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What you eat is all important for health. A recent study found that eating higher amounts of protein, whether animal or plant protein,  were associated with lower rates of death (from any cause). Eating a diet high in plant protein appeared to be especially beneficial, and was associated with both a lower risk of death (all cause mortality) and deaths from cardiovascular disease. Higher protein intakes, whether animal, plant or combined, were not associated with rates of death from cancer.

The research, which was an analysis of 32 studies, found there was a dose-response association between intake of plant protein and risk of death (from any cause) - the more plant protein in the diet, the lower the risk of death.

What foods are high in plant protein? Legumes (beans,lentils, peas ), whole grains, and nuts. Bottom line: Eat more protein, especially plant protein, for your health. [And this means real foods, not supplements!]

From Science Daily: Diets high in protein, particularly plant protein, linked to lower risk of death

Diets high in protein, particularly plant protein, are associated with a lower risk of death from any cause, finds an analysis of the latest evidence published by The BMJ today.  ...continue reading "Diets High In Protein Are Beneficial For Health"

It is great to find a good news study these days, and this one is especially good news for chocolate lovers. Researchers reviewed 6 large studies from the last few decades and found that chocolate consumption more than once a week is associated with a reduced risk of coronary artery disease (CAD).

Coronary artery disease is the hardening and narrowing of the arteries that supply blood to the heart, and is caused by plaque buildup (cholesterol deposits) on the wall of the arteries.

The researchers think that chocolate could be "cardioprotective" (heart-protecting) because of the nutrients in chocolate, all of which have been found to have beneficial health effects in other studies. These are flavanols, polyphenols,  methylxanthines, and stearic acid. In this study they did not address the issue of types of chocolate (dark, milk) or whether eating chocolate more frequently (e.g. daily) is even better.

In recent years, other studies of chocoalte have found not only cardiovascular benefits, but that it also reduces inflammation, and that there are dose-dependent (the more chocolate, the better) improvements in cognition, attention, and memory.

From Science Daily: Chocolate is good for the heart

Eating chocolate at least once a week is linked with a reduced risk of heart disease, according to research published today in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, a journal of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC). ...continue reading "Chocolate Appears to Be Good For the Heart"

Want to reduce your risk of getting type 2 diabetes? Two large studies published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ)  found that eating fruits, vegetables, and whole grains really reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes.

The first study (which took data from 3 large American studies) found that persons eating the most whole grain foods (when compared to those eating the least) had a 29% lower risk in developing type 2 diabetes over the next 24 years. Whole grain foods included: whole grain breakfast cereal, oatmeal, dark bread, brown rice, bran, wheat germ, and popcorn. The good results were from eating just two servings a day of whole grains.

A European study didn't just ask people what they ate, but actually measured the level of plasma vitamin C and carotenoids (from fruits and vegetables eaten) in the blood. Those with higher values had a lower incidence of type 2 diabetes over a 10 year period, with the highest group having a 49% lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

Current guidelines recommend eating at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day, which is equivalent to eating 400 g or more per day. Many people don't eat nearly enough servings, as was seen in the study. Fruit and vegetable intake in the study  was divided into 5 groups, with median consumption ranging from 274 g (lowest), 357 g, 396 g, 452 g, to 508 grams (highest) per day.

The good news was that increasing fruit and vegetable consumption by just 66 grams (3/4 cup) per day was associated with a 25% lower risk of developing diabetes. So even a small  increase in fruit and vegetable consumption could help prevent type 2 diabetes!

By the way, there are also other health benefits from eating whole grains. Higher consumption lowers the risk of developing several major chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, obesity, and some types of cancer.

From Science Daily: Higher fruit, vegetable and whole grain intake linked to lower risk of diabetes

Higher consumption of fruit, vegetables and whole grain foods are associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to two studies published by The BMJ today.
...continue reading "Reduce Your Risk Of Diabetes By Eating Whole Grains, Fruits, and Vegetables"

Many studies find differences between organic and conventional foods, with more favorable results for organic foods (e.g. better nutritionally, lower pesticide residues). A study by Emory University researchers that analyzed samples of conventional and organic milk from different regions of the US adds to the list. They found  that the samples of conventional milk contained pesticides, antibiotics, and synthetic growth hormones, but none of these were found in organic milk.

The pesticide levels in the conventional milk varied among the samples, but included frequently used pesticides such as atrazine, permethrin, cypermethrin, chloroyrifos, and diazinon. Chlorpyrifos, found in 59% of the conventional milk samples, is the pesticide that scientists absolutely want banned because of its neurotoxic effects, especially on developing babies and children.  They also found that antibiotic residue levels in conventional milk samples surpassed federal limits for amoxicillin (3%), and illegal sulfamethazine (37%) and sulfathiazole (26%). Yikes!

These are important findings because milk is a staple in the diet of many people, especially children. By the way, international milk also can have pesticide and drug residues (e.g. Israel).

But not all organic milk is equal. Unfortunately a number of big so-called organic dairy farms (15,000 to 20,000 cows) are basically factory farms (e.g. Aurora Organic Dairy, Horizon) - they exploit loopholes in organic regulations, as well as deliberately not follow some organic standards. However, even low-quality organic milk has been shown to contain no residues of antibiotics and toxic pesticides - it's just that their milk nutritional profile is different than that of grass-fed organic cows.

Organic milk cows are supposed to be outside grazing during the growing season, at least 120 days a year - thus real organic milk is from "grass-fed" cows. Grass-fed cows (but not conventional and factory-farm organic cows) tend to produce milk with elevated levels of two types of fat: conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and omega-3 fat known as alpha-linolenic acid. Both have been associated with health benefits in humans, although the amounts found in milk are relatively small. Another type of fat called linoleic acid, (an omega-6 fat), tends to be lower in milk that is from pasture-fed cows.

The Cornucopia Institute has dairy scorecards and rankings of major organic milk brands, as well as other organic foods (e.g. poultry, cereal, eggs). Cornucopia is an organic agriculture watchdog group - an excellent resource to help you choose organic foods.

Some excerpts from the Jean A. Welsh et al. study in the journal Public Health Nutrition: Production-related contaminants (pesticides, antibiotics and hormones) in organic and conventionally produced milk samples sold in the USA

Conclusions: Current-use antibiotics and pesticides were undetectable in organic but prevalent in conventionally produced milk samples, with multiple samples exceeding federal limits. Higher bGH and IGF-1 levels in conventional milk suggest the presence of synthetic growth hormone. Further research is needed to understand the impact of these differences, if any, on consumers.   ...continue reading "Organic Milk Does Not Contain Toxic Pesticides Found In Conventional Milk"

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Great news for those who enjoy a glass of wine or beer every day! A large study found that light to moderate drinking among middle-aged to older adults may preserve brain function as they age. Over a 10 year period, those who drank a drink or two a day tended to have better test scores in a series of tests that measured cognitive functioning.

Normally there is some cognitive decline as people age. But researchers found that low to moderate drinking (less than 8 drinks per week for women and less than 15 drinks for men) was associated with consistently higher mental functioning and slower rates of cognitive decline (when compared to those who never drank or drank more). They found that these associations were similar for both men and women, but stronger among white participants than black participants.

Just keep in mind that while this and other studies find cognitive benefits from drinking alcohol (in humans and mice), other studies find harms from drinking alcohol, specifically increased risk of many cancers.

From Science Daily: Light drinking may protect brain function

Light to moderate drinking may preserve brain function in older age, according to a new study from the University of Georgia.  ...continue reading "Is A Daily Glass Of Alcohol Good For The Brain?"

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There have been concerns for years about the food additive titanium dioxide. This is because it may be in nanoparticle form, and recent studies have raised concerns that nanoparticles can travel to other organs in the body (because they are so small), and are inflammatory. Nanoparticles are so small that they are measured in nanometers or billionths of one meter.

It is added to food and medicines (e.g. Allegra) to make colors whiter and brighter, so it's not needed at all. It is in many processed foods, including candy and baked goods, so children actually consume more of it than adults. In Europe titanium dioxide nanoparticles (particles less than 100nm) are mainly found in the food additive called E171. Nanoparticles make up about 36% of the particles in E171.

Now a new study, even though done with mice, has raised more health concerns about titanium dioxide. Mice consuming titanium dioxide in their diet had significantly altered composition of their gut microbes, inflammation of their colon (the intestines), and changes in function of the liver. The effect was bigger in obese mice.

From Science Daily: Common food additive causes adverse health effects in mice

A common food additive, recently banned in France but allowed in the U.S. and many other countries, was found to significantly alter gut microbiota in mice, causing inflammation in the colon and changes in protein expression in the liver, according to research led by a University of Massachusetts Amherst food scientist.  ...continue reading "Titanium Dioxide Doesn’t Belong In Food"

Eat dinner earlier, not later. A small study looked at the time dinner was eaten and the interval to bedtime. They found that eating a late dinner affects the metabolism negatively: blood sugar levels were higher, and the amount of ingested fat burned was lower, when compared to those eating an earlier dinner. Dinner was the same foods, just eaten at 2 different times.

The 20 young, healthy participants ate dinner at either 6 pm or 10 pm, and bedtime was at 11 pm. According to the results of the study, eating a late dinner alters metabolic markers during sleep in a way that could lead to obesity or diabetes. "The peak glucose level after late dinner was about 18% higher, and the amount of fat burned overnight decreased by about 10% compared to eating an earlier dinner."

This adds to evidence suggesting that the time meals are eaten can influence the development of obesity and metabolic syndrome. Sleep lowers the metabolic rate. Other studies have also found that eating earlier is better than later: for example, weight loss is greater in those eating the main meal of the day earlier rather than later.

The weird thing was, these effects were found even though the early dinner group was given a 200 calorie snack at 10 pm. So it's not like they had zero calories after their 6 pm dinner. (The late dinner group ate the same snack at 6 pm.) Based on these findings, I wonder how much better the metabolic markers would have been if zero calories were eaten after the 6 pm dinner?

From Science Daily: People who eat a late dinner may gain weight

Eating a late dinner may contribute to weight gain and high blood sugar, according to a small study published in the Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.  ...continue reading "Try Not To Eat Dinner Close To Bedtime"

For several years I've noticed that in a number of studies there appear to be beneficial health effects from consumption of dairy products, especially whole milk or full-fat products, and also fermented dairy products (e.g. yogurt, cheese). A recent international study (21 countries on 5 continents) found similar results: higher intake of dairy foods, especially full-fat dairy, is associated with lower incidence of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension), and metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome is a group of conditions that increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and early death. Risk factors include increased blood pressure, excess body fat around the waist, elevated triglycerides and cholesterol levels, and elevated blood glucose.  Diet plays a role in whether one develops metabolic syndrome and diabetes. [Being overweight and being inactive are also important risk factors.]

What was the higher intake of dairy products that was associated with health benefits? At least 2 servings per day. The study did not look into what kind of dairy people drank and ate - whether cow, sheep, camel, or goat milk dairy. The assumption is: dairy is dairy!

While it was an observational study, it was significant, especially because the 131,481 participants (aged 35 to 70 years) were from world regions not typically studied in dairy consumption studies. They were tracked for about 9 years.

Excerpts from Science Daily: Dairy-rich diet linked to lower risks of diabetes and high blood pressure

Eating at least two daily servings of dairy is linked to lower risks of diabetes and high blood pressure, as well as the cluster of factors that heighten cardiovascular disease risk (metabolic syndrome), finds a large international study published online in BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care.  ...continue reading "Dairy Products, Hypertension, Diabetes, and Metabolic Syndrome"

Can tomatoes be refrigerated or does that destroy their taste? This seems to be a pressing issue that is much discussed while people are at home during the pandemic. The advice I generally see is to NOT refrigerate them - to leave them out at room temperature until they are eaten.

Well... a German study examined that particular question and according to the researchers - the taste of the tomatoes is the same whether refrigerated or kept at room temperature for 4 days. Instead, the variety of tomato is most important for the flavor (taste).

Of course! Every variety of tomato has a different taste. One thing I question is the refrigerator temperature of 44.6°F (7°C) that was used, which seems a bit warm. Refrigerators in the US are normally kept cooler, between 33 and 39 degrees.

From Science Daily: Should tomatoes go in the fridge?

There is much debate about the correct storage of tomatoes. There are two main options available to consumers: storage in the refrigerator or at room temperature. A research team from the University of Göttingen has now investigated whether there are differences in the flavour of ripe tomatoes depending on how they are stored and taking into account the chain of harvesting from farm to fork. No perceptible difference was found: the variety of tomato is much more important. The results have been published in the journal Frontiers in Plant Science.  ...continue reading "Should Ripe Tomatoes Be Refrigerated Or Kept At Room Temperature?"

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More good news for coffee lovers. A study that looked at a large sample of adults in the US found that there is a dose-response association for daily coffee consumption and body fat (adiposity). Higher coffee intake (both regular and decaf) was associated with lower body fat in women, but not men.

The biggest effects were seen in women aged 20 to 44 years (who drank 2 to 3 cups/day), and in 45 to 69 year old women who drank 4 or more cups of coffee per day - that is, they had lower total body fat and trunk body fat when compared to those who didn't drink coffee.

Coffee has over 1000 bioactive compounds in it, such as caffeine, chlorogenic acids, and diterpenes. Recent studies found that moderate coffee intake (3 to 4 cups/day) lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, (early) death, lower risk of some cancers, and has a beneficial effect on metabolism (increases it) and inflammation. [Note: chronic inflammation is linked to a number of diseases, so want to lower it.]

The researchers suggest that there are compounds in coffee (other than caffeine) that regulate weight and act as "antiobesity compounds". Perhaps view drinking coffee as a healthy diet strategy for women!

Excerpts from Science Daily: Coffee linked to lower body fat in women

Women who drink two or three cups of coffee a day have been found to have lower total body and abdominal fat than those who drink less, according to a new study published in The Journal of Nutrition ...continue reading "Drinking Coffee Associated With Lower Body Fat in Women"