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Veggies and exercise improve vision in women

It's the same advice that mothers everywhere have been giving for years, but now there's science to back it up: Eating veggies is good for the eyes. A new study from the University of Wisconsin confirmed that women who have a healthy diet, exercised regularly and didn't smoke were less likely to suffer macular degeneration as they got older. Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision problems in older people in the United States, researchers said.

The study of 1,313 women from Oregon, Iowa and Wisconsin is the first to look at several lifestyle factors that influenced age-related macular degeneration (AMD), according to a release from the university. These findings show a healthy lifestyle can improve the chances of good eyesight for those who inherit the condition, according to Dr. Julie Mares of the UW School of Medicine and Public Health.

According to the study, 18 percent of women deemed to have unhealthy lifestyles developed early AMD while just 6 percent of women in the healthy-lifestyle group developed the condition. Researchers found that the association of healthy eyes and healthy overall diets was stronger than what they observed for any single nutrient. Women whose diet score was the in top 20 percent had a 50 percent lower prevalence of early stages of macular degeneration than woman with the lowest percent for healthy diet scores. Higher scores were given to those with more leafy green and orange vegetables, fruits, dairy, grains and legumes, according to the release.

Mares said this was the first study where researchers found higher levels of physical activity lowered the likelihood of early macular degeneration. However, this study didn't show obesity was related to AMD, but obese women were more likely to have more macular degeneration. That trend was explained by a poor diet and low physical activity, according to the university. The study also confirmed other studies that smoking played a role in eye disease.

The university said the study is being published online in the Archives of Ophthalmology, a journal of the American Medical Association. The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health, National Eye Institute. It was also supported by the Research to Prevent Blindness and the Retina Research Foundation.

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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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Blackcurrants show anti-asthma potential

Study details

Led by Dr Roger Hurst, the New Zealand-based researchers examined the effects of the anthocyanidin-rich blackcurrant extract on cells from lung tissue. The researchers focussed on a compound called eotaxin-3 or CCL26, which is expressed in the lungs after stimulation of the cells by cytokine interleukin-4 (IL-4). According to their findings, epigallocatechin (EGC) worked in conjunction with other natural immune responses to suppress CCl26 expression, and therefore inflammation. Furthermore, these actions were distinct from the inflammation-reducing activity of anthocycanins, said the researchers.

“The bioavailability of plant-derived phytochemicals, although not the focus of this particular study, is an important consideration in the design of a functional food,” wrote Dr Hurst and his co-workers. “In particular, blackcurrant- derived proanthocyanidins mainly (480 per cent) consist of high molecular weight polymers, however, recent findings show that these large proanthocyanidins can be broken down by chemical, enzymatic and/or resident microflora in various regions of the digestive tract to release small oligomers and monomers that are easily absorbed, such as EGC and epicatechin. “Therefore, it is feasible that blackcurrant metabolites, such as EGC, may be able to modulate eotaxin expression in lung tissue,” they added.

Plant & Food Research's Dr Roger Hellens, Genomics Science Group Leader, will be presenting at the upcoming NutraIngredients Antioxidants 2010 Conference in Brussels on the subject of super Vegetables. 

Source: Molecular Nutrition and Food Research
“Blackcurrant proanthocyanidins augment IFN-gamma-induced suppression of IL-4 stimulated CCL26 secretion in alveolar epithelial cells”
Authors: S.M. Hurst, T.K. McGhie, J.M. Cooney, D.J. Jensen, E.M. Gould, K.A. Lyall, R.D. Hurst

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