All Posts tagged journal

Fruit & Veg may not help allergy

Eating more fruits and vegetables may not protect children from developing allergies, according to a large Swedish study that questions earlier hints of benefit. Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants, which are thought to reduce airway inflammation. So recent studies reporting less asthma, wheezing and hay fever among children who consumed more produce appeared to make sense.

But not all research has found that link, and the studies that did may have had a surprising flaw, said Helen Rosenlund of Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, who led the new study. She said some proteins in fruits like apples and pears resemble the pollen parts that trigger hay fever, meaning that kids might react to both. In other words, existing allergies may have caused them to eat around the produce, rather than the other way around. “This could confuse research findings,” explained Rosenlund, “falsely suggesting that diets with fewer fruits and vegetables result in more allergic disease.”

To find out if this was the case, Rosenlund and her colleagues looked at data on nearly 2,500 eight-year-olds who had participated since birth in a larger Swedish study. Based on blood tests and questionnaires filled out by parents, the researchers found that seven percent of the children had asthma. The rates of hay fever and skin rashes were more than twice as high. The average child ate between one and two servings of fruit, and between two and three servings of vegetables each day.

At first glance, some produce did seem helpful: Kids with the biggest appetite for fruit had less than two-thirds the odds of developing hay fever than those who ate the least amount. Apples, pears and carrots appeared to be particularly helpful, the researchers report in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, but there was no such link for vegetables overall. However, it turned out that half the children with hay fever were sensitive to birch tree pollen, one of the pollens known to resemble the proteins in apples and carrots. And sure enough, after the team repeated their analysis excluding the 122 kids with food-related allergy symptoms, the hay fever link disappeared as well. “Fruits do not seem to offer protection against allergic if diet modifications are considered,” say Rosenlund.

The researchers say more studies are needed, particularly in other parts of the world that may have a different variety of allergy triggers, or allergens. And they advise those studies should not forget to look at how allergies might influence what participants eat. “Studying diet it is not so easy when it comes to the relation with allergic disease,” Rosenlund said, “because it is such a complex disease pattern.”

SOURCE: bit.ly/g3DpI7 The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, online January 10, 2011.

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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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Studies support 3 glasses of milk daily

Individuals who drink three glasses of milk a day decrease their risk of cardiovascular disease by 18 percent, according to new research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.Researchers at Wageningen University and Harvard University examined 17 studies from the United States, Europe and Japan and found no link between the consumption of regular or low fat dairy and any increased risk of heart disease, stroke or total mortality. “Milk and dairy are the most nutritious and healthy foods available and loaded with naturally occurring nutrients, such as calcium, potassium and protein, to name a few,” said Cindy Schweitzer, technical director of the Global Dairy Platform. “It's about going back to the basics; maintaining a healthy lifestyle doesn't have to be a scientific equation.”

Schweitzer said during the past three decades as research sought to understand influencers of cardiovascular disease, simplified dietary advice including consuming only low fat dairy products emerged. However, in 2010 alone, a significant amount of new research was published from all over the world, supporting the health benefits of dairy. From dispelling the myth that dairy causes heart disease, to revealing dairy's weight loss-benefits, the following is a roundup of select dairy research conducted in 2010:

  • U.S. researchers examined 21 studies that included data from nearly 350,000 and concluded that dietary intakes of saturated fats are not associated with increases in the risk of either coronary heart disease or cardiovascular disease. The study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
  • A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology examined 23,366 Swedish men and revealed that intakes of calcium above the recommended daily levels may reduce the risk of mortality from heart disease and cancer by 25 percent.
  • An Australian study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that overall intake of dairy products was not associated with mortality. The 16-year prospective study of 1,529 Australian adults found that people who ate the most full-fat dairy had a 69-percent lower risk of cardiovascular death than those who ate the least.
  • A Danish study published in Physiology & Behavior concluded that an inadequate calcium intake during an energy restricted weight-loss program may trigger hunger and impair compliance to the diet.
  • An Israeli study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that a higher dairy calcium intake is related to greater diet-induced weight loss. The study sampled more than 300 overweight men and women during two years and found those with the highest dairy calcium intake lost 38-percent more weight than those with the lowest dairy calcium intake.

The amount of dairy recommended per day varies by country and is generally based on nutrition needs and food availability. “In the US and some European countries, three servings of dairy foods are recommended daily, said Dr. Schweitzer.”

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Obesity may interfere with Vitamin D absorption

The more obese a person is, the poorer his or her vitamin D status, a new study by a team of Norwegian researchers suggests. The study found an inverse relationship between excess pounds and an insufficient amount of vitamin D, which is critical to cell health, calcium absorption and proper immune function. Vitamin D deficiency can raise the risk for bone deterioration and certain types of cancer. The researchers also suggest that overweight and obese people may have problems processing the vitamin properly.

The team noted that after the so-called “sunshine vitamin” is initially absorbed (through either sun exposure or the consumption of such foods as oily fish and fortified milk), the body must then convert it into a usable form, called 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D. This conversion process, however, seems to be short-circuited among obese people, complicating efforts to gauge their true vitamin D health.

The findings are published in the January issue of the Journal of Nutrition.

To investigate the impact of obesity on vitamin D absorption, the team spent six years tracking 1,464 women and 315 men, with an average age of 49. Based on the participants' body mass index (BMI), an indicator of body fatness calculated from a persons weight and height, the average participant was deemed to be obese. About 11 percent were categorized as “morbidly obese.”

From the outset, overall vitamin D levels were found to be below the healthy range, the authors noted. By the end of the study, overall levels of vitamin D were found to have dropped off “significantly” while BMI readings rose by 5 percent. The research team concluded that having a higher-than-normal weight, body fat and BMI was linked to a poorer vitamin D profile. For example, people with the lowest BMI readings had 14 percent higher vitamin D levels than those with the highest BMI readings. Because vitamin D levels did not correlate properly with 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D levels (and in fact appeared to have an abnormal inverse relationship), the authors suggested that future efforts to explore vitamin D status among obese people should test for both measures of vitamin D health.

They also suggested that people who are overweight and obese might benefit from vitamin D supplementation and more exposure to sunlight.

SOURCE: Journal of Nutrition, news release, Dec. 14, 2010

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Obesity may interfere with Vitamin D absorption

The more obese a person is, the poorer his or her vitamin D status, a new study by a team of Norwegian researchers suggests. The study found an inverse relationship between excess pounds and an insufficient amount of vitamin D, which is critical to cell health, calcium absorption and proper immune function. Vitamin D deficiency can raise the risk for bone deterioration and certain types of cancer.

The researchers also suggest that overweight and obese people may have problems processing the vitamin properly.

The team noted that after the so-called “sunshine vitamin” is initially absorbed (through either sun exposure or the consumption of such foods as oily fish and fortified milk), the body must then convert it into a usable form, called 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D. This conversion process, however, seems to be short-circuited among obese people, complicating efforts to gauge their true vitamin D health.

The findings are published in the January issue of the Journal of Nutrition.

To investigate the impact of obesity on vitamin D absorption, the team spent six years tracking 1,464 women and 315 men, with an average age of 49. Based on the participants' body mass index (BMI), an indicator of body fatness calculated from a persons weight and height, the average participant was deemed to be obese. About 11 percent were categorized as “morbidly obese.”

From the outset, overall vitamin D levels were found to be below the healthy range, the authors noted. By the end of the study, overall levels of vitamin D were found to have dropped off “significantly” while BMI readings rose by 5 percent.

The research team concluded that having a higher-than-normal weight, body fat and BMI was linked to a poorer vitamin D profile. For example, people with the lowest BMI readings had 14 percent higher vitamin D levels than those with the highest BMI readings. Because vitamin D levels did not correlate properly with 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D levels (and in fact appeared to have an abnormal inverse relationship), the authors suggested that future efforts to explore vitamin D status among obese people should test for both measures of vitamin D health.

They also suggested that people who are overweight and obese might benefit from vitamin D supplementation and more exposure to sunlight.

SOURCE: Journal of Nutrition, news release, Dec. 14, 2010

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Watercress may help fight cancer

The pilot study used four women, all of whom were breast cancer survivors, and monitored changes in their blood of key molecules involved in the growth of cancer cells. The participants were asked to fast on the day of the tests and had blood samples taken before and after eating a portion of watercress. The scientists found that six hours after they had eaten the leaves, the women experienced a drop in the activity of a molecule called 4E binding protein, which is thought to be involved in helping cancer cells survive.

Laboratory studies also showed that extracts taken from watercress leaves inhibited the growth of breast cancer cells. The findings build on epidemiological studies that have shown people who eat watercress and other vegetables rich in isothiocyanates, such as broccoli and cabbage, are at lower risk of developing cancer.

Hazel Nunn, Cancer Research UK's health information manager, said the current study was too small to draw any firm conclusions.

She added: “Watercress may well have benefits but there's no reason to believe that it should be superior to a generally healthy, balanced diet that is high in fibre, vegetables and fruit and low in red and processed meat, salt, saturated fat and alcohol.”

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Red meat raises heart attack risk

Eating red meat and processed meats like bacon sharply increased heart disease risk in women, U.S. researchers say.Researchers at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston suggest eating healthier protein-rich foods — such as fish, poultry, low-fat dairy and nuts — instead of red and processed meats, may reduce heart disease risk.

“There are good protein-rich sources that do not involve red meat,” first author Dr. Adam Bernstein says in a statement. “You don't need to have hot dogs, hamburgers, bologna or pastrami, which are all fresh or processed meats.”

The study, published in the journal Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, finds women having two servings per day of red meat had a 30 percent higher risk of developing coronary heart disease than those who had half a serving per day.

The risk of heart disease was lowered 30 percent when a daily serving of red meat was replaced by nuts. Another red-meat replacement — fish — lowered cardiac risk 24 percent and poultry reduced heart risk by 19 percent.

Bernstein and colleagues examined medical history and lifestyle — including diet — for 84,136 women, ages 30-55, enrolled the Nurses' Health Study from 1980 to 2006. During the 26-year period, the researchers documented 2,210 non-fatal heart attacks and 952 deaths from coronary heart disease.

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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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Benefits of Calcium and Vitamin D

Led by researchers at Copenhagen University in Denmark, Robbins and an international team of colleagues analyzed the results of seven large clinical trials from around the world to assess the effectiveness of vitamin D alone or with calcium in reducing fractures among people averaging 70 years or older. The researchers could not identify any significant effects for people who only take vitamin D supplements.

Among the clinical trial results analyzed was Robbins' WHI research, which was part of a 15-year, national program to address the most common causes of death, disability and poor quality of life in postmenopausal women such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and osteoporosis. Those trials were primarily designed to study the effect of calcium and vitamin D supplementation in preventing hip fractures, with a secondary objective of testing the supplements on spine and other types of fractures, as well as on colorectal cancer. The results were published in the Feb. 16, 2006 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Fractures are a major cause of disability, loss of independence and death for older people. The injuries are often the result of osteoporosis, or porous bone, a disease characterized by low bone mass and bone fragility. The National Osteoporosis Foundation estimates that about 10 million Americans have osteoporosis; 80 percent of them are women. Four of 10 women over age 50 will experience a fracture of the hip, spine or wrist in their lifetime, and osteoporosis-related fractures were responsible for an estimated $19 billion in health-related costs in 2005.

“This study supports a growing consensus that combined calcium and vitamin D is more effective than vitamin D alone in reducing a variety of fractures,” said Robbins. “Interestingly, this combination of supplements benefits both women and men of all ages, which is not something we fully expected to find. We now need to investigate the best dosage, duration and optimal way for people to take it.”

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Omega 3s Show Health Benefits for Non-Fish Eaters

Increased intakes of omega-3 fatty acids may decrease the risk of heart disease and heart attack in people with low fish intakes, says a new study from The Netherlands. Daily intakes of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) of about 240 milligrams was associated with a 50 per cent reduction in the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD), compared with intakes of about 40 milligrams, according to findings published in the Journal of Nutrition. Furthermore, the highest average intake of DHA and EPA was associated with a 38 per cent reduction in the heart attack, said researchers from Wageningen University following a study with over 21,000 people with low fish intakes.

The heart health benefits of consuming oily fish, and the omega-3 fatty acids they contain, are well-documented, being first reported in the early 1970s by Jorn Dyerberg and his co-workers in The Lancet and The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. To date, the polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) have been linked to improvements in blood lipid levels, a reduced tendency of thrombosis, blood pressure and heart rate improvements, and improved vascular function.

Omega-3 fatty acids, most notably DHA and EPA, have been linked to a wide-range of health benefits, including reduced risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and certain cancers, good development of a baby during pregnancy, joint health, and improved behaviour and mood.

Study details

Intakes of EPA plus DHA, and fish were assessed in 21,342 people aged between 20 and 65. Fish intakes ranged from 1.1 to 17.3 grams per day. Over the course of an average of 11.3 years, the researchers documented 647 deaths, of which 82 were linked to coronary heart disease, with 64 of these being heart attack.

According to the results, the highest average intake of EPA plus DHA (234 milligrams per day) was associated with a 51 per cent reduction in the risk of fatal CHD, compared to the lowest average intake (40 mg per day).

“In conclusion, in populations with a low fish consumption, EPA+DHA and fish may lower fatal CHD and [heart attack] risk in a dose-responsive manner,” wrote the researchers.

Source: Journal of Nutrition
“Marine (n-3) Fatty Acids, Fish Consumption, and the 10-Year Risk of Fatal and Nonfatal Coronary Heart Disease in a Large Population of Dutch Adults with a Low Fish Intake”
Authors: J. de Goede, J.M. Geleijnse, J.M. A. Boer, D. Kromhout, W. M.M. Verschuren

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