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Most Brits are “replete’ in iron

A UK report has found most Brits gain adequate levels of iron, but warned that the elderly, small children, girls, some women and the poor may be susceptible to deficiencies and should consider iron supplementation among other measures. “While most people in the UK are iron replete, health professionals need to be alert to increased risk of iron deficiency anaemia in toddlers, girls and women of reproductive age (particularly those from low income groups) and some adults aged over 65 years,” wrote the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition’s Committee on Medical Aspects of Food and Nutrition Policy (COMA).

“Those with symptoms suggesting iron deficiency anaemia should receive appropriate clinical assessment and advice, including dietary advice on how to increase their iron intakes and to consider use of iron supplements if required.” The report updated COMA’s 1998 finding that high levels of red meat consumption were linked to colorectal cancer and also investigated the effects of reduced iron-rich red meat consumption. COMA concluded that a, “healthy balanced diet, which includes a variety of foods containing iron” is the best way to attain, “adequate iron status”.

“Such an approach is more important than consuming iron-rich foods at the same time as foods/drinks that enhance iron absorption (e.g., fruit juice, meat) or not consuming iron rich foods with those that inhibit iron absorption (e.g., tea, coffee, milk),” the committee said.

On the issue or red meat consumption COMA found that reduced red meat consumption levels would not cause widespread iron deficiencies. “Adults with relatively high intakes of red and processed meat (around 90 g/day or more) should consider reducing their intakes. A reduction to the UK population average for adult consumers (70 g/day cooked weight) would have little impact on the proportion of the adult population with low iron intakes.”

Current UK guidelines state that 3.2 oz (90g) is a healthy daily portion of red meat, and that only those who eat more than 5oz (140g) need to cut back. However some research has challenged these levels. A 2005 European study found those who regularly eat more than 5.6oz (160g) of red meat daily increase their risk of contracting bowel cancer by a third. In 2007, the World Cancer Research Fund report in 2007 concluded that there was a link between red meat consumption and an increased risk of bowel cancer.

The COMA report follows research from the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) which contradicts these recommendations

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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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Caffeine consumption common in kids

Even young children appear to be consuming more caffeine, so much so that caffeine could be contributing to sleep problems in primary school children, researchers found. Three-quarters of children ages 5 to 12 consumed caffeine on an average day in a survey of parents at routine clinic visits by William J. Warzak, PhD, of the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, and colleagues. The more caffeine children consumed, the fewer hours they slept on average (P=0.02), the researchers reported online in the Journal of Pediatrics, although not drawing a causal link. The average intake was two or three times higher than the 22- to 23-mg daily average reported nearly a decade ago, they noted.

Eight- to 12-year-olds in Warzak's study averaged 109 mg of caffeine — the equivalent of nearly three 12-oz cans of soda each day. But even the 52 mg of caffeine consumed by 5- to 7-year-olds on an typical day was well above the level known to have a physiologic effect on adults, the researchers noted. “There's really no role for caffeine in kids,” Marcie Schneider, MD, of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, emphasized in commenting on the study. “We know that caffeine raises your blood pressure, raises your heart rate, and can be addictive.” Unlike older teens who are likely drinking coffee to wake up in the mornings for school, the assumption is that younger kids are getting most of their caffeine from soda, noted Schneider, who serves as a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition.

She urged pediatricians to raise parents' awareness of the issue, perhaps as part of the yearly checkup. “We routinely ask kids what they're eating and drinking,” “It may be something that is worth pediatricians pointing out to parents that this kid does not need caffeine in their life partially because it does some things that are negative.”

Warzak's group surveyed parents of 228 children seen at an urban outpatient pediatric clinic during routine visits about the children's average daily consumption of drinks and snacks with an emphasis on caffeine-containing items. None of the children had a known sleep disorder or medical condition that might cause bedwetting. Illustrated depictions were provided to help parents accurately estimate serving sizes.

Nearly all of the caffeine intake was consumed through beverages. Few children got a meaningful amount of caffeine from food. “Caffeine's diuretic properties have encouraged behavioral health practitioners to eliminate caffeine from the diet of children with enuresis,” the researchers noted. However, they found that intake didn't correlate with the number of nights a child wet the bed (P=0.49). Overall, enuresis was actually less likely in children who consumed caffeine.

The researchers cautioned that interpretation of these results may be complicated by cultural differences in reporting children's behavioral health concerns and that their study could not draw any causal conclusions. Schneider also noted the use of parental reports and the relatively small sample as limitations. Although the findings offered no support for removing caffeine from children's diets on the basis of bedwetting, Warzak's group concluded in the paper that “given the potential effects of caffeine on childhood behavior, a screen of caffeine consumption might be beneficial when evaluating childhood behavioral health concerns.”

Source: Warzak WJ, et al “Caffeine consumption in young children” J Pediatr 2011; DOI: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2010.11.022.

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Link between diet soft drink and preterm delivery

Could drinking one or more artificially sweetened, carbonated diet sodas a day boost a woman's odds of premature delivery? A new study from Denmark suggests such a link.dblclick('xxlA');

The researchers looked at the soft drink habits of nearly 60,000 Danish women enrolled in a national study there from 1996 to 2002. The investigators found a link between the intake of diet carbonated drinks and, to a lesser extent, diet noncarbonated drinks and delivering a baby early.

The study is published online and in the September print issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. In the report, the researchers conclude: “Daily intake of artificially sweetened soft drinks may increase the risk of preterm delivery.”

The researchers defined preterm as delivering before 37 weeks' gestation. They categorized the women into groups depending on beverage drinking habits: those who never drank soft drinks or those who drank less than one per week, one to six per week, one each day, two or three per day, or four or more daily. In all, 4.6 percent of the women delivered early, and one-third of those deliveries were medically induced. The team found no association between the premature delivery and the intake of carbonated drinks sweetened with sugar.

However, compared with those who never drank the beverages, women who downed four or more diet (artificially sweetened) carbonated drinks a day were 78 percent more likely to deliver early than women who never drank the beverages. And those who had four or more diet, noncarbonated drinks daily were 29 percent more likely to deliver early. Those who had one or more carbonated diet drinks a day were 38 percent more likely to deliver early.

Why the diet drinks, especially, were linked with early delivery is not known, but the researchers speculate that the link may be driven by high blood pressure disorders in pregnancy. They note that other studies have found a link between soft drinks and high blood pressure in non-pregnant women.

 

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Meat Lovers Gain More Weight Over Time

Heavy meat-eating could be part of an overall unhealthy diet or unhealthy lifestyle, Vergnaud and her team note.

Because meat is “energy-dense” (meaning it packs more calories by weight than veggies or fruits, for example), it could influence appetite control, they add. However, the researchers did attempt to take overall dietary pattern into account, as well as education, physical activity level, whether or not people smoked, and their total calorie intake.

Based on the findings, a person who cut their meat consumption by 250 grams daily (about a half-pound) could conceivably reduce their 5-year weight gain by around 4 pounds.

While this is a relatively small amount of weight from an individual's point of view, the researchers add, gaining an average of 4 pounds in 5 years “could have an important effect from a population perspective.”

“More importantly,” they add, “our results do not support that a high-protein diet prevents obesity or promotes long-term weight loss, contrary to what has been advocated.”

SOURCE: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, online June 30, 2010.

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Cheese improves immune response of elderly

To tackle immunosenescene the team targeted the gastrointestinal tract, which is the main entry for bacteria cells into the body through food and drink and is also the site where 70% of vital immunoglobulin cells are created.

The team asked volunteers aged between 72 and 103, all of which lived in the same care home, to eat one slice of either placebo or probiotic Gouda cheese with their breakfast for four weeks. Blood tests where then carried out to discover the effect of probiotic bacteria contained within the cheese on the immune system.

The results revealed a clear enhancement of natural and acquired immunity through the activation of NK blood cells and an increase in phagocytic activity.

“The aim of our study was to see if specific probiotic bacteria in cheese would have immune enhancing effects on healthy older individuals in a nursing home setting,” concluded Ibrahim. “We have demonstrated that the regular intake of probiotic cheese can help to boost the immune system and that including it in a regular diet may help to improve an elderly person's immune response to external challenges.

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Increase risk from animal protein

For the first time, in a large prospective study, researchers have identified an association between high protein intake and a significantly increased risk of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). While doctors have long suspected that diet contributes to IBD, little has been assessed, and the studies conducted have been retrospective, which are less informative because they rely on the study participants' ability to recall what they have consumed in the past. This study examined the effects of different sources and amounts of protein.

Using participants in France's E3N cohort study, researchers led by Prevost Jantchou, MD, of the Center for Research in Epidemiology and Population and colleagues identified 77 women ages 40 to 65 with validated cases of IBD. In each case, the onset of IBD occurred after the first dietary questionnaire was administered, thereby assuring that they could be studied prospectively.

Dr. Jantchou examined participants' macronutrient (protein, fat and carbohydrate) intake, and determined that more than two-thirds of them had elevated levels of protein intake. Participants were divided into three groups based on their mean protein intake: the lowest intake group had a mean daily protein intake of 1.08 grams/kg of body weight; the middle group had 1.52 grams/kg; and the highest group had 2.07 grams/kg. The FDA recommends a daily intake of 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.

When examining the effects of specific types of protein, Jantchou found that animal protein represented a threefold risk of developing IBD in the highest group compared to the lowest group. Specifically, animal protein from meat and fish, not dairy, created an increased risk, while vegetable protein created no increased risk of developing IBD.

Researchers found that the increased risk from animal protein intake were the same for Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. They also found that smoking and hormonal therapy, two factors known to be related to the risk of IBD, did not change their results.

“Our findings represent a tremendous step forward in our understanding of inflammatory bowel disease,” said Dr. Jantchou. “For years we've known there was a connection between diet and IBD, and we now know specifically which aspect of diet is related to disease occurrence. The next step is to look at the effect of animal protein in patients already diagnosed with IBD to be able to give them better dietary advice.”

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