The Week in Review: Focus Nutrition

This week in health, there were a few studies published that demonstrated that nutrition and lifestyle really do matter not only for general health, but also for weight loss, mental health, and fertility. Indeed, investigators are now using nutrition to study common disease processes.  I also found interesting that something that some of us thrive on, coffee, is associated with anti inflammatory properties that may help to lead to longevity. 

Whole grains, which we all know are good for us, have been demonstrated to increase metabolism and actually promote weight loss. A recent study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has demonstrated that whole grains actually affect our metabolism by decreasing the number of calories retained during digestion and thus speeding up metabolism. This study shows that we can actually manipulate our body through the types of food that we eat and calories are not the only way to regulate weight. Whole grains contain the whole grain kernel and include brown rice, oatmeal, and whole wheat flour. Refined grains which are commonly found on the grocery store shelf, are processed to remove the bran and germ to prolong the shelf life. These include anything that is white, such as white rice, white bread and white flour. This study demonstrated that a group of individuals who ate whole grains as compared to those who ate refined grains, had an increased resting metabolic rate. The extra calories lost by those who ate whole grains was equivalent to a brisk 30 minute walk. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, February 2017.

More about whole grains. A recent study has demonstrated that whole grains may lead to a healthier gut and to a better immune response. Whole grains include whole wheat, oats, rye, barley, brown rice and quinoa. Previous studies have demonstrated that whole grains may reduce inflammation. When whole grain diet participants in this study were compared to those who ate refined grains, those that consumed whole grains had more gut bacteria with lachnospiraceae, which is known to produce short-chain fatty acids. These short-chain fatty acids are important for a healthy immune system. When blood samples were looked at both groups, the investigators demonstrated that subjects who consumed whole grain diets showed an increase in memory T cells. These are the types of white blood cells that fight infection. This study demonstrates that nutrition can actually affect our immune system. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, February 2107.

The first trial which shows improving diet may help to treat major depression. Investigators at Deakin University demonstrated that improving diet quality may help to treat major depression. This is the first randomized controlled trial to directly test whether improving diet quality can actually treat clinical depression. Adults in this study received either social support or support from a clinical dietician over a three month period. The second group received counseling on increasing the consumption of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, legumes, fish, lean and red meats, olive oil, and nuts, while reducing their consumption of unhealthy foods such as sweets, refined grains, fried food, fast food, processed meats, and sugary drinks. Individuals in the dietary intervention group had a much greater reduction in their depressive symptoms over a three month period of time compared to those in the social support group. At the end of the trial, impressively a third of those in the dietary support group met the criteria for remission of major depression compared to 8% of those in the social support group.  Let them eat fruit! The effect of fruit and vegetable consumption on psychological well-being in young adults: A randomized controlled trial. Tamlin S. Conner, Kate L. Brookie , Anitra C. Carr, Louise A. Mainvil, Margreet C. M. Vissers . Published: February 3, 2017. PLOS.

Heavy lifting and shift-work may negatively affect a woman's fertility. Researchers from Harvard University have demonstrated that women who have physically demanding jobs, such as heavy lifting,  may have a lower reserve of eggs, and women who work shifts have fewer mature eggs compared tp women who work regular hours. In this study, women who worked shifts in the evening and during the night had even fewer mature eggs. This study is one of the first to show that occupational heavy lifting and shift-work may be adversely impacting a woman's fertility. Lydia Minguez-Alarcorn et al, Occupational and Environmental Medicine 2017; 0:1-6.

The discovery that coffee drinkers may live longer: Mechanism discovered and relates to inflammation. A number of studies have demonstrated that coffee may prolong longevity in human life. Most recently a NATURE article has demonstrated that this may be due to coffee's anti-inflammatory properties, possibly relating to inflammation and heart health. Expression of specific inflammasome gene module stratifies older adults into two extreme clinical immunological states. Nature Medicine, Volume 23, 174-184, 2017.