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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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Infant obesity widespread in the USA

A study led by Brian Moss of Wayne State University’s School of Social Work reveals that one third of infants in the U.S. are obese or at risk of obesity. In addition, of the 8,000 infants studied, those found to be obese at 9 months had a higher risk of being obese at 2 years. Other studies have revealed that Infant obesity increases the risk for later childhood obesity and could lead to other obesity-related health problems like heart disease, asthma, high blood pressure and cancer. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood and infant obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years.

Moss, in collaboration with William H. Yeaton from the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, published their analysis, “Young Children’s Weight Trajectories and Associated Risk Factors: Results from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort (ECLS-B),” in the January/February 2011 issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion. The ECLS-B draws from a representative sample of American children born in 2001 with diverse socioeconomic and racial/ethnic backgrounds. It is one of the first studies to monitor weight status changes of a nationally representative sample of very young children.

For their study, Moss and Yeaton used results from ECLS-B to follow the trajectory of the infants’ weight status at 9 months and 2 years, then performed statistical analyses to examine whether weight persistence, loss or gain was linked to demographic characteristics such as sex, race/ethnicity, geographic region or socioeconomic status. Children above the 95th percentile on standard growth charts were considered to have infant obesity, children in the 85th to 95th percentile were considered at risk for obesity.

Some of their results show that:
• 31.9 percent of 9-month-olds were at risk or obese;
• 34.3 percent of 2-year-olds were obese or at risk for obesity;
• 17 percent of the infants were obese at 9 months, rising to 20 percent at 2 years;
• 44 percent of the infants who were obese at 9 months remained obese at 2 years;
• Hispanic and low-income children were at greater risk for weight status gain;
• Females and Asian/Pacific Islanders were at lower risk for undesirable weight changes;
• 40 percent of 2-year-olds from the lowest income homes were at risk or obese compared to 27 percent of those from the highest income homes.

“This study shows that a significant proportion of very young children in the United States is at risk or is obese,” said Moss. The team notes a consistent pattern of obesity starting early in life. “As obesity becomes an increasing public health concern, these findings will help guide health practitioners by targeting high risk populations and foster culturally sensitive interventions aimed at prevention and treatment of obesity,” Moss said.

“We are not saying that overweight babies are doomed to be obese adults. However, we have found evidence that being overweight at 9 months puts you on track for being overweight or obese later in childhood.”

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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.

 

fish

 

“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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Permanent damage from Fad Diets

OTHERWISE healthy teenage girls who diet regularly show worrying signs of malnutrition, Sydney researchers have found. The largest study of its kind shows pressure to be thin could be causing teenage girls serious harm, potentially preventing them from developing properly. The study of 480 girls, between 14 and 17, attending school in Sydney’s northern suburbs and on the central coast, found those who dieted often showed subtle but chronic signs of undernourishment compared to those who occasionally, or never, dieted. The girls were deficient in a number of nutrients and biochemicals, including calcium and protein, as well as haemoglobin, which is vital for transporting oxygen in the blood.

The study leader, Dr Ross Grant, said the teenagers were not getting the nutrients they needed to build their bodies. ”When you get through your adolescent years you should be the healthiest you are ever going to be, and these girls are not giving themselves the best chance to be healthy,” he said. Many students in the study were dieting even though, on average, they were not overweight. ”These are pretty much your average girls on the north shore. They are going to school and they are not unwell in any other way,” Dr Grant said. The low levels of calcium were particularly worrying, he said. ”Calcium is used as a signalling molecule for every cell in the body. If you are not getting enough calcium in your diet then your body starts to get it from wherever it can, which is the bones.”

Most researchers believe the amount of calcium consumed in a person’s teenage years sets the basic level available for the rest of their life. Media messages presenting excessively thin women as having an ideal body shape, or public health campaigns making girls overly aware of not consuming too many calories, could be to blame for dieting, said Dr Grant, who is the head of the Australasian Research Institute at the Sydney Adventist Hospital.

Christine Morgan, the chief executive of the Butterfly Foundation, an eating disorders advocacy group, said she was horrified, but not surprised, by the findings. ”Diets, by their very nature, are telling you to disregard your physiological appetite,” she said. ”These homespun diets result in us not putting the nutrients we need into our bodies.” Disordered eating – irregular eating behaviours that do not fall into the category of an eating disorder – had more than doubled in the past 10 years. ”It has become the norm,” Ms Morgan said.

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Mediterranean Diet May Keep Aging Mind Sharp

A new study shows following a Mediterranean style diet rich in vegetables, olive oil, and fish may keep the mind sharp and slow age-related cognitive decline.The diet typified by the Italians, Greeks, and other Mediterranean cultures has already been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some types of cancer. But this and other studies are now suggesting that the diet may also have healthy benefits for the mind.

The Mediterranean diet emphasizes fruits and vegetables, fish, legumes, non-refined cereals, olive oil, and moderate wine consumption, usually at meals. Researchers found older adults who followed the diet more closely had slower rates of age-related cognitive decline than those who didn't, even after adjusting for other factors such as educational level. “The more we can incorporate vegetables, olive oil, and fish into our diets and moderate wine consumption, the better for our aging brains and bodies,” says Christy Tangney, PhD, associate professor of clinical nutrition at Rush University, in a news release.

In the study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers analyzed information gathered by the ongoing Chicago Health and Aging Project, which follows 3,759 adults over the age of 65 living on the South Side of Chicago. Every three years, the participants took tests of memory and basic math skills and filled out a questionnaire on how often they eat 139 different foods. The study follow-up time was 7.6 years on average.

Researchers looked at how closely the participants followed a Mediterranean diet and then compared it to their scores on age-related cognitive decline. Out of a maximum score of 55 for total adherence to a Mediterranean diet, the average score was 28. The results showed those with higher than average scores had a slower rate of age-related mental decline than those with lower scores. Researchers also looked at how closely the participants followed the Healthy Eating Index-2005, which is based on the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. They found no relationship between adherence to this type of diet and the rate of age-related cognitive decline.

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More risk factors linked with overweight

The link between obesity and cardiac disease is not merely anecdotal, there is proof for that. Now, there is further proof that even overweight causes a clustering of risk factors for cardio vascular abnormalities. A recent publication in Heart Asia, a British Medical Journal, has showed that there is not much difference between the cardio vascular risk factors in obese and overweight people. “The clutch of risk factors – glucose intolerance, hyper tension, high cholesterol – are all significantly higher among overweight and obese subjects than among normal subjects,” Vijay Viswanathan, MV Hospital for Diabetes and Prof. M.Viswanthan Diabetes Research Center said. He co-authored the article with Shabana Tharkar, also from the Indian hospital.

The study, conducted among two groups – 2021 subjects aged over 20 years, and 1289 subjects aged 8-19 years – indicated that even among overweight, 'non-obese' people, the presence of major cardiovascular risk factors was not significantly different. While the total diabetes prevalence among the obese population is 28.4 per cent, among the overweight population is 25 per cent. Again, with hypertension, the value for the obese group is 34.2 per cent, while for the overweight population it is 27.6 per cent. In contrast, the corresponding values are 16.2 per cent (diabetes) and 20.2 (hypertension).

Similarly, the study showed higher values for triglycerides and high HDL cholesterol for both these groups.

Overweight was defined as a Body Mass Index, equal to, or in excess of 25 kg/m2 and obesity, a BMI of 30 kg/m2 or above. Further worrisome is the increasing rate of overweight and obesity among both men and women from 1995 to 2008, across all age groups. Dr. Viswanathan added that this is the result of rapid urbanisation. “Obesity has already hit the Western world and it is time for Indians to wake up to the alarm bells,” according to the article. Results from previous studies show a lower risk of developing diabetes with just a five per cent initial reduction in weight, Dr. Viswanathan said.

The findings highlight the urgent need for framing direct and indirect strategies to control the rising levels of obesity in the population, in order to substantially reduce the country's non communicable diseases burden, he added. Regulating the diet, reducing intake of fast foods and high-calorie meals, and upping physical activity and exercise on a regular basis would go a long way in keeping weight under control, diabetologists advise.

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A reversal on carbs

A growing number of top nutritional scientists blame excessive carbohydrates — not fat — for America's ills. They say cutting carbohydrates is the key to reversing obesity, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and hypertension. “Fat is not the problem,” says Dr. Walter Willett, chairman of the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. “If Americans could eliminate sugary beverages, potatoes, white bread, pasta, white rice and sugary snacks, we would wipe out almost all the problems we have with weight and diabetes and other metabolic diseases.”

It's a confusing message. For years we've been fed the line that eating fat would make us fat and lead to chronic illnesses. “Dietary fat used to be public enemy No. 1,” says Dr. Edward Saltzman, associate professor of nutrition and medicine at Tufts University. “Now a growing and convincing body of science is pointing the finger at carbs, especially those containing refined flour and sugar.”

Americans, on average, eat 250 to 300 grams of carbs a day, accounting for about 55% of their caloric intake. The most conservative recommendations say they should eat half that amount. Consumption of carbohydrates has increased over the years with the help of a 30-year-old, government-mandated message to cut fat.

And the nation's levels of obesity, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease have risen. “The country's big low-fat message backfired,” says Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. “The overemphasis on reducing fat caused the consumption of carbohydrates and sugar in our diets to soar. That shift may be linked to the biggest health problems in America today.”

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Milk and cheese reduce diabetes risk

Whole-fat dairy products containing high levels of a natural fatty acid might help lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, according to a recent research by U.S. scientists. A diet rich in milk, cheese, yogurt and butter contains trans-palmitoleic acid which is known to shield against insulin resistance and diabetes. “Our results demonstrate an inverse relationship between levels of trans-palmitoleate and metabolic risk factors and diabetes incidence,” Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, DrPH, of the Harvard School of Public Health, and coauthors wrote in conclusion. “The small differences in trans-palmitoleate levels raise questions about whether this is the active compound or a marker for some other, unknown protective constituent of dairy or other ruminant foods.”

The study
The study looked at 3,736 American seniors from Medicare eligibility lists aged 65 years or older. Physical tests, diagnostic testing, questionnaires on health status, and laboratory evaluation was conducted to evaluate the levels of 45 different fatty acids in the participants. They were further followed for 10 years with the help of annual clinic visits and interim telephone calls.

Study implications
Trans-palmitoleate was responsible for an average of 0.18 percent of total fatty acid levels, with whole-fat dairy consumption accounting for the highest trans-palmitoleatele proportions. Participants who had consumed high levels of whole-fat dairy products revealed higher levels of trans-palmitoleate acid in their blood three years later, Dariush and his co-authors reported in the December issue of the journal ‘Annals of Internal Medicine.’ Further, participants with the highest levels of the acid circulating in their blood faced two-third the risk of suffering from type 2 diabetes as compared to the ones with the lowest levels. Such people also had lesser fat on their bodies, higher proportions of good cholesterol and lower levels of C-reactive protein.

“This is an extremely strong protective effect, stronger than other things we know can be beneficial against diabetes,” said Gökhan Hotamisligil, the study’s senior author and chair of the department of genetics and complex diseases at Harvard School of Public Health. “The next step is to move forward with an intervention trial to see if there is therapeutic value in people,” he added in a statement.

The research has been funded by the U.S. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, the U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, the National Institute of Health Office of Dietary Supplements and National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

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Smoking is behind one third of rheumatoid arthritis

Smoking accounts for more than a third of cases of the most severe and common form of rheumatoid arthritis, indicates research published online in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases. And it accounts for more than half of cases in people who are genetically susceptible to development of the disease, finds the study.

The researchers base their findings on more than 1,200 people with rheumatoid arthritis and 871 people matched for age and sex, but free of the disease. The patients came from 19 health clinics in south and central Sweden, while their healthy peers were randomly selected from the population register. All the participants were aged between 18 and 70. They were quizzed about their smoking habits and grouped into three categories, depending on how long they had smoked. Blood samples were taken to assess all the participants' genetic profile for susceptibility to rheumatoid arthritis and to gauge the severity of their disease, as indicated by their antibody levels.

More than half of those with rheumatoid arthritis (61%) had the most severe form of the disease, which is also the most common form, as judged by testing positive for anticitrullinated protein/peptide antibody (ACPA). Those who were the heaviest smokers – 20 cigarettes a day for at least 20 years – were more than 2.5 times as likely to test positive for ACPA. The risk fell for ex-smokers, the longer they had given up smoking. But among the heaviest smokers, the risk was still relatively high, even after 20 years of not having smoked.

Based on these figures, the researchers calculated that smoking accounted for 35% of ACPA positive cases, and one in five cases of rheumatoid arthritis, overall. Although this risk is not as high as for lung cancer, where smoking accounts for 90% of cases, it is similar to that for coronary artery heart disease, say the authors. Among those with genetic susceptibility to the disease, and who tested positive for ACPA, smoking accounted for more than half the cases (55%). Those who smoked the most had the highest risk.

The authors point out that several other environmental factors may contribute to an increased risk of rheumatoid arthritis, including air pollutants and hormonal factors. But they suggest that their findings are sufficient to prompt those with a family history of rheumatoid arthritis to be advised to give up smoking.

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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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