Category Archives: nuts

Maybe Diet Prevents Alzheimer Dementia After All

I blogged about a study by Gu et al on April 30, 2010, that found significantly lower incidence of Alzheimer dementia in people in Manhattan who followed this dietary pattern:

  • relatively high consumption of salad dressing, nuts, fish, tomatoes, fruits, dark green leafy vegetables, and cruciferous  vegetables
  • relatively low consumption of poultry, red meat, butter, and high-fat dairy

About the same time, a National Institutes of Health expert panel pooh-poohed the possibility that diet had any effect one way or the other on Alzheimer’s

Why does this matter?  Five million U.S. adults have Alzheimer dementia already, and it’s going to get much worse over the coming decades.

A June, 2010, issue of Journal of the American Medical Association has a commentary by two doctors (Martha Morris, Sc.D., and Christine Tangney, Ph.D.), experts in the field of nutrition.  Here’s their explanation of the NIH panel’s negative findings:

Many of the inconsistencies among studies of dietary factors can be attributed to the complexity of nutrition science and the omission of nutrition expertise in the design and analysis of both epidemiological and randomized controlled trials.

Morris and Tangney think the findings of Gu et al are valid, confirming prior studies showing benefit to diets high in vitamin E (from food) and low in saturated fat from animals.  They point out that the animal foods may simply be displacing beneficial nutrients in other foods, rather than directly causing harm.

Until we have further data, anyone at risk for Alzhiemer’s may be better off following the dietary pattern above, or the Mediterranean diet.  The two are similar.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Disclaimer:  All matters regarding your health require supervision by a personal physician or other appropriate health professional familiar with your current health status.  Always consult your personal physican before making any dietary or exercise changes. 

Reference: Morris, M., & Tangney, C.  Diet and Prevention of Alzheimer Disease.  The Journal of the American Medical Association, 303 (2010): 2,519-2,520.    doi: 10.1001/jama.2010.844

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Filed under Dairy Products, Fat in Diet, Fish, Fruits, Health Benefits, Mediterranean Diet, nuts, Vegetables

Nuts Are Not Fattening

Dietitian Melanie Thomassian at her Dietriffic blog April 27, 2010, notes that nuts are not fattening, contrary to popular belief.  This is in a guest post by Matthew Denos.  Most of his references refer to almonds, so I’m not sure other nuts would be equally non-fattening. 

We’re talking about one or two ounces (up to 60 grams) a day.  Could someone gain fat weight eating more than that?  Probably, especially if they have a high-carbohydrate eating pattern.  Do I have scientific studies to back me up?  No. 

Nuts are characteristic of the traditional Mediterranean diet, which is one reason I included them in the Ketogenic Mediterranean Diet.  The other reason is that nut consumption is associated with lower heart disease risk.

Steve Parker, M.D.

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Filed under nuts, Overweight and Obesity

Longevity Components of the Mediterranean Diet

According to Greek researchers, the components of the Mediterranean diet that contribute to longer lifespan are:

  • moderate alcohol consumption
  • low consumption of meat
  • high consumption of vegetables, fruits, nuts, olive oil, and legumes

The following didn’t seem to contribute much, if any:

  • cereals (the grain of a grass such as wheat, corn, oats)
  • dairy products
  • fish and seafood

Investigators at the University of Athens examined the Greek portion of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer (EPIC) and Nutrition, which included 23,349 men and women free of diabetes, cancer, and coronary heart disease at the outset.  Food habits were documented by questionnaire. 

The focus of this particular study was death rates over an average follow-up of 8.5 years.  Adherence to the traditional Mediterranean diet ranged from minimal to high, as would be expected. 

As with numerous other studies of the Mediterranean diet, higher adherence to the Mediterranean diet was associated with lower chance of death. 

My Comments

The lack of benefit from fish is unexpected.  I have no explanation.  A preponderance of evidence elsewhere suggests fish consumption helps prolong life via lowered rates of heart disease.

Alcohol can be dangerous, of course.  Some people should not partake, ever.     

For people with diabetes who wish to avoid the carbohydrate load in cereals and dairy products, you don’t need to worry much about cutting those out of an otherwise Mediterranean-style diet.

Steve Parker, M.D. 

Reference:  Trichopoulou, Antonia, et al.  Anatomy of health effects of the Mediterranean diet: Greek EPIC prospective cohort studyBritish Medical Journal, 338 (2009): b2337.  DOI: 10.1136/bmj.b2337.

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Filed under Alcohol, Dairy Products, Fish, Fruits, Grains, Health Benefits, legumes, Mediterranean Diet, nuts, olive oil, Vegetables

Diabetes + Overweight and Obesity = Diabesity

Mark Hyman, M.D., blogged about diabesity at the Huffington Post December 24, 2009.  He defines diabesity as a problem with glucose regulation associated with overweight and obesity.  The glucose physiology problem ranges from metabolic syndrome to prediabetes to full-blown type 2 diabetes.

“Diabesity” has been in circulation for a few years, but hasn’t caught on yet. 

What interested me about his blog post was that he advocates the Mediterranean diet as both therapeutic and prophylactic.  To quote Dr. Hyman:

The optimal diet to prevent and treat diabesity includes:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Beans
  • Whole grains
  • Healthy fats such as olive oil, nuts, avocados, and omega-3 fats
  • Modest amounts of lean animal protein including small wild fish such as salmon or sardines

This is commonly known as a Mediterranean diet.  It is a diet of whole, real, fresh food. It is a diet of food you have to prepare and cook from the raw materials of nature.  And it has broad-ranging benefits for your health.

Food for thought, no doubt. 

Steve Parker, M.D.

Reference:  Hyman, Mark.  The diabesity epidemic part III:  Treating the real causes instead of the symptoms.  The Huffington Post, December 24, 2009

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Filed under Causes of Diabetes, Fish, Fruits, Grains, legumes, nuts, Overweight and Obesity, Prevention of T2 Diabetes

What Are Phytonutrients and What Have They Done For Me Lately?

Nutrition scientists think that plants have small amounts of numerous “bioactive compounds,” sometimes referred to as phytonutrients, that protect us against disease.

Many scientific studies have looked at groups of people over time, noting the various foods they eat as well as the diseases they develop.  These are called epidemiologic, ecological, or observational studies.  One finding is that lower rates of heart disease, vascular disease, and cancer are seen in people consuming plant-based diets.  “Plant-based” isn’t necessarily vegetarian or vegan.  The traditional Mediterranean diet, for example, is considered by many to be plant-based because meat, fish, and poultry are not prominent compared to plants. 

In contemplating what source of carbohydrates a person with diabetes should eat, I’ve been reviewing the scientific literature to see which sources of carbs might provide the biggest bang for the buck in terms of health and longevity benefits.

Here are some quotes from a 2002 review article in the American Journal of Medicine:

Phenolic compounds, including their subcategory, flavonoids, are present in all plants and have been studied extensively in cereals, legumes, nuts, olive oil, vegetables, fruits, tea, and red wine. Many phenolic compounds have antioxidant properties, and some studies have demonstrated favorable effects on [blood clotting] and [growth of tumors]. Although some epidemiologic studies have reported protective associations between flavonoids or other phenolics and cardiovascular disease and cancer, other studies have not found these associations.

Hydroxytyrosol, one of many phenolics in olives and olive oil, is a potent antioxidant.

Resveratrol, found in nuts and red wine, has antioxidant, [anti-blood-clotting], and anti-inflammatory properties, and inhibits [malignant tumor onset and growth].

Lycopene, a potent antioxidant carotenoid in tomatoes and other fruits, is thought to protect against prostate and other cancers, and inhibits tumor cell growth in animals.

Organosulfur compounds in garlic and onions, isothiocyanates in cruciferous vegetables, and monoterpenes in citrus fruits, cherries, and herbs have [anti-cancer] actions in experimental models, as well as [heart-healthy effects].

In summary, numerous bioactive compounds appear to have beneficial health effects. Much scientific research needs to be conducted before we can begin to make science-based dietary recommendations. Despite this, there is sufficient evidence to recommend consuming food sources rich in bioactive compounds. From a practical perspective, this translates to recommending a diet rich in a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, oils, and nuts.

The article discusses phytoestrogens—plant chemicals that act in us like the female hormone estrogen—but effects are complex and I suspect we know much more now than we did in 2002 .  Soy products are the most well-known source of phytoestrogens.

The traditional Mediterranean diet is rich in all of the foods mentioned above, except for tea.  Even the Ketogenic Mediterranean Diet includes the aforementioned foods except for tea (I need to add tea and coffee), cereals, and cherries.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Reference:  Kris-Etherton, P.M., et al.  Bioactive compounds in foods: their role in the prevention of cardiovascular disease and cancer.  American Journal of Medicine, 113 (2002. Supplement 9B): 71S-88S.

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Filed under cancer, coronary heart disease, Fruits, Grains, Health Benefits, legumes, Mediterranean Diet, nuts, olive oil

Top 10 Diabetes Superfoods

The American Diabetes Association has published a list of  Top 10 Diabetes Superfoods.  They share a low glycemic index and provide key nutrients, according to the ADA.  Click the link for details.  Here they are in no particular order:

  • beans
  • dark green leafy vegetables
  • citrus fruit
  • sweet potatoes
  • berries
  • tomatoes
  • fish high in omega-3 fatty acids
  • whole grains
  • nuts
  • fat-free milk and yogurt

Regular readers here know I have no problem generally with regular or high-fat versions of dairy products.  An exception would be for people trying to lose weight while still eating lots of carbohydrates; the low- and no-fat versions could have lower calorie counts, which might help with weight management.

But compare non-fat and whole milk versions of yogurt in the USDA nutrient database.  One cup of non-fat fruit variety yogurt has 233 calories, compared to 149 calories in plain whole milk yogurt.  The “non-fat” version  reduced the fat from 8 to 2.6 g (not zero g) and replaced it with sugars (47 g versus 11 g). 

Unfortunately, your typical supermarket yogurts are low-fat yet loaded with sugar or high fructose corn syrup that impede weight loss.

Nevertheless, this superfoods list may give us some guidance in design of a Diabetic Mediterranean Diet.  Except for “fat-free,” everything else on the list is a component of the traditional healthy Mediterranean diet.  “Fat-free” is a modern invention and not necessarily an improvement.

Steve Parker, M.D.

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Filed under Dairy Products, Fish, Fruits, Glycemic Index and Load, Grains, Health Benefits, legumes, Mediterranean Diet, nuts, Vegetables

Walnuts: More Evidence in Favor of Health Benefits

MPj03095770000[1]Nuts are a time-honored component of the Mediterranean diet and may contribute to the lower risk of cardiovascular disease  associated with the diet. 

Regular nut consumption lowers total cholesterol and LDL (“bad cholesterol”) by 5 to 15%, which would tend to lower heart disease risk.  Walnuts are particularly high in alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid.

Bix over at Fanatic Cook links to three scientific studies showing that walnuts:

  • improved arterial function in people with type 2 diabetes
  • improved arterial function in people with high cholesterol eating a Mediterranean diet
  • decreased fasting insulin levels in people with type 2 diabetes
  • decreased LDL cholesterol in people with type 2 diabetes who were on a low-fat diet

The “dose” of walnuts in these studies was 1–2 ounces (28–56 g) daily.

For good reason, nuts have a prominent role in both the Advanced Mediterranean Diet and Ketogenic Mediterranean Diet

I don’t know Bix, but he or she seems to base many of his/her nutrition opinions on scientific principles, which I appreciate.

Steve Parker, M.D.

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Filed under coronary heart disease, Mediterranean Diet, nuts, Shameless Self-Promotion