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Whole Grains Boost Insulin Sensitivity

A large study has strengthened the case for eating fiber-rich breads and cereals, showing that these foods help lower the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer by making the body more responsive to insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugars. Of the 3,000 adults studied over a four-year period, those with the highest whole grain intake were also least likely to be overweight.

McKeown NM, Meigs JB, Liu S, Wilson PW, Jacques PF. Whole-grain intake is favorably associated with metabolic risk factors for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease in the Framingham Offspring Study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2002;76:390-398.

Meat: A Factor in MS

Eating smoked sausages in childhood may increase the risk of developing the disabling autoimmune disease multiple sclerosis, according to researchers at the 12th Meeting of the European Neurological Society. Previous studies have suggested that the nitrates used in meat preparation, along with the chemicals in smoke, could contribute to other autoimmune problems. German researchers looked at the childhood diets of 177 MS patients and 88 healthy individuals and found that consumption of smoked sausage and meat, as well as animal-fat intake, were associated with increased MS risk. Several earlier studies have linked fatty diets to MS and have shown improvements with low-fat, plant-based diets.

12th Meeting of the European Neurological Society.

Fruits, Vegetables, and Cereal Protect Bones

Men who consumed the most fruit, vegetables, and cereal had denser bones, and women who ate a good deal of candy had the lowest bone mineral density, a large study found. Tufts University researchers interviewed more than 900 men and women aged 69 to 93 about their diets and measured their bone mineral density at several skeletal sites. They categorized diets into one of six groups depending on where individuals derived the most calories: meat, dairy, and bread; meat and sweet baked products; sweet baked products; alcohol; candy; and fruit, vegetables, and cereal. The study underscores how “a wide spectrum of micronutrients,” not just calcium, affect bone health.

Tucker KL, Chen H, Hannan MT, et al. Bone mineral density and dietary patterns in older adults: the Framingham Osteoporosis Study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2002;76:245-252.


School Lunches Make Many Sick

Over the last 25 years, food-borne illnesses linked to subsidized school lunches sickened nearly 50,000 children and teachers, sending 1,500 to the hospital and causing at least one death, according to a University of California study. Based on information collected by the Centers for Disease Control, the study identified 604 outbreaks. The most common culprit was salmonella, which can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and fever; it can even be deadly, especially for the elderly and people with weak immune systems. The most frequently contaminated product was chicken.

Daniels NA, MacKinnon L, Rowe SM , Bean NH, Griffin PM, Mead PS. Foodborne disease outbreaks in United States schools. Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2002;21:623-628.


In-Vitro Chemical Tests Ready for Prime Time

The U.S. government has recommended that certain controversial animal tests used to detect corrosive properties in chemicals be stopped in favor of alternative nonanimal methods. Tests that involved shaving an animal’s fur, painting on a compound, and waiting for up to two weeks to see if damage occurs are to be replaced with nonanimal tests such as Episkin and Corrositex, both based on human collagen, and a human skin cell test called EpiDerm.

Cadaveric Organs Ease Stortages

Kidneys transplanted from cadavers continue working as long as those taken from brain-dead patients with beating hearts. Researchers in Zurich performed 122 kidney transplants between 1985 and 2000 involving donors without a heartbeat and compared outcomes with 122 transplants taken from donors with a heartbeat. Except for delayed graft function initially, there was no difference in long-term graft survival. This is an important discovery, considering the chronic shortage of human organ donations.

Weber M, Dindo D, Demartines N, Ambuhl PM, Clavien PA. Kidney transplantation from donors without a heartbeat. N Engl J Med. 2002;347:248-255.


High-Protein Diets Risky for Bones and Kidneys

Ten healthy participants were asked to follow an Atkins-style, carbohydrate-restricted diet for two weeks and then follow a moderately carbohydrate-restricted diet for four more weeks under close monitoring. It turned out that the meaty diets increased their calcium loss by 55 percent (from 160 to 248 mg⁄d, P < 0.01). The researchers conclude that a high-protein diet presents a marked acid load to the kidneys, increases the risk for kidney stones, and may increase the risk for bone loss.

Reddy ST, Wang CY, SakhaeeK, Brinkley L, Pak CY. Effect of low-carbohyrdate high-protein diets on acid-base balance, stone-forming propensity, and calcium metabolism. Am J Kidney Dis. 2002;2:265-274.


Soymilk Lowers Blood Pressure

In a double-blind, three-month study of 40 men and women with mild-to-moderate hypertension, participants using soymilk for 3 months reduced systolic blood pressure by an average of 18.4 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure by 15.9 mmHg. Researchers reported that urinary genistein, a soy compound, was significantly correlated with the decrease in blood pressure.

Rivas M, Garay RP, Escanero JF, Cia P Jr, Cia P, Alda JO. Soymilk lowers blood pressure in men and women with mild to moderate essential hypertension. J Nutr. 2002;132:1900-1902.

Soy Protects the Heart

A Canadian study has found that soy products benefit the heart. University of Toronto researchers studied 23 men and 18 postmenopausal women with elevated cholesterol levels, rotating them through three different diets using either animal-derived protein sources, such as low-fat dairy products and egg substitutes containing egg whites, or nonanimal protein sources such as low-fat soymilk, tofu burgers, or soy hot dogs. LDL cholesterol, the “bad” kind that clogs arteries, was lower after the soy diet compared to the dairy-and-egg-substitute diet.

Jenkins DJ, Kendall CW, Jackson CJ, et al. Effects of high- and low-isoflavone soyfoods on blood lipids, oxidized LDL, homocysteine, and blood pressure in hyperlipidemic men and women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2002;76:365-372.


Winter 2003
Volume XII
Number 1

Good Medicine

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