Maternal Nut Consumption During Pregnancy Linked to Improvements in Neurodevelopment in Children

PecanWalnuts

Date: May 7, 2019       Source: Barcelona Institute for Global Health
 

Nuts are known to help reduce the risk of hypertension, oxidative stress and diabetes and they may exercise a protective effect against cognitive decline in older age. To this list of beneficial health effects, we can now add new evidence from a study led by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), an institute supported by “la Caixa.” The study, published in the European Journal of Epidemiology, found links between a maternal diet rich in nuts during the first trimester of pregnancy and improved neurodevelopment in the child.

The study was carried out in Spain and included over 2,200 mother and child pairs enrolled in cohorts belonging to the INMA Project located in Asturias, Guipuzcoa, Sabadell and Valencia. Information on maternal nut intake was obtained from questionnaires on eating habits, which the mothers completed during the first and last trimester of their pregnancy. The children’s neuropsychological development was assessed using several internationally validated standard tests 18 months, 5 years, and 8 years after birth.

Analysis of the results showed that the group of children whose mothers ate more nuts during the first trimester of pregnancy obtained the best results in all the tests measuring cognitive function, attention capacity and working memory.

“This is the first study to explore the possible benefits of eating nuts during pregnancy for the child’s neurodevelopment in the long term. The brain undergoes a series of complex processes during gestation and this means that maternal nutrition is a determining factor in fetal brain development and can have long-term effects, explains Florence Gignac, ISGlobal researcher and first author of the study. “The nuts we took into account in this study were walnuts, almonds, peanuts, pine nuts and hazelnuts. We think that the beneficial effects observed might be due to the fact that the nuts provided high levels of folic acid and, in particular, essential fatty acids like omega-3 and omega-6. These components tend to accumulate in neural tissue, particularly in the frontal areas of the brain, which influence memory and executive functions.”

The benefits described in this study were observed in the group of mothers who reported the highest consumption of nuts — a weekly average of just under three 30g servings. This is slightly lower than the average weekly consumption recommended in the healthy eating guide published by the Spanish Society of Community Nutrition (SENC: Guía de la alimentación saludable), which is between three and seven servings per week. “This makes us think that if the mothers consumed the recommended weekly average the benefits could be much greater,” Gignac explains. Estimated nut consumption in Spain is more than double the European average (4.8 g vs. 2.2 g).

The study also analysed the mothers’ nut consumption during the third trimester of their pregnancy, but in this case either no associations were observed with the neuropsychological outcomes or the associations found were weaker. “This is not the first time we have observed more marked effects when an exposure occurs at a specific stage of the pregnancy. While our study does not explain the causes of the difference between the first and third trimesters, the scientific literature speculates that the rhythm of fetal development varies throughout the pregnancy and that there are periods when development is particularly sensitive to maternal diet” explains Jordi Júlvez, ISGlobal researcher and last author of the study.

“In any case,” adds Júlvez, “as this is the first study to explore this effect, we must treat the findings with caution and work on reproducing them in the future with more cohort studies as well as randomised controlled trials.”


Story Source:

Materials provided by Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal). Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


The 6 MOST Nutrient-Dense Foods That Should Rule Your Diet

6 Nutritious Foods

“Your healthy life expectancy is proportional to the micronutrient-per-calorie density of your diet. We want to get as many micronutrients as possible per caloric buck,” he said at a lecture at the 92nd Street Y. In other words, heaping servings of beta-carotene, vitamin A, and lycopene should accompany each gram of carbohydrate you ingest. Sweet potatoes are good at this; bagels are not”.

Preventing common diseases (like cancer and heart disease) and promoting health and longevity is as simple as regular trips to the farmers’ market, says Dr. Joel Fuhrman, star nutrition researcher, physician, and author of Eat to Live and Super Immunity.

Why? While building-block nutrients—protein, carbohydrates, and fats—are essential, Americans are over-stuffing their diets with them and missing out on disease-fighting micronutrients like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

“Your healthy life expectancy is proportional to the micronutrient-per-calorie density of your diet. We want to get as many micronutrients as possible per caloric buck,” he said at a lecture at the 92nd Street Y. In other words, heaping servings of beta-carotene, vitamin A, and lycopene should accompany each gram of carbohydrate you ingest. Sweet potatoes are good at this; bagels are not.

To help get you started, Fuhrman created the acronym G-BOMBS to lay out six of the most nutrient-dense foods that promote health and longevity. Here they are…

Scroll down for the most nutrient dense foods to work into your diet.

Beans

Legumes are nutrient-dense carbs that come with lots of fiber, and because your body digests them slowly, they have a stabilizing effect on blood sugar. Multiple studies suggest that beans may decrease the risk of colon cancer, as well as other cancers.

Onions

These tear-jerking veggies are way more powerful than you may have imagined. In fact, onions are superfoods. They have super high concentrations of superstar flavonoid antioxidants—like quercetin, inflammation fighters that also lower the risk of colon and other cancers. Onions are a source of organosulfur, compounds that battle carcinogens and suppress the growth of cancer cells.

Mushrooms

No matter your preference—Portabello, shiitake, or reishi—mushrooms have nutrients that fight inflammation, prevent DNA damage, and more. They also contain aromatase inhibitors. These block the production of estrogen in the body, leading to significant reductions in breast cancer risk.

Berries

You’ve probably heard this one. Berries are bright and colorful because of their powerful antioxidants, like flavonoids, and studies have linked them a long list of health benefits, including (but not limited to) increased brain power, cancer prevention, and reduced blood pressure.

Seeds

Seeds tend to be high in protein and trace minerals. Flax, chia, and hemp seeds all pack heaping doses of omega-3s, sesame seeds are rich in calcium, and pumpkin seeds come with calcium, iron, and zinc. Flax and sesame seeds also contain lignans, associated with lower risk of some cancers.

Greens

This one’s a no-brainer, but no matter how often you’re eating leafy greens, you could probably still eat more. In addition to protein, greens contain calcium, folate, and a slew of antioxidants. Extra credit portion: Cruciferous green veggies like broccoli and kale also release isothiocyanates (when their cells are broken by chewing, chopping, or blending), compounds linked to lower cancer risk.

Originally posted December 12, 2012. Updated June 7, 2018.


Walnuts May Help Lower Blood Pressure for Those at Risk of Heart Disease

Walnuts

Date: May 1, 2019

Source: Penn State

When combined with a diet low in saturated fats, eating walnuts may help lower blood pressure in people at risk for cardiovascular disease, according to a new study.

When combined with a diet low in saturated fats, eating walnuts may help lower blood pressure in people at risk for cardiovascular disease, according to a new Penn State study.

In a randomized, controlled trial, researchers examined the effects of replacing some of the saturated fats in participants’ diets with walnuts. They found that when participants ate whole walnuts daily in combination with lower overall amounts of saturated fat, they had lower central blood pressure.

According to the researchers, central pressure is the pressure that is exerted on organs like the heart. This measure, like blood pressure measured in the arm the traditional way, provides information about a person’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD).

Penny Kris-Etherton, Distinguished Professor of Nutrition at Penn State, said the study suggests that because walnuts lowered central pressure, their risk of CVD may have also decreased.

“When participants ate whole walnuts, they saw greater benefits than when they consumed a diet with a similar fatty acid profile as walnuts without eating the nut itself,” Kris-Etherton said. “So it seems like there’s a little something extra in walnuts that are beneficial — maybe their bioactive compounds, maybe the fiber, maybe something else — that you don’t get in the fatty acids alone.”

Alyssa Tindall, recent student in Dr. Kris-Etherton’s lab and a new Ph.D. graduate in nutrition, said the study was one of the first to try to uncover which parts of the walnuts help support heart health.

“Walnuts contain alpha-linolenic acid — ALA — a plant-based omega-3 that may positively affect blood pressure,” Tindall said. “We wanted to see if ALA was the major contributor to these heart-healthy benefits, or if it was other bioactive component of walnuts, like polyphenols. We designed the study to test if these components had additive benefits.”

For the study, the researchers recruited 45 participants with overweight or obesity who were between the ages of 30 and 65. Before the study began, participants were placed on a “run-in” diet for two weeks.

“Putting everyone on the same diet for two weeks prior to the start of the study helped put everyone on the same starting plane,” Tindall said. “The run-in diet included 12 percent of their calories from saturated fat, which mimics an average American diet. This way, when the participants started on the study diets, we knew for sure that the walnuts or other oils replaced saturated fats.”

After the run-in diet, the participants were randomly assigned to one of three study diets, all of which included less saturated fat than the run-in diet. The diets included one that incorporated whole walnuts, one that included the same amount of ALA and polyunsaturated fatty acids without walnuts, and one that partially substituted oleic acid (another fatty acid) for the same amount of ALA found in walnuts, without any walnuts.

All three diets substituted walnuts or vegetable oils for five percent of the saturated fat content of the run-in diet, and all participants followed each diet for six weeks, with a break between diet periods.

Following each diet period, the researchers assessed the participants for several cardiovascular risk factors including central systolic and diastolic blood pressure, brachial pressure, cholesterol, and arterial stiffness.

The researchers found that while all treatment diets had a positive effect on cardiovascular outcomes, the diet with whole walnuts provided the greatest benefits, including lower central diastolic blood pressure. In contrast to brachial pressure — which is the pressure moving away from your heart and measured with an arm cuff in the doctor’s office — central pressure is the pressure moving toward your heart.

Tindall said that the results — recently published in the Journal of the American Heart Association — underline the importance of replacing saturated fat with healthier alternatives.

“An average American diet has about 12 percent calories from saturated fat, and all our treatment diets all had about seven percent, using walnuts or vegetable oils as a replacement,” Tindall said. “So, seeing the positive benefits from all three diets sends a message that regardless of whether you replace saturated fats with unsaturated fats from walnuts or vegetable oils, you should see cardiovascular benefits.”

Kris-Etherton added that the study supports including walnuts as part of a heart-healthy diet.

“Instead of reaching for fatty red meat or full-fat dairy products for a snack, consider having some skim milk and walnuts,” Kris-Etherton said. “I think it boils down to how we can get the most out of the food we’re eating, specifically, ‘how to get a little more bang out of your food buck.’ In that respect, walnuts are a good substitute for saturated fat.”


Want To Live Longer? Do These Four Things Daily

yoga on beach 2

By Jason Wachob

We all want to optimize our time on this planet and live the healthiest, longest lives possible. Joel Dudley, Ph.D., and Chris Mason, Ph.D., the founders of Onegevity, an AI-driven health care service, are committed to empowering people to better understand and take charge of their health through data-driven and customized solutions.

Dudley and Mason joined me on the mbg podcast to talk about what they believe doctors should be testing for, what we should be doing daily for our microbiome, and why prevention is critical for the future of health care.

A big topic here at mbg is longevity, and with advancements in genetic, microbiome, and blood testing, we know more than ever before. In this episode, we delve deeper into all that, but here, they offer four things we can all be doing right now, today:

1. Present your body with new challenges.

A simple, cost-effective way to try to reverse the effects of aging is to present your body with new challenges. “Maintaining your body’s ability to respond dynamically to the environment is important,” explained Dudley. This could be why things like HIIT and cold exposure are linked with greater longevity. It boils down to flexing your body’s ability to respond to challenges that will, in turn, build resilience.

2. Get quality sleep.

When asked about one of the key factors in living a long life, Mason responded that sleep is crucial. As for how much? He says somewhere from six to eight hours is optimal and reminds us that some essential processes occur only during sleep. We discussed the new research on the glymphatic system that connects the brain with our immune system, and he suggested that sleep may be the only time the body can drain unwanted things out of our brains.

3. Move, move, and move.

The scientists point out that while certain diseases such as Huntington’s disease and cystic fibrosis are genetic and may be difficult to prevent, through lifestyle changes such as exercise, a good diet, and a healthy microbiome, we may be able to move the needle on things like cardiovascular risk, longevity, and cognitive clarity. Dudley says while intense exercise such as HIIT may improve longevity, taking time each day to walk is a great option. It’s less about what exactly you’re doing and more about getting out and moving in some way.

4. Get baseline testing.

Mason and Dudley recommend getting testing (genetic, microbiome, blood work) done so you can have a baseline of what things look like now, so down the line you and your provider have something to compare to. Whether you have health issues or not, having more information pieced together can help create a picture of what’s going on inside you and may mean more effective care.

Whether it’s longevity or cardiovascular, gut, or immune health, it’s important to remember that every part of our health story is connected. Mason and Dudley explain that it takes the whole picture to understand what’s going on inside, and they have us excited about what the future of health looks like.


Cucumbers are the Best Salad Base of All Time—and These 5 Recipes Back That Up

cucumber

I feel kinda bad for cucumbers. Thanks to the world’s obsession with its famous cousin, the versatile zucchini, people are zoodling their lives away without even giving the cuke a fair shake. Well, sorry zucchinis, but cucumbers have some impressive qualities, too. And one of them is their ability to make you want to ditch the kale for a salad that’s crunchy, satisfying, and super-hydrating.

Cucumbers are typically used as a salad topping, but there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be the star of the show. A large cucumber contains 2 grams of protein, 2 grams of fiber, and a solid amount of vitamin C and vitamin K, magnesium, and potassium, which is known to help with bloating (something kale commonly causes). On top of that, since cucumbers are 96 percent water, eating them makes it easy to stay hydrated.

To take full advantage of the many benefits of cucumbers, create some hearty salads you can devour all season long.

The 5 best healthy cucumber salads

1. Jalapeño lime cucumber salad

If you like a little spice in your life, this cucumber salad featuring finely-diced jalapeños is a winner. Combined with zesty lime, your taste buds are in for a treat.

2. Thai cucumber salad

Give your cucumbers a Thai twist with this quickie salad that’s loaded with red onion, lemon juice, cayenne powder, and chopped peanuts.

3. Sweet and spicy cucumber salad

To satisfy both your sweet and spicy cravings, whip up this cucumber salad that contains ingredients like rice vinegar, red pepper flakes, and diced red onion.

4. Mediterranean cucumber salad

For the ultimate hydrating cucumber salad, add in some other refreshing veggies too: cherry tomatoes, radishes, and red bell pepper.

5. Japanese cucumber salad

This cucumber salad ups the flavor with wakame, a type of seaweed that brings on plenty of health benefits. It’s been shown to help fight off cancer, decrease your risk of heart disease, and provide mental health-boosting omega-3 fatty acids.


Sorry, Kombucha fans: Dentists say it’s Ruining our Teeth

Another point is that it is not as effective to add PROBIOTICS as it is to think in terms of introducing PRE-Biotics.  Think raw foods before a meal, such as a salad. Every culture throughout time had serves a salad before or after a meal. My whole life I have always eaten a banana about 20 minutes or so before each meal. I eat a lot of salads, and for breakfast I always have lemon or lime water when I wake up and then have a banana before I enjoy a cup of coffee. I also do that southern thing of having sliced tomatoes with almost every meal, even breakfast.

Chai Kombucha

Billed as a “healthy” drink, the fermented tea could be worse than soda for your oral health

For many new age-y health enthusiasts, probiotic drinks like kombuchaare an intrinsic part of a healthy lifestyle.

Kombucha, which is a fermented sweetened tea made of a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY) that grow inside a semi-permeable membrane, is said to aid digestion, boost immunity, reduce inflammation, increase energy, and even alleviate anxiety and depression, among other (oft-dubious) claims. Since its rise in popularity over the last ten years, kombucha can be found on the shelves of nearly every grocery store, especially health food stores like Whole Foods. The kombucha market around the world is expected to reach $5.45 billion by 2025.

However, the rise in this drink among the health conscious has come with a price: your teeth. Some dentists are noticing a rise in eroded enamel coinciding with kombucha’s popularity, questioning its so-called miraculous impact.

“Kombucha is nearly as acidic as a pop and energy drinks,” Dr. Bobby J. Grossi, an author, motivational speaker and founder of the Grossi Institute for Dental Assisting, told Salon. “Acidic drinks mess with the PH level of the saliva which ideally should be 7 or 7.3, when the saliva level becomes more acidic it becomes a breeding ground for bacteria which can take over the mouth.”

This bacteria, Grossi said, causes erosion of the enamel, plaque accumulation which can lead to both gum disease or tooth decay. Grossi added sugary drinks weaken your teeth.

The acid in kombucha is crucial for the bacteria’s survival, which makes this a challenging issue for manufacturers to solve. Dr. Greg Grobmyer of AuthorityDental.org, who has a DDS from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, told Salon it is nearly as acidic as soda, too. “It is not uncommon to see ‘pitting’ in the enamel of someone who drinks a lot of kombucha,” he told Salon.

Pitting occurs on the surface of a tooth and usually leads to decay.

“We suggest rinsing your mouth with water after drinking kombucha to wash away the acidic compounds it may leave behind and not eating or brushing for at least 30 minutes afterwards, allowing your tooth enamel to remineralize and reharden,” Grobmyer said.

When asked if it is better or worse, Grossi said he does not believe it’s either-or between kombucha and soda.

“Both drinks are very acidic and have a lot of sugar in them,” Grossi said. “I am a firm believer that water and milk are the drinks of choice.”

“I also recommend always drinking water with a fresh lemon in it to help create a more alkaline environment, not only in your mouth but in your bloodstream,” Grossi said.

Overall, it seems the jury is still out when it comes to kombucha’s purported health benefits.

While studies do show that probiotic foods are good for your digestion and gut health, other studies have called into question kombucha’s healthfulness. A 2014 academic journal article, published in Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, states: “Most of [kombucha’s] benefits were studied in experimental models only, and there is a lack of scientific evidence based on human models.”

Given that dentists constitute the front lines of our oral health, it might be wise to heed their observations.

Nicole Karlis

Nicole Karlis is a news writer at Salon. She covers health, science, tech and gender politics. Tweet her @nicolekarlis.


Coffee’s Effects on Our Endocannabinoid System

Daily consumption of caffeine is seen as a “normal” addiction, er, habit. It doesn’t seem to pose any deleterious health effects, and, tolerance and withdrawal aside, many people can stay on a daily “maintenance dose” of coffee without any adverse consequences. That common perception, however, may be challenged based on data suggesting that caffeine can affect our newly discovered physiological system: the endocannabinoid system (ECS).

A study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine last year by Dr. Marilyn C. Cornelis and colleagues of Northwestern University studied the metabolome (a profile of metabolites) of 47 habitual coffee consumers across 3 months. For the first month, the study participants were to abstain for coffee (that must have been painful). In the second month, the participants were instructed to drink four cups a day and in the third month, they had to drink eight cups a day. Scientists measured the level of different metabolites in the participants’ fasting serum at each month.

The researchers found a total of 115 metabolites associated with coffee intake. These metabolites tend to be associated with a particular biological pathway. The scientists mapped the metabolites to 33 known pathways. Eighty-two of the 115 metabolites found had already been identified. Researchers observed a significant increase of metabolites related to 5 specific pathways: xanthine metabolism; benzoate metabolism; steroid metabolism; fatty acid metabolism and endocannabinoid metabolism.

These metabolites could be traced back to their sources (for example, xanthine metabolism produces caffeine metabolites). Some were previously unknown to be related to coffee metabolism. For instance, it had not been previously reported that fatty acid metabolism was involved in coffee metabolism. What was especially surprising was the finding of metabolites related to the ECS. What would the ECS have to do with coffee? And what does it mean for the ECS?

Metabolites related to the ECS decreased in response to coffee consumption. This is despite the fact that caffeine has not been shown to activate common endocannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2). However, that fact does not preclude the observed reduction in metabolites related to the ECS. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that there is something else that decreases ECS function: chronic stress. What does this have to do with coffee?

Caffeine can induce a stress response in some individuals. The ECS is thought to maintain several biological and psychological processes, and stress is one of them. Prolonged stress can decrease the function of the ECS. So, is there a coffee-stress-ECS connection? This is probably an overly simplistic interpretation of the data. In fact, stress appears to have a bidirectional effect on the production of certain endocannabinoids. Stress can increase the production of the endocannabinoid anandamide but decrease the production of 2-arachidonoyl glycerol (2-AG).

The “why” and the “how” of the decrease in ECS-related metabolites are not yet understood. The authors concede that this is merely an observation, or a starting point, if you will, for further research. At most, they suggest that the reduction of coffee metabolites processed by the ECS may be due to a desensitization of the ECS to coffee. Furthermore, this does not address the effects of phytocannabinoids, such as CBD or THC, may have in combination with caffeine intake. So, until that data comes out, maybe order a grande instead of a venti?

Source: Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, Journal of Internal Medicine, Drug Discovery Today, Neuropsychopharmacology, Journal of Caffeine Research, Nature Reviews: Neuroscience,