Nutrition Research Update

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Nutrition Research Update
Fall 2009

Eating a so-called Mediterranean  diet protects against cognitive decline associated with aging. New York residents who adhered most closely to a Mediterranean-type diet had a 40% decreased risk of Alzheimer’s  disease over a 5 to 6 year span compared to those with the lowest adherence.  The Mediterranean diet is associated with a higher consumption of fruit and vegetables, cereals and legumes, and a lower consumption of meat and dairy. Furthermore, those with the highest level of physical activity had a 33% lower risk of Alzheimer’s  disease compared with the least active. Adherence to a protective Mediterranean-type diet also lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Agave syrup is about 90% fructose, making it sweeter than table sugar (sucrose). Hence, one can use less for the same level of sweetness. Agave syrup contains about 20 calories per teaspoon and has a glycemic index only about one-fifth that of sucrose.

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is the seventh most common type of cancer in the US, striking over 50,000 Americans a year. A Mayo Clinic study revealed that women, aged 55-69 years, who were consuming at least 14 servings per month of orange-yellow vegetables and at least four servings a month of broccoli had a 28% lower risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Committing yourself to four healthy habits can reduce your risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer by 80%, according to a new study on 25,000 Germans aged 35 to 65. The four health habits were listed as not smoking; having at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day;  eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables and whole grain bread and low in meat; and avoiding obesity (having a BMI of less than 30). After adjustments for age, gender, and educational status, the risk of disease decreased progressively as the number of healthy habits increased.  Avoiding obesity was the most effective habit in reducing the risk of chronic disease while diabetes was the disease that experienced the sharpest reduction when a healthy lifestyle was followed.

It is estimated that Americans could save $18 billion annually if they cut their sodium intake to the recommended levels of 2300 milligrams a day. Americans typically consume about 4000 milligrams a day. About 70% of the sodium they ingest comes from processed food.

A super berry belongs to a very elite group of fruits marketed as conveying special health benefits for the consumer. The Brazilian açai, the Himalayan goji berry, the mangosteen from South-East Asia, and the Chilean maqui berry have all been listed as super fruits. While they are rich in flavonoids and other antioxidants, and have anti-inflammatory activity and potentially anti-cancer properties, we await human studies to validate the claims made for these healthy fruits. Finnish scientists did find that the consumption of black currants, bilberries, lingonberries and other berries produced a significant drop in systolic blood pressure and an inhibition of blood clotting.

Some energy drinks deliver an “electric jolt” due to their excessive caffeine content. Some drinks may contain as much as 500 mg caffeine, equivalent to that delivered by 15 cans of coke or pepsi.

It’s  called Cweet. That’s the brand new sweetening agent, chemically called brazzein, derived from an African plant. It is a 1000 times sweeter than sucrose so that it would effectively provide zero calories. Since it is water soluble, heat stable, and has no unpleasant after-taste it is considered suitable for use in cookies and sodas. The market is already crowded with alternative sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose, and stevia.

Resveratrol is the active phytochemical from the skin and seeds of red grapes. While studies have shown this flavonoid has anti-cancer and cardio-protective properties, it apparently does not possess anti-aging properties as claimed by some companies. The value of resveratrol supplements is questionable since the stability and absorption of the commercial compound varies widely.

Consumption of green tea was recently shown to be associated with a lower prevalence of depressive symptoms in a community-dwelling older Japanese population. Earlier green tea consumption was reported to convey such beneficial effects as anti-inflammatory effects and anti-stress response.

Written by Dr. Wiston Craig
Posted December 2009

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