Tag Archives: diet

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.

 

 

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.

 

Mediterranean Diet Good for Women’s Heart Health

May 12-18 is celebrated as National Women’s Health Week, and in recognition of this important week today’s post will examine research studying the effects of a Mediterranean-style diet on cardiovascular risk factors in women.

For those who are unfamiliar with the Mediterranean Diet, it is loosely based on the traditional cooking styles of those countries that border the Mediterranean Sea. Some of the important tenants of the diet include eating lots of vegetables and whole grains, using olive oil as a substitute for butter and margarine, eating more fish and less red meat, and choosing nuts as a healthy snack.

In a recently published paper, researchers affiliated with Harvard Medical School examined the effects of a Mediterranean-style diet upon cardiovascular risk factors in a group of women participants. This particular study involved nearly 26,000 women. To assess the women’s dietary habits, a food-frequency questionnaire which included 131 items was administered at enrollment in the study. The researchers then calculated what they termed the “Med Score” for each participant. The Med Score ranged in scale from 0 to 9, with a higher score indicating better adherence to the Mediterranean Diet. The subjects were then placed into three different categories (Low, Medium, High) based on their Med Score. Multiple lab markers were taken as well, including LDL, HDL, CRP, fibrinogen, and lipoprotein (a).

This group of women was then followed for about 12 years. They were monitored for cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke. The researchers discovered that the subjects in both the Medium Med Score group and the High Med Score group had significant cardiovascular risk reduction, compared to the Low Med Score group. The risk reduction was 28% in the High Med Score group, and 23% reduction in the Medium Med Score group, compared to the Low Med Score Group.

This is a very well done study, which adds to previous research on the benefits of the Mediterranean Diet. This is a large group of women, who were considered healthy at baseline, which is important to note. Here we have a relatively simple dietary modification that had a profound positive impact on women’s cardiovascular health. The Mediterranean Diet seems to be a low-risk diet, that is worthy of consideration by women, and men as well.

“No disease that can be treated by diet should be treated with any other means.”– Moses Maimonides

(Source- JAMA Network Open, 2018:1(8))

This bog 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.

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.

 

 

Exercise and Weight Loss Good for Diabetes

With the New Year now here, it is a great time to consider resolutions for exercise and weight loss for 2018.

A small study published in 2015 shows some of the benefits of exercise and weight loss, even over a short period of time. In this study, completed at the University of Vermont, patients were enrolled that had recently been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. These patients were typical of what is seen in a primary care setting, with HbA1c readings between 6.5-8.0%, and BMI from 27-40 Kg/M2. 

The patients engaged in exercise 5-6 days each week, including walking and supervised exercise. In addition, participants engaged in weekly group counseling sessions led by a registered dietician. It is important to note that participants were not on diabetes medications during the six month study.

At completion of the six month study, the majority of the participants went into at least partial remission of their diabetes, with the mean HbA1c dropping from 6.8 to 6.2, while one individual achieved what was termed a “total remission” with an HbA1c=5.6%. Mean weight loss amongst the group was 21+ pounds, and peak aerobic activity increased by 18%. Other cardiac risk factors such as CRP, fasting insulin and triglyceride levels all improved. Women made up the majority of those enrolled.

This study shows what is possible with directed efforts towards diet and exercise modifications. The authors suggest that no medication similarly used in this patient population would have provided such “broad reaching preventative efforts”, and perhaps that is true.

To be sure, this was a small study with only 12 patients enrolled and ten who completed. However, given the robust results, a more extensive study certainly seems warranted. Particularly for those patients who are very early in their diabetes disease process a diet and exercise regimen seems worthy of consideration. Combined with medication when appropriate, this intervention would likely yield even more profound results.

(Source- Journal of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation and Prevention, Vol 35(3), May/June 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.

Walnuts. Good for the Brain.

Walnuts3

“The brain is wider than the sky”.

Emily Dickinson

This is the third in a series of three blog posts detailing recent research on walnuts, in honor of National Walnut Day. This post will look at research from UCLA, which examined the association between walnut consumption and cognitive function in adults.

In particular, the researchers looked at data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). The NHANES was designed to be a representative sample of the U.S. population, ages 20 to 90.

A group of participants who ate walnuts and other nuts were compared to a group who did not eat nuts. Adults ages 20-59 completed the simple reaction time test, the simple digit learning test, and the symbol digit substitution test. Adults ages 60 and over were administered the story recall test or the digital symbol substitution test.

Results from the study showed that walnut consumption had a positive association with cognitive functions in both the 20-59 year old participants, as well as those ages 60 and older.

This interesting study adds to the growing  body of evidence in support of the health benefits of walnuts.

(Source- Journal of Nutrition and Health Aging, Volume 19, Number 3, 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.