in the study ate three servings a day of whole-grain foods, which were either wheat, or a mixture of both wheat and oats. The whole-grain diets were compared with one that contained the same amounts of refined cereals and white bread. The study used foods widely available in supermarkets to make the diet easy to follow, without having to make any changes to their usual lifestyle. Apart from the whole-grain and the equivalent refined cereal foods, the volunteers were encouraged to continue with their normal food choices.

Dr Frank Thies, senior lecturer at The Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health, who led the study, said: “We observed a decrease in systolic blood pressure of 5-6 mm Hg in the volunteers who ate the whole-grain foods, and this effect is similar to that you might expect to get from using blood pressure-lowering drugs. “This drop in systolic blood pressure could potentially decrease the incidence of heart attack and stroke disease by at least 15 and 25 per cent respectively. The scientists also added that wholegrain wheat and oat-based recipes should be on everyone's festive menu this Christmas.

The findings are published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

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Rice may reduce health risks

The researchers also looked at the overall health profiles of rice eaters, and learned that the 19- to 50-year-olds who ate rice were less likely to be overweight or obese, had a 34% reduced risk for high blood pressure, 27% reduced likelihood of having abdominal obesity and increased waist circumference and 21% reduced risk of metabolic syndrome. No associations could be drawn for children ages two to 13; however, in children ages 14-18, body weight, waist circumference, triglycerides and diastolic blood pressure were lower (P G .05) among those who ate rice.

“This study shows that eating rice can improve overall diet and reduce risk for the major conditions that afflict more than half of all Americans — heart disease and Type II diabetes,” states Upton. “Rice is a practical solution to help consumers meet dietary guidance to eat more plant-based foods.”

U.S. national nutrition surveillance records show that rice eaters have healthier diets and less risk for chronic diseases compared to non-rice eaters. The researchers reported that rice eaters are:

  • 1/3 less likely to have high blood pressure;
  • 1/4 less likely to have a high waist circumference (often linked to obesity and diabetes risk);
  • 1/5 less likely to have metabolic syndrome.

Research shows U.S. rice consumption has increased steadily over the past 20 years, with current per capita consumption at 26 pounds per person. Surveys show that rice is most frequently served as a side dish or one pot meal.

The research was supported by a grant from the USA Rice Federation.

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Mediterranean Diet Helps With Diabetes

Eating a Mediterranean-style diet may help people with type 2 diabetes keep their disease under control without drugs better than following a typical low-fat diet.A new study from Italy shows that people with type 2 diabetes who ate a Mediterranean diet rich in vegetables and whole grains with at least 30% of daily calories from fat (mostly olive oil) were better able to manage their disease without diabetes medications than those who ate a low-fat diet with no more than 30% of calories from fat (with less than 10% coming from saturated fat choices).

After four years, researchers found that 44% of people on the Mediterranean diet ended up requiring diabetes medications to control their blood sugars compared with 70% of those who followed the low-fat diet.

It’s one of the longest-term studies of its kind, and researchers, including Katherine Esposito, MD, of the Second University of Naples, say the results “reinforce the message that benefits of lifestyle interventions should not be overlooked.”

Best Diet for Diabetes Control

In the study, researchers randomly assigned 215 overweight people recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes who had never been treated with diabetes medications to either a Mediterranean-style diet or a low-fat diet.

The Mediterranean diet was rich in vegetables and whole grains and low in red meat, which was replaced with fish or poultry. Overall, the diet consisted of no more than 50% of daily calories from carbohydrates and no less than 30% of calories from fat.

The low-fat diet was based on American Heart Association guidelines and was rich in whole grains and limited in sweets with no more than 30% of calories from fat and 10% from saturated fats, such as animal fats.

After four years of follow-up, the Mediterranean diet group had better glycemic (blood sugar) control and were less likely to require diabetes medications to bring their blood sugar within healthy levels.

In addition, people who followed the Mediterranean diet group also experienced improvement in other heart disease risk factors. Interestingly, weight loss was relatively comparable between the two groups by the end of the trial, suggesting that attributes of the Mediterranean diet beyond weight loss affect blood sugar control.

SOURCES: Esposito, K. Annals of Internal Medicine, Sept. 1, 2009; vol 151: pp 306-315. News release, American College of Physicians.

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