A new study links the Mediterranean Diet to lower risk of Macular Degeneration

A new article in the journal Ophthalmology examined the diets and health outcomes of almost 5,000 participants who recorded their eating habits and wellness outcomes over several years. After analyzing the group’s food frequency questionnaires (which help paint a picture of what foods people tend to eat frequently or avoid), the researchers found that those following a Mediterranean-style diet had a 41% lower chance of developing macular degeneration.

The most interesting finding that that no single element of the Mediterranean diet correlated strongly to risk of macular degeneration, which implies that the protection came from the diet as a whole rather than any one portion. The Mediterranean diet is rich in fruits and vegetables, high in fiber with whole grains and legume consumption, and full of healthy unsaturated fats from plant oils, nuts, and fatty fish, while meat can be consumed in small amounts. These elements combine to help fuel your body and protect you from cellular damage. Adhering to this diet has been linked to cardiovascular health and lower risk of cancer, as well. To learn more about the components of a Mediterranean diet, check out these sources:

Bonus reading: Visit this summary from The Olive Oil Times to see The Peoples Plate featured as a nutrition professional commentator on the study’s findings!

Rise and Shine!

A new study found in Frontiers in Endocrinology links early morning behavior with lower BMI and lower risk of Type II DM.

Participants with pre-diabetes were given a score on something called the Composite Scale of Morningness, which was a number representing how early the like to wake up, go to sleep, and go about their day (physical and mental activity). ‘Morningness,’ or the tendency to do everything earlier than most, was linked to lower BMI, as was longer sleep duration. The findings were strongest for those 60 and older.

Would you shift your schedule for health benefits?

To read the original article, visit the text online here.

Let them eat carbs! … in the right amounts.

A new study published in The Lancet addresses one of the most pressing questions in the history of human nutrition: Are carbs okay to eat, and if so, how much can I have?!

Carbohydrates get a bad name in popular nutrition media, partly because so many of our favorite junk foods are high in processed grains and refined sugars (ice cream, cookies, white bread, donuts, chocolate, chips…) along with the inherent nature of carbohydrates to be relatively fast-fuel for our bodies — though they’re often turned to fat because we simply don’t burn them as fast as we eat them.  On the other hand, whole grains, fresh fruit, corn, peas, milk, and yogurt are all wonderful foods that are also packed with carbs. This brings us back to our burning question: can I eat carbs or not?

The study published this month explored longevity for people following low-carb or high-carb diets in comparison to moderate-carb diets where about 50-55% of calories come from carbohydrate. For a frame of reference, the currently recommended carbohydrate intake range is 45-65%, so the moderate levels falls nicely in line with this. Those who did follow the moderate-carb diets had the lowest risk of mortality compared to those who ate <40% or >70% of their calories from carbs.

This study hit all of the golden points for quality research: there was a large pool of participants (over 15,000 adults) who were followed for a long period of time (median of 25 years). Most importantly, the researchers dove a bit deeper into why a low-carb diet may be just as dangerous as a high-carb one.  When people cut out carbohydrates, something else must take its place so protein and/or fat intake increases to make up the difference. These can either come from animal sources (meat, dairy) or plant sources (nuts, seeds, whole grains). The researchers explored these two options and found that those who eat more animal-sourced protein and fats have higher mortality risks than those who choose plant-based proteins and fats instead, indicating that a plant-based diet may have protective factors.

The original article has been published as Open Access, meaning that anyone can read it – so check it out here!

Cutting Calories to Cut Cancer Risk

Many people try to lose weight to feel a bit better, move more easily, and maybe fit into that smaller pair of pants– but did you know that extra weight is also tied to about 20% of all cancers?

Because it’s difficult to control lifestyle factors at a major level, most studies linking weight to cancer are Observational in nature– meaning that we can look at what is happening in a population without actually controlling any variables. This data can be less reliable but, when many studies are viewed as a group, can indicate strong relationships. A study from The British Medical Journal evaluated over 200 observational studies and found a link between obesity, waist circumference, and weight gain and several cancers, with the strongest evidence linking obesity to esophageal, pancreatic, liver/gallbladder, colorectal, and kidney cancers — all related to the GI tract– as well as bone marrow and endometrial cancers. 

The mechanism underlying the causation is unknown, though National Cancer Institute believes that a few key factors may contribute to the relationship:

  • Inflammation: Obesity is generally accompanied by chronic inflammation, which is repeatedly linked to cellular dysfunction and cancer development.
  • Hormones: Fat cells tend to excrete more estrogen than other cells, which may increase risks of hormone-sensitive cancers like breast or ovarian.
  • Insulin: High body weight generally leads to higher insulin levels in the body, which may increase risk of colon, cancer, and endometrial cancers.

According to the American Cancer Society, the best advice for a cancer-free life is to stay lean without being underweight, meaning that a BMI between 18.5 and 25 (which is considered ‘normal’) is a good reference range. Even losing a small percentage of body weight can help lower health-related risks.

 

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Let Them Drink Coffee

Coffee drinkers, rejoice! A new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine linked coffee consumption with longer lifespan, confirming what we coffee-lovers had always known to be true: those beans are magic.

The study followed more than 185,000 adults for up to 20 years and found that coffee drinkers were less likely die than their non-caffeinated counterparts, and these findings held true for several ethnic subgroups (white, Latino, Japanese American, and African American).  Those who drank one cup per day were 12% less likely to have died during the study period, while those who drank more were actually 18% less likely- indicating that the coffee may have strong protective health effects.

A similar study also published this month examined this possible connection in over 520,000 Europeans. The researchers also found that participants who drank the most coffee were 7-12% less likely to die during the study, as well as decreased risk of death specifically from circulatory diseases and stroke among the women in the study (though there was also a connection between coffee consumption and ovarian cancer mortality).

The overall verdict: Whether it’s the caffeine, the polyphenols, or the sheer joy that comes from sipping your favorite brew, it appears that enjoying your daily coffee may help add a few more years to your life.