Category Archives: Nutrition

Sugary Drinks Increase Risk of Cancer

In a study published three weeks ago, researchers from France looked at the relationship between the consumption of sugary drinks and the risk of cancer.

The average American consumes about 45 gallons of soda each year. An average 12 ounce can of soda contains upwards of 40 grams of total sugar, or about nine teaspoons of sugar.

A population-based prospective cohort study was completed with over 100,000 subjects from the French NutriNet-Sante study. Participants were 18 years of age and older, with a predominance of women (79%) to men (21%). Mean age at baseline was 42 years.

The sugary drink group consisted of energy drinks, fruit drinks, sodas, sports drinks, 100% juice drinks, among others. Consumption of sugary beverages was assessed by 24 hour dietary records. Association of beverage intake and risk of overall, breast, colorectal, and prostate cancer was assessed.

The researchers found that there was a positive association between the amount of sugary drink intake, and risk of overall cancer and breast cancer. Also, when looking specifically at 100% fruit juices these were also positively associated with risk of overall cancer.

Interestingly, the researchers did not find an association between artificially sweetened beverage consumption and the risk of cancer.

The researchers suggest several possible mechanisms by which sugary drinks may increase cancers risks. These include obesity, increased visceral fat, higher glycemic index, and increased pro-inflammatory markers.

This is a solid study, which included nearly 80,000 women. This study demonstrates how a simple dietary intervention, in this case limiting sugary beverages including 100% juices, may potentially have a meaningful impact on our health. Perhaps next time you are reaching for a soda, grab a glass of water instead.

“I can remember a reporter asking me for a quote, and I didn’t know what a quote was. I thought it was some kind of soft drink.” –  Joe DiMaggio

(Source- BMJ 2019; 365:12408)

This blog is a review of published medical and scientific literature, and should only be used for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical or health advice, nor does it create a physician-patient relationship with anyone. Discuss any health concerns with your personal physician.

 

 

Blueberry Juice May Lower Blood Pressure

July 8th is National Blueberry Day, and out of respect for this tasty fruit today’s post will review a study which examined the effects of wild blueberry juice in a group of adult women at high risk for diabetes mellitus type 2.

Both wild and cultivated blueberries are native to North America. Depending on altitude, latitude and weather the peak of the blueberry crop can vary from May to August. In the US there are many blueberry festivals which celebrate this delicious fruit. In places like Bethlehem PA, Burgaw NC and South Haven MI, among many others, blueberry lovers gather to celebrate.

The skins of the blueberries contain anthocyanins, which have anti-oxidant properties. Wild blueberries have one of the highest levels of anti-oxidants among fruits and vegetables. In the U.S., Maine is the largest producer of lowbush or wild blueberries, and produces over 100 million pounds annually.

A group from Canada and the U.S. performed a study examining the effects of wild blueberry juice on various cardiometabolic markers. The study population had at least two risk factors for type 2 diabetes, and thus were higher risk.

The study design was a randomized trial, with a placebo control. The subjects drank 240 ml of juice made from lowbush (wild) blueberries, while the control group drank a placebo beverage which was color and flavor matched to the blueberry juice. The blueberries were harvested from Prince Edward Island, Canada. Participants drank the blueberry juice daily for a week, followed by an eight day washout period. Following that workout period, the study group became the control group and vice versa.

Several cardiometabolic markers were monitored during the course of the study, such as serum cholesterol, HDL, LDL, triglycerides, glucose, endothelial function, c-reactive protein, serum amyloid, among others. Vital signs included blood pressure were also monitored.

19 participants, all women, completed the study. The researchers discovered that while the wild blueberry juice did not significantly change cardiometabolic markers, it did lower systolic blood pressure 4.8 mm Hg (4%) compared to the placebo group. While a 4.8 mm Hg reduction in systolic blood pressure may not sound substantial, it is estimated that a reduction of only 3 mm Hg may reduce mortality from heart disease and stroke by 5-8%. 

Drinking the blueberry juice for only 7 days was probably not long enough to effect any significant change on metabolic markers. A longer study seems reasonable given the promising results of this study. This does appear to be a low-risk way to improve one’s health. 

“The smallest seed of faith is better than the largest fruit of happiness.”– Henry David Thoreau

(Source- BMC Nutrition 2017 3:45)

This blog is a review of published medical and scientific literature, and should only be used for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical or health advice, nor does it create a physician-patient relationship with anyone. Discuss any health concerns with your personal physician.

 

 

 

Blueberries and Metabolic Syndrome

July 8th is designated National Blueberry Day, and in recognition of this delicious fruit today’s post will examine a study just published in June on the effect of blueberry consumption on cardiovascular risk factors.

The US is the world’s largest producer of blueberries, producing more that twice the tonnage of blueberries annually than the 2nd largest producer, Canada. The largest blueberry producing state is Washington, followed by Georgia, Michigan and Oregon. Low bush or wild blueberries, and high bush or cultivated blueberries, are all native to North America. Many of the beneficial properties of blueberries are thought to be due to their anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are water-soluble pigments which may appear black, blue, purple or red. Plants rich in anthocyanins include black rice, blueberries and raspberries. Anthocyanins have anti-oxidant properties.

A research group from the UK and Harvard looked at the relationship between blueberry consumption and its effect if any on insulin resistance and markers of cardiometabolic function. A random controlled double blind study was performed, with 138 enrollees, randomly assigned to one of three groups- a group which consumed the dietary equivalent of one cup of fresh blueberries each day, a second group which consumed a dietary equivalent of 1/2 cup of fresh blueberries each day, while the third group consumed a placebo. It is important to note that the study subjects had all been diagnosed with metabolic syndrome and were overweight or obese. The study enrolled both men and women, ages 50-75.

The study lasted six months. The researchers discovered that while metabolic syndrome markers were not significantly changed by blueberry consumption, the group that consumed one cup of blueberries per day did show improvements in HDL (“good cholesterol”), endothelial function, and systemic arterial stiffness. It was estimated that a 13% reduction in future cardiovascular events was possible in the one cup per day group.

This is an important study, with one of the longer study periods (six months) completed to date. The study population had significant health issues, including metabolic syndrome and was older. Although the intervention did not change the insulin resistance numbers, it is possible that the study intervention was simply not long enough.

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions including elevated blood pressure, excessive fat around the waist, elevated triglyceride levels, and decreased HDL. Individuals with metabolic syndrome are at higher risk for heart attack and stroke, and metabolic syndrome is thought to be a precursor for Diabetes Mellitus Type 2.

Here is a well-designed study showing the benefits of a simple dietary intervention on metabolic syndrome. Next time you are considering something for dessert or a snack, put the cake, cookies and ice cream away and reach for blueberries instead. And buy local if possible, and support our farmers and propagators.

“There are eyes, to be sure, that give no more admission into the man than blueberries.”-    Ralph Waldo Emerson

(Source- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2019; 109)

This blog is a review of published medical and scientific literature, and should only be used for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical or health advice, nor does it create a physician-patient relationship with anyone. Discuss any health concerns with your personal physician.

 

Eat Your Veggies- Help Your Heart

In recognition of registered dietician nutritionist day, our post today will look at how some dietary factors impact cardiovascular health.

A recent study examined a group of Swedish women and their dietary habits. Nearly 39,000 women completed a 96 item food frequency questionnaire. The questionnaire asked about how certain food or beverages had been consumed over the prior year. Researchers then calculated estimates of the total antioxidant capacity of each respondents diet. Four categories including fruit and vegetable consumption, whole grain consumption, and coffee consumption were used. The participants in the study were followed for approximately ten years. Women in the highest ranking group of total antioxidant capacity of diet, compared to the lowest ranking group, had a 20% lower risk of a heart attack.

This study is an interesting one as it examines a group of women. Women have been typically underrepresented in medical research. This was also a large study of nearly 39,000 subjects, and large is better in this regard.

Finally, which one of us has not encouraged our children to “eat more vegetables”? Now we can add that it is good for their heart as well!

“I eat more vegetables than the average vegetarian.”– Dr. Robert Atkins

(Source- American Journal of Medicine, Vol 125, No. 10, Oct. 2012)

This blog is a review of published medical and scientific literature, and should only be used for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical or health advice, nor does it create a physician-patient relationship with anyone. Discuss any health concerns with your personal physician.

 

 

 

Worried About Your Heart? Don’t Skip Breakfast!

Today’s post is another in recognition of American Heart Month. Many of us can recall being reminded by our mother to “eat your breakfast” when we were young, usually as teenagers. It turns out that as is usually the case, mom was giving us good advice.

An interesting study from a research group primarily located in Spain and the US used data from PESA (Progression of Early Subclinical Atherosclerosis) and looked at the association of breakfast styles and cardiovascular risk factors and the presence of subclinical atherosclerosis.

The PESA study is an ongoing observational investigation of over 4000 employees who work at the Bank Santander Headquarters in Madrid, Spain. Female and male participants in the study were ages 40-54, and were free from cardiovascular disease at the time of enrollment in the study. The participants were asked to complete a computerized food questionnaire, which included over 800 food items. Based on this data the “energy consumed during breakfast” was calculated.

Three different categories of breakfast patterns were established. First were the “breakfast skippers”, whose breakfast intake did not exceed 5% of the their total daily energy intake. The next category was the “low energy” breakfast group, who consumed between 5% and 20% of their total daily energy intake at breakfast. The third group was the “high energy” breakfast group which consisted of those who consumed more than 20% of their total energy intake at breakfast. Of the over 4000 study subjects, 3% were in the “breakfast skipper” group, 69% were in the “low energy” group, and 28% were in the “high energy” breakfast group.

Ultrasound was used to assess for atherosclerotic plaques in the carotids, the abdominal aorta, and the illiofemoral arteries. The prevalence of subclinical atherosclerosis for the PESA subjects was 62.5% in the “breakfast skippers” group, 60.3% in the “low energy” group, and 13.4% in the “high energy” group.

Importantly, regularly skipping breakfast was associated with 2.57 higher odds for generalized atherosclerosis, and 1.55 higher odds for noncoronary atherosclerosis, independent of traditional cardiovascular risk factors (such as diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and smoking).

So, make some time in the morning for breakfast. It turns out mom was right, again.

“Sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast”. Lewis Carroll

(Source- Journal of the American College of Cardiology, Vol. 70, No. 15, 2017)

This blog is a review of published medical and scientific literature, and should only be used for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical or health advice, nor does it create a physician-patient relationship with anyone. Discuss any health concerns with your personal physician.

Adding Sugar Increases Cardiovascular Events

February is National Heart Health Month. In honor of heart health, and Valentine’s Day, this post is about cardiovascular disease

In this study published in JAMA Internal Medicine in 2014 researchers looked at the effect of added sugar in the American diet and its relationship to cardiovascular disease. Participants who consumed 17-21% of calories from added sugar had a 38% higher risk of cardiovascular mortality, compared to those who only consumed 8% of calories from added sugar. For those who consumed 21% or more of calories from added sugar, the relative risk was doubled.

Much of the added sugar in the American diet is from soda, other sources include desserts, fruit juices and candy. Just one soda a day constitutes 7% of the total calories of a 2000 kcal/day diet.

The reason for increased cardiovascular risk with increasing sugar intake is probably due to several causes, such as obesity, increased blood pressure, worsening cholesterol, and higher inflammation in the body.

This is a robust study which looked at data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) which is felt to be a nationally representative sample of US adults. It provides more solid evidence of the harms of sugar and simple carbs to cardiovascular health. Happy Valentine’s!

“Wherever you go, go with all your heart.”  Confucius

(Source- JAMA Internal Medicine, April 2014, Volume 174, Number 4)

An Orange a Week May Prevent Macular Degeneration

February is AMD/Low Vision Awareness Month, and in recognition of this our post today will examine the effects of dietary flavonoids on age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Age-related macular degeneration is one of the leading causes of vision loss in the US. It is estimated that approximately 1.75 million Americans age 40 and older suffer with macular degeneration. The World Health Organization ranks AMD as the third leading cause of blindness worldwide, after cataracts and glaucoma. AMD is characterized by the loss of the central field of vision. Risk factors for AMD include advanced age, smoking, high blood pressure, and a diet low in fruits and vegetables. Family history is also a factor.

Foods that are considered to be good sources of flavonoids include apples, blueberries, brocoli, cabbage and chocolate (make that dark chocolate) and tea. In turn, flavonoids can be sub-divided into six classes including anthocyanins, flavan-3-ols, flavanones, flavones, flavonols, and isoflavones.

A research group in Australia examined the association of dietary intake of flavonoids and the subsequent development of age-related macular degeneration. Over 2800 subjects were enrolled at baseline, and over 2000 were followed up to 15 years. Dietary information was collected via a 145-item self-administered food frequency questionnaire. The sum of the flavonoid compound for each food was computed. Enrollees in the study were invited to follow-up at 5 years, 10 years and finally 15 years.

The researchers found a protective and significant association between the total flavonoids intake, and in addition the total flavonol and total flavanone intake, and AMD prevalence. Interestingly, those participants who consumed at least one serving of oranges a week but less than one serving each day had reduced odds of 92% of the development of late AMD, compared to those who did not consume any oranges.

Given the commonality of AMD, incorporating some simple dietary choices into your daily regimen seems like an easy intervention. In particular, finding time to eat an orange or two a week could be very beneficial.

“Orange is the happiest color”.  Frank Sinatra

(Source- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2018; 108)

This blog is a review of published medical and scientific literature, and should only be used for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical or health advice, nor does it create a physician-patient relationship with anyone.

Chocolate May Prevent Heart Attack and Stroke

February is National Heart Health Month. In recognition of heart health, and in honor of Valentine’s Day, this post is about research on chocolate, specifically chocolate consumption and the risk of cardiovascular disease.

For this study, researchers from the United Kingdom (UK) enrolled a group of nearly 21,000 healthy men and women. The participants chocolate consumption was assessed by a food frequency questionnaire. This group was followed for over 11 years, with the clinical outcomes of interest heart attacks, stoke, and angina monitored during this period.

The researchers found that higher chocolate consumption was associated with a statistically significant lower risk of angina, heart attack, and stroke.

Interestingly, the chocolate consumed in the UK is generally of the high fat and sugar variety, not dark chocolate. In general it is felt that dark chocolate offers more benefits than milk chocolate.

So on Valentine’s Day enjoy some chocolate with those you love. You might want to make it dark chocolate to get the best heart benefits. Happy Valentine’s!  

(Source- Heart 2015)

This blog is a review of medical and scientific literature, and should only be used for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical or health advice, nor does it create a physician-patient relationship with anyone. Discuss any health concerns with your personal physician.

 

HIgh Glycemic Index Diet Increases Cancer Risks

In honor of World Cancer Day, today’s post will examine research from Italy published last year, regarding dietary glycemic index, glycemic load, and subsequent cancer risk.

Researchers enrolled nearly 48,000 subjects into this study, from five different clinical centers in Italy. Subjects completed food frequency questionnaires, and were followed for an average of nearly 15 years. The questionnaires were designed to access glycemic Index, as well as glycemic Load, of the diet of each participant.

The Glycemic Index is a measure of the ability of different types of carbohydrate containing foods to raise blood glucose levels within two hours. Pure glucose is given the value of 100. High Glycemic Index foods cause more rapid rise in blood glucose levels. High Glycemic Index foods include white bread, white rice, high fructose corn syrup, and sodas. Low Glycemic Index foods include beans, most vegetables, and nuts such as cashews, peanuts, and walnuts. High Glycemic foods elevate blood glucose as well as insulin levels, and in turn promote fat storage. Low Glycemic Index foods tend not to overly elevate blood glucose levels or insulin levels in the body.

The Glycemic Load on the other hand is a function of the amount of carbohydrate and the Glycemic Index of that particular food. The Glycemic Load is calculated as the Glycemic Index multiplied by the grams of carbohydrate per serving size.

What the Italian researchers found was a high Glycemic Index diet increased risk of colon cancer, bladder cancer, and melanoma, among others. High Glycemic Load diets were related to a high risk of developing colon cancer, liver cancer, cervical cancer, and endometrial cancers, among others.

This study provides evidence that limiting carbohydrates may be a strategy for limiting risk of certain cancers later in life.

(Source- Scientific Reports, 7:9757)

This blog is a review of medical and scientific literature, and should only be used for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical or health advice, nor does it create a physician-patient relationship with anyone. Discuss and health concerns with your personal physician.

 

 

Let’s Help Prevent Diabetes in Women-Just Say No to Soda for 2018 Part 3

On Wear Red Day 2018, we will review a recently published study that examined the relationship between beverages, both artificially sweetened and sugar-sweetened, and subsequent development of diabetes, in a group of menopausal women. This is our third recent post regarding the ill effects of drinking soda.

The research group examined data from the Women’s Health Initiative, a massive study of more than 90,000 women spread out at over 40 clinical centers throughout the US. Nearly 65,000 women were eventually part of this prospective observational study, with over 8 years of follow-up on average.

Participants were queried about their intake of artificially sweetened beverages, sugar-sweetened beverages, and plain water, via questionnaires. Subjects were assessed for diabetes at enrollment, and at annual follow-up.

Even when researchers controlled for other risk factors such as body mass index or total energy intake, their analysis showed both artificially sweetened beverages and sugar-sweetened beverages were associated with an increased risk of developing diabetes, in this group of post-menopausal women.

Both artificially sweetened and sugar-sweetened beverages showed a dose-dependent increase risk of diabetes. The more soda one drank, the higher the risk of developing diabetes.

One of the most interesting “take-home messages” from this study was that while the risk of developing diabetes was a bit lower in the artificially sweetened group, compared to the sugar-sweetened group, there still was an increased risk. This casts doubt over whether or not artificially sweetened beverages are a safer alternative to the sugar-sweetened ones. Both should be avoided.

Data from the American Heart association show that adults with diabetes are two to four times more likely to die from heart disease than those without diabetes. In addition, of those 65 and older with diabetes, 68% will die from some sort of heart disease. So on Wear Red Day 2018 let’s take a step in avoiding diabetes and heart disease by eliminating or avoiding entirely soda, both the artificially and sugar-sweetened varieties.

(Source- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2017; 106)

This blog is a review of medical and scientific literature, and should only be used for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical or health advice, nor does it create a physician-patient relationship with anyone. Discuss any health concerns with your personal physician.