Category: Nutrition

Dentures Could Worsen Nutritional Intake

Dentist checking teeth
Image by Caroline LM on Unsplash

Dentures could potentially worsen a person’s nutritional intake, according to new research in the Journal of Prosthodontics. The research team examined electronic dental and health records to gain a better understanding of how oral health treatments affect individuals’ overall health over time.

This is first known study to link lab values of nutritional biomarkers to dental records.

Thankam Thyvalikakath, DMD, MDS, PhD, senior author, explained the impact of dentures. “Dentures are a significant change for a person. They do not provide the same chewing efficiency, which may alter eating habits. Dentists need to be aware of this and provide advice or a referral for nutrition counselling. These patients need support during the transition and possible continued monitoring.”

The researchers matched the dental records of more than 10 000 patients which included lab test data, including malnutrition markers. The data included complete blood count, basic metabolic profile and lipid and thyroid panel tests. Comparing the lab results from two years before a patient received dentures to the two years after, the researchers found that people with dentures had a significant decline in certain nutrition markers over those two years.

People who did not wear dentures did not experience this decline. While marker levels were still within normal range, but the levels could potentially fall as more time passes, and the researchers urged dentists to be aware of this possibility.

Future research will look at other factors that may influence nutrition, including insurance status and dental clinic characteristics.

Source: Regenstrief Institute

Report Finds One in Four Preschool Children in SA Malnourished

Photo by Gautam Arora on Unsplash

One in four preschool children (aged four to five years) shows signs of long-term malnutrition, according to a new survey.

The Thrive by Five Index, released on 8 April, was produced by First National Bank and Innovation Edge in collaboration with the Department of Basic Education (DBE). The study surveyed more than 5000 children enrolled in early learning programmes across the country.

The study found about 25% of children were physically stunted, as a result of malnutrition in pregnancy and the early years of life. About 65% of children are either cognitively delayed, physically stunted, or both. This means they are not meeting the learning or growth standards expected of a child their age, and will start school at a disadvantage.

“Children from poorer households tended to perform worse,” said Sonja Giese, the lead researcher in the study. Giese is the founder of Innovation Edge, which was set up to support innovation in early childhood development. The rates of stunting were highest among the poorest children.

She said each child was assessed for about an hour. Children were assessed for things such as early mathematical skills, literacy and communication, motor development and coordination, among other things.

But Giese also drew attention to the positive outcomes of the study, saying that even within the poorest group of children there were some children who performed very well, causing a kind of “positive deviance”.

“I think there are some really interesting lessons we can learn from these outliers …Some children just thrive in difficult circumstances,” said Giese. She said more research could help to figure out how and why these children are thriving.

Giese said as the DBE had just taken over responsibility for early childhood education from the Department of Social Development, the study could show where attention should be focused.

In a statement about the survey, the DBE said that the first five years of the child’s life are the most important and stressed the importance of physical development during this stage.

Data for the survey was collected in late 2021 from a nationally representative sample of children aged 50-59 months enrolled in early learning programmes. The final weighted sample used for analysis included 5,139 children from 1,247 programmes across the country. The school quintile system was used to measure the probable socio-economic background of the children who were assessed. School quintiles are based on the income, education and unemployment levels of households in the school catchment area and for the purposes of the Thrive by Five study, the researchers assumed that the income level of children attending early learning programmes within each school cluster matched the income level of children attending the nearest school.

The researchers included more children from quintile 1 – the poorest – in order for the study to be representative of the country and each province. “That’s how we tried to make sure that it really provides a window into the world of children today in South Africa, exactly where they are and how they’re living,” said Giese.

Giese said that some of the data had not yet been analysed and further findings would be released over the next year.

This story was written by Liezl Human for GroundUp and is reproduced under a Creative Commons 4.0 Licence.

Source: GroundUp

Not so Sweet: Artificial Sweeteners’ Cancer Risk

Fizzy drink cans
Source: Breakingpic on Pexels

An observational study with over 100 000 participants suggests that some artificial sweeteners are associated with increased cancer risk. The findings, published in PLOS Medicine, reflect other results from experimental studies.

The safety of artificial sweeteners has long been a subject of debate. To evaluate the potential carcinogenicity of artificial sweeteners, researchers analysed data from 102 865 French adults participating in the NutriNet-Santé study. The NutriNet-Santé study is an ongoing web-based cohort initiated in 2009 by the Nutritional Epidemiology Research Team (EREN). Participants enrolled voluntarily, and self-reported their medical history, sociodemographic, diet, lifestyle, and health data.

Researchers gathered data concerning artificial sweetener intake from 24-hour dietary records. After collecting cancer diagnosis information during follow-up, the researchers conducted statistical analyses to investigate the associations between artificial sweetener intakes and cancer risk. They also adjusted for a range of variables including age, sex, education, physical activity, medical history and dietary intake.

The researchers found that participants who consumed larger quantities of artificial sweeteners, particularly aspartame and acesulfame-K, had higher risk of overall cancer compared to non-consumers (hazard ratio 1.13). Higher risks were observed for breast cancer and obesity-related cancers.

In addition to being an observational study, there were a number of limitations; dietary intakes are self-reported. Selection bias may also have been a factor, as participants were more likely to be women, to have higher educational levels, and be more health-conscious. Additional research will be required to confirm the findings and clarify the underlying mechanisms.

According to the authors, “Our findings do not support the use of artificial sweeteners as safe alternatives for sugar in foods or beverages and provide important and novel information to address the controversies about their potential adverse health effects. While these results need to be replicated in other large-scale cohorts and underlying mechanisms clarified by experimental studies, they provide important and novel insights for the ongoing re-evaluation of food additive sweeteners by the European Food Safety Authority and other health agencies globally”.

First author Charlotte Debras added: “Results from the NutriNet-Santé cohort (n = 102 865) suggest that artificial sweeteners found in many food and beverage brands worldwide may be associated with increased cancer risk, in line with several experimental in vivo / in vitro studies. These findings provide novel information for the re-evaluation of these food additives by health agencies.”

Source: EurekAlert!

Financial Rewards are an Effective Weight Loss Motivator

Bathroom scale
Photo by I Yunmai on Unsplash

A large scale weight loss programme conducted with Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, has demonstrated that personal accountability coupled with financial rewards continue to be a key motivator for successful weight loss.

The report [PDF] analysed data from over 48 000 CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet members, more than triple the sample size from the original study in 2018. The authors found that those who successfully claimed the financial incentive offered by the programme, managed a 28% greater weight loss than those members who did not claim it.

Financial reward claimants lost an average of 6.2kg (or 6.7% of their starting body weight), versus the 4.8kg (or 5.2% of starting body weight) lost by those who did not claim the financial reward.

CSIRO Research Scientist and report author Dr Gilly Hendrie said the research was telling evidence of how taking personal accountability by engaging in self-monitoring behaviours promoted healthy weight loss.

“It is encouraging to see the results of our study support other psychology and behavioural change research that self-accountability and financial incentives can have a meaningful impact on people’s weight loss success,” Dr Hendrie said. 

“Breaking unhealthy habits that have developed over a long time can be hard and it is easy to lose motivation if you are not seeing immediate results on the scales.

“We’ve found self-accountability activities like tracking your weight and taking progress photos can be positive for members to see the physical changes from one week to the next; it can give them the drive to stay on track and continue to form the healthy habits which will help them achieve their health goals,” she said.

In addition, two thirds of members who claimed the reward lost a clinically relevant amount of weight, more than 5% of their starting body weight, compared to half of the non-rewarded members.

“A five per cent reduction in body weight is proven to markedly lower the risk for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease and improve metabolic function in obese and overweight people,” Dr Hendrie said.

Programme participant Brian Thomas said he believes the refund reward was key to his 27 kg weight loss.

“The refund reward was not only a key motivator to me signing up, but it helped me achieve my weight loss goals and regain my health because it sets up the framework to do things you need to do to be successful,” Mr Thomas said.

“If I didn’t have to track my food for the refund reward, maybe I would never have got into the habit of tracking. Even now, three months after I received my refund, I’m still keeping up those behaviours. It’s allowed me to make positive changes to my own life and habits, and it has had a positive impact on my family.  Best of all it didn’t cost me a cent.”

The CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet offers a financial reward equal to the cost of the program (AUS $199/R2 200) for people who complete the 12-week programme and follow the science-based criteria to make lifestyle changes for long-term weight loss. The criteria include weekly weigh-ins, uploading a photo to track progress, and using a food diary at least three times per week.

Source: CSIRO

Study Finds That Vitamin D3 Has a Greater Health Benefit Than D2

Vitamin D pills
Photo by Michele Blackwell on Unsplash

A new study has found that vitamin D2 and D3 have significant differences in effect, with vitamin D2 having a questionable impact on human health. However, the study found that vitamin D3 (the ‘sunshine vitamin’) could balance people’s immune systems and help strengthen defences against viral infections.

In a study published in Frontiers in Immunology, researchers investigated the impact of vitamin D supplements, D2 and D3, taken daily over a 12-week period on the activity of genes in people’s blood.

Contrary to widely held views, the research team discovered that both types of vitamin D did not have the same effect, rather they found evidence that vitamin D3 influences the immune system in a way that could fortify the body against viral and bacterial diseases.

Professor Colin Smith, lead-author of the study from the University of Surrey, who began this work while at the University of Brighton, said: “We have shown that vitamin D3 appears to stimulate the type I interferon signalling system in the body – a key part of the immune system that provides a first line of defence against bacteria and viruses. Thus, a healthy vitamin D3 status may help prevent viruses and bacteria from gaining a foothold in the body.

“Our study suggests that it is important that people take a vitamin D3 supplement, or suitably fortified foods, especially in the winter months.”

Few natural foods contain Vitamin D, although some such as bread and yoghurt may be fortified with it. Vitamin D3 is produced naturally in the skin from exposure to sunlight or artificial ultraviolet UVB light, while some plants and fungi produce vitamin D2.

Many people have insufficient levels of vitamin D3 because they live in locations where sunlight is limited in the winter, like the UK. Sunlight exposure has also been limited by the COVID pandemic as people spend more time in their homes.

Professor Susan Lanham-New, co-author of the study and Head of the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Surrey, said: “While we found that vitamin D2 and vitamin D3 do not have the same effect on gene activity within humans, the lack of impact we found when looking at vitamin D2 means that a larger study is urgently required to clarify the differences in the effects. However, these results show that vitamin D3 should be the favoured form for fortified foods and supplements.”

Source: University of Surrey

Vegetable Intake Does Not Reduce Cardiovascular Risk, Study Finds

Photo by Daria Shevtsova from Pexels

A long-term study on almost 400 000 people in the UK finds little or no evidence that differences in the amount of vegetables consumed affects the risk of cardiovascular disease. 

When known socio-economic and lifestyle confounding factors are corrected for, the small apparent positive effect that remains could likely also be explained away by further confounders.

Getting enough vegetables is important for maintaining a balanced diet and avoiding a wide range of diseases. But might a diet rich in vegetables also lower the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD)? Unfortunately, new results from a powerful, large-scale new study study in Frontiers in Nutrition found no evidence for this.

The notion of CVD risk being lowered by vegetable consumption might seem plausible at first, as their ingredients such as carotenoids and alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E) have properties that could protect against CVD. But so far, prior evidence for an overall effect of vegetable consumption on CVD has been inconsistent.

The study, which drew on UK Biobank data, found a higher consumption of cooked or uncooked vegetables is unlikely to affect the risk of CVD. The study authors also explained how confounding factors might explain previous spurious, positive findings.

“The UK Biobank is a large-scale prospective study on how genetics and environment contribute to the development of the most common and life-threatening diseases. Here we make use of the UK Biobank’s large sample size, long-term follow-up, and detailed information on social and lifestyle factors, to assess reliably the association of vegetable intake with the risk of subsequent CVD,” said Prof Naomi Allen, UK Biobank’s chief scientist and co-author on the study.

The UK Biobank, follows the health of half a million adults in the UK by linking to their healthcare records. Upon their enrolment in 2006-2010, these volunteers were  interviewed about their diet, lifestyle, medical and reproductive history, and other factors.

The researchers used the responses at enrolment of 399 586 participants (of whom 4.5% went on to develop CVD) to questions about their daily average consumption of uncooked versus cooked vegetables. They analysed the association with the risk of hospitalization or death from myocardial infarction, stroke, or major CVD. They controlled for a wide range of possible confounding factors, including socio-economic status, physical activity, and other dietary factors.

Crucially, the researchers also assessed the potential role of ‘residual confounding’, that is, whether unknown additional factors or inaccurate measurement of known factors might lead to a spurious statistical association between CVD risk and vegetable consumption.

The mean daily intake of total vegetables, raw vegetables, and cooked vegetables was 5.0, 2.3, and 2.8 heaped tablespoons per person. The risk of dying from CVD was about 15% lower for those with the highest intake compared to the lowest vegetable intake. However, this effect was greatly weakened when possible confounding factors were taken into account. Controlling for factors such as socio-economic status reduced the predictive statistical power of vegetable intake on CVD by over 80%, suggesting that more precise measures of these confounders would have explained away any residual effect of vegetable intake.

Dr Qi Feng, the study’s lead author, said: “Our large study did not find evidence for a protective effect of vegetable intake on the occurrence of CVD. Instead, our analyses show that the seemingly protective effect of vegetable intake against CVD risk is very likely to be accounted for by bias from residual confounding factors, related to differences in socioeconomic situation and lifestyle.”

The researchers suggest that subsequent studies should further assess whether particular types of vegetables or their method of preparation might affect the risk of CVD.

Source: Frontiers

Soluble Fibre is Associated with Lower Dementia Risk

Source: Pixabay

Drawing on a decades-long cohort study, researchers in Japan have found that higher levels of dietary fibre, particularly soluble fibre, are associated with a lower risk of dementia.

Fibre is known to have vital importance for a healthy digestive system and also has cardiovascular benefits like reduced cholesterol. In a new study published in Nutritional Neuroscience, researchers have shown that a high-fibre diet is also associated with a reduced risk of developing dementia, adding to evidence that fibre is also important for a healthy brain.

“Dementia is a devastating disease that usually requires long-term care,” says lead author of the study Professor Kazumasa Yamagishi. “We were interested in some recent research which suggested that dietary fibre may play a preventative role. We investigated this using data that were collected from thousands of adults in Japan for a large study that started in the 1980s.”

Between 1985 and 1999, 3739 participants who were generally healthy and aged between 40–64 completed dietary information surveys. They were then followed up from 1999 until 2020, and it was noted whether they developed dementia that required care.

Participants were assigned into four groups according to the amount of fibre in their diets. They found that the groups who ate higher levels of fibre had a lower risk of developing dementia.

The team also examined whether there were differences for the two main types of fibre: soluble and insoluble fibres. Soluble fibres, found in foods such as oats and legumes, are important for the beneficial bacteria that live in the gut as well as providing other health benefits. Insoluble fibres, found in whole grains, vegetables, and some other foods, are known to be important for bowel health. The researchers found that the link between fibre intake and dementia was more pronounced for soluble fibres.

The team has some ideas as to what might underlie the link between dietary fibre and the risk of dementia.

“The mechanisms are currently unknown but might involve the interactions that take place between the gut and the brain,” said Professor Yamagishi. “One possibility is that soluble fibre regulates the composition of gut bacteria. This composition may affect neuroinflammation, which plays a role in the onset of dementia. It’s also possible that dietary fibre may reduce other risk factors for dementia, such as body weight, blood pressure, lipids, and glucose levels. The work is still at an early stage, and it’s important to confirm the association in other populations.”

Source: University of Tsukuba

Selenium Could Help Reverse Cognitive Decline

Photo source: Pixabay

The trace metal selenium could help reverse the cognitive impact of stroke and boost learning and memory in ageing brains, according to a study published in Cell Metabolism.

Previous studies on the impact of exercise on the ageing brain found levels of a protein key to transporting selenium in the blood were elevated by physical activity.

Lead researcher Dr Tara Walker said: “We’ve known for the last 20 years that exercise can create new neurons in the brain, but we didn’t really understand how,” Dr Walker said.

The research team sought to find out whether dietary selenium supplements could replicate the effects of exercise.

“Our models showed that selenium supplementation could increase neuron generation and improve cognition in elderly mice,” Dr Walker said. “The levels of new neuron generation decrease rapidly in aged mice, as they do in humans. When selenium supplements were given to the mice, the production of neurons increased, reversing the cognitive deficits observed in ageing.”

Selenium is an essential trace metal which can play an important role in human health. It is absorbed from soil and water and is found in foods such as grains, meat and nuts, with the highest levels found in Brazil nuts. The researchers also investigated whether selenium would have an impact on post-stroke cognitive decline.

“Young mice are really good at the learning and memory tasks, but after a stroke, they could no longer perform these tasks,” Dr Walker said. “We found that learning and memory deficits of stroke affected mice returned to normal when they were given selenium supplements.”

Dr Walker said the results opened a new therapeutic avenue to boost cognitive function in people who were unable to exercise due to poor health or old age.

“However, selenium supplements shouldn’t be seen as a complete substitute for exercise, and too much can be bad for you,” she said. “A person who is getting a balanced diet of fruits, nuts, veggies and meat usually has good selenium levels. But in older people, particularly those with neurological conditions, selenium supplements could be beneficial.”

Source: University of Queensland

Consumption of Olive Oil Reduces Risk of Premature Death

Photo by Pixabay

A new study has found that people who consume higher amounts of olive oil may lower their risk of premature death overall and from specific causes including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and neurodegenerative disease, compared to people who never or almost never consume olive oil. People who consumed olive oil instead of animal fat were also found to have a lower risk of total and cause-specific mortality.

“Olive oil consumption has been linked to lower cardiovascular disease risk, but its association with premature death was unclear,” said Marta Guasch-Ferré, a senior research scientist in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard Chan School. “Our findings confirm current dietary recommendations to replace animal fats with plant oils for the prevention of chronic diseases and premature death.”

The researchers used health data collected between 1990 and 2018 for 60 582 women participating in the Nurses’ Health Study and 31 801 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. All participants were free of cardiovascular disease or cancer at the study start.

Participants were asked how often they used olive oil in salad dressings, added to food or bread, or in baking or frying. According to the findings, people in the highest category of olive oil consumption (> 7g/day) had 19% lower risk of total and cardiovascular disease mortality, 17% lower risk of cancer mortality, 29% lower risk of neurodegenerative mortality, and 18% lower risk of respiratory mortality, compared with those who never or rarely consumed olive oil. Compared to margarine, butter, mayonnaise, or dairy fat, olive oil usage was correlated with reduced risk of total and cause-specific mortality. However no significant risk reduction was seen compared to use of other vegetable oils.

“Clinicians should be counselling patients to replace certain fats, such as margarine and butter, with olive oil to improve their health,” advised Guasch-Ferré. “Our study helps make specific recommendations that will be easy for patients to understand and hopefully implement into their diets.”

The findings were published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Source: Harvard University

Chewing Food Thoroughly Helps in Weight Management

Photo by Alex Haney on Unsplash

Previous research has shown that the age-old advice of chewing food thoroughly helps protect against weight again obesity, and now a study has revealed why this is so.

Typically, the chewing process reportedly enhances the energy expenditure associated with the metabolism of food and increases intestinal motility all add up to an increased heat generation in the body, known as diet-induced thermogenesis (DIT). However, how prolonged chewing induces DIT in the body remains unclear. A study published in the journal Scientific Reports answers these questions.

DIT increases energy expenditure above the basal fasting level – a factor known to prevent weight gain. The team previously found that slow eating and thorough chewing not only increased DIT but also enhanced blood circulation in the splanchnic region of the abdomen. Although these studies linked chewing-induced-DIT with increased digestion and absorption-related activity in the abdomen, they left scopes for further exploring a few crucial points.

Senior author Prof Hayashi Naoyuki Hayashi from Waseda University explained: “We were unsure whether the size of the food bolus that entered the digestive tract contributed to the increase in DIT observed after slow eating. Also, do oral stimuli generated during prolonged chewing of food play any role in increasing DIT? To define slow chewing as an effective and scientific weight management strategy, we needed to look deeper into these aspects.”

To find the answers, the researchers designed their new study to exclude the effect of the food bolus by involving liquid food. The entire study included three trials conducted on different days. Volunteers swallow 20mL liquid test food normally every 30 seconds as a control trial. In the second trial, the volunteers kept the same test food in their mouth for 30 seconds without chewing, allowing longer tasting before swallowing. In the third trial they studied the effect of both chewing and tasting; the volunteers chewed the 20mL test food for 30 seconds at a frequency of once per second and then swallowed it. The variables such as hunger and fullness, gas-exchange variables, DIT, and splanchnic circulation were duly measured before and after the test-drink consumption.

While there was no difference in hunger and fullness scores among the trials, as Prof Hayashi describes: “We found DIT or energy production increased after consuming a meal, and it increased with the duration of each taste stimulation and the duration of chewing. This means irrespective of the influence of the food bolus, oral stimuli, corresponding to the duration of tasting food in the mouth and the duration of chewing, increased DIT.” Gas exchange and protein oxidation too increased with the duration of taste stimulation and chewing, and so did blood flow in the splanchnic celiac artery. Since this artery supplies blood to the digestive organs, upper gastrointestinal tract motility also increased in responsivense to chewing.

The study demonstrated that energy expenditure through thorough chewing, though small, could help reduce obesity and metabolic syndrome.

With robust evidence behind it, slow eating and thorough chewing could be the latest recommendations for managing weight.

Source: Waseda University