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In a recent study of normal weight adults, a meal consisting of low-glycemic carbohydrates improved cognitive function after meals better than a high-glycemic meal.

Glucose is an important sugar for proper brain function, and the rate of glucose delivered to the brain after a meal may influence cognitive performance. In a new study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers evaluated the effects of glucose absorption directly after a meal, and how the rate of absorption affects cognitive performance. Individual responses to glucose and insulin (glucoregulation) were also evaluated for potential differences in cognitive function.

The study included 40 healthy adults, aged 49-71 years, with BMIs varying from 20-29.  Test meals included white wheat bread (WWB) as the standard high glycemic food, and a WWB enriched with guar gum (G-WWB) as a low-glycemic food as a comparison.

In a cross-over design, subjects were evaluated for cognitive function (working memory and selective attention) after consuming one of the test meals and during the hours after the meal (postprandial period). The G-WWB meal improved the outcome in the cognitive tests in the later postprandial period (75–225 min) in comparison with the WWB. Subjects with better glucoregulation performed better in cognitive tests compared with subjects with worse glucoregulation.

Researchers suggested that the superior cognitive performance in the group eating the lower GI meal may be due to improved insulin sensitivity, and possibly in combination with an improved neural energy supply. The results of this study support the idea that carbohydrate foods that induce a slow and sustained blood glucose profile may support improved brain function after a meal in comparison to high glycemic foods.

Source: A Nilsson et al. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2012) 66, 1039–1043

A recent German study found that Lycopene, a carotenoid mainly consumed from tomatoes, may help inhibit progression of BPH.

BPH (Benign Prostate Hyperplasia) is a common disease of elderly men and a risk factor for developing prostate cancer later in life.  It affects approximately 50% of men in their 50s with increasing prevalence up to 90% of men in their 80s and older.

In epidemiological studies, regular intakes of lycopene and high blood levels of the carotenoid have been associated with a reduced risk of developing prostate cancer.  It has been suggested that there may be a possible beneficial role of lycopene in patients diagnosed with BPH.  In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical study, German scientists investigated whether intake of lycopene supplements inhibits disease progression in patients with BPH, improving clinical diagnostic markers and symptoms of BPH.

Forty patients, aged between 45-70 yrs with BPH were recruited to participate in this study. They were randomly assigned to receive either a lycopene supplement (15 mg/day) or a placebo for 6 months.  The effects of the intervention on carotenoid status, clinical diagnostic markers of prostate proliferation, and symptoms of the disease were assessed at baseline, and at 1, 3, and 6 months intervals.

After 6 months, lycopene supplementation decreased PSA levels in men, whereas there was no change in the placebo group.  The plasma lycopene concentration increased in the group taking lycopene but other plasma carotenoids were not affected.

Clinical examinations for enlargement of the prostate in the placebo group showed 24% and 27% increases in prostate volume and weight.  In contrast, in the lycopene group, slight and nonsignificant 5% and 3% increases in volume and weight occurred.  Prostate enlargement tended to be slower in the lycopene group compared with the placebo group.

Symptoms of the disease, as assessed via the International Prostate Symptom Score questionnaire, were improved in both groups with a significantly greater effect in men taking lycopene supplements.

In conclusion, this study indicates that lycopene supplementation at a dose of 15 mg/day for 6 months, may inhibit disease progression and may ameliorate symptoms in BPH patients.

Source: Silke Schwarz et al.; J. Nutr. 2008; 138: 49–

Cereal fiber is associated with a host of health benefits.  Individuals consuming little fibres would benefit from increasing their dietary intake of whole grain foods high in fibre.

Cereals, also called grains, are grasses from which the seed is removed for consumption. Cereals commonly consumed are rice, wheat, maize, barley, rye, oats, millet and sorghum; of these, barley and rye contain the most fiber per gram of edible portion; rice and millet the least.  Numerous studies reveal the cardiovascular benefits of consuming cereal fiber through multiple mechanisms.  These benefits are likely achieved through multiple metabolic pathways: by reducing weight and waist circumference, body mass index (BMI), percent body fat; improving glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity; and lowering the risk of metabolic syndrome and diabetes.

Epidemiological evidence suggests that 3 g or more per day of β-glucan from oats or barley or 7 g or more per day of soluble fiber from psyllium can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.  14 g/day of inulin-type fructans, added to foods and beverages, may modestly decrease serum triacylglycerols. Consumption of whole grains confers not only the benefits of cereal fiber, but also those from a wide range of other protective compounds, including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytosterols, unsaturated fatty acids, phytin, and lignans.

Recent estimates are that 36% of the U.S. population falls below the minimum recommended intake for grains and 99% falls below the recommendation for whole grains.  In addition, 90% of the U.S. population does not consume enough dietary fiber.  It is recommended that individuals consuming little cereal fiber should increase consumption of whole grains, as well as beans, peas and vegetables, fruits and other foods with naturally occurring fiber, to help increase fiber intake.  For those individuals adjusting to the texture and palatability of whole grains, turning to added-fiber products rich in β-glucan and psyllium may allow them to reach their fiber goals without increasing caloric intake.

Chuang S-chun et al; Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Jul; 96(1):164-74.

New data continues to provide evidence showing that a diet high in fiber is beneficial for health.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cancer are among the leading causes of death in developed countries. Research has shown that a diet higher in fiber may provide health benefits specifically for these two conditions, however little is known about association of dietary fiber with other causes of death.  Despite the lack of research it is believed that the health benefits of a diet high in fiber is not just limited to CVD and cancer, but may also provide health benefits through a number of other mechanisms.

A recent European cohort study consisting of 452,717 volunteers, between the ages of 25-70 at recruitment (mean = 50.8 years), provides further data to help learn about fiber intake and cause-specific mortality.  The researchers in this study used a food frequency questionnaire and a seven day food record to determine the volunteers’ fiber intake (both soluble and insoluble forms of fiber were included). The average follow-up period was 12.7 years, during which 23,582 deaths occurred among the volunteer individuals. Analysis revealed a correlation between increased fiber intake and decreased mortality.

For every 10 gram/day increase in fiber there was a decrease in mortality of 10%. When looking at individual causes of death, the 10 g/day increase in fiber was linked to a decrease in death by 10% for circulatory diseases, 39% for digestive diseases, 23% for respiratory disease, and 14% for smoking-related cancers.  These associations were consistent across BMI and physical activity, but were stronger for those who were smokers and for those that consumed more than 18 g/day of alcohol.

The results of this study provided further evidence showing that increased fiber intake is associated with a decreased risk of death from CVD and cancer.  Additionally it shows that a correlation may also exist between fiber intake and death from digestive and respiratory diseases. This research supports the idea that a diet high in fiber is important for maintenance of overall health.

Chuang S-chun et al; Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Jul; 96(1):164-74.

A recent study indicates that supplementation of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA in healthy young adults with low dietary DHA intakes may improve memory and reaction time.

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is important for brain function, and its status is dependent on dietary intakes. Therefore, individuals who consume diets low in omega-3 (n-3) polyunsaturated fatty acids may cognitively benefit from DHA supplementation. Sex and apolipoprotein E genotype (APOE) affect cognition and may modulate the response to DHA supplementation.

It is known that the omega-3 fatty acid DHA is important for neural development, and much research has been conducted regarding the benefit of DHA in elderly populations.  In a recent study, scientists investigated whether a DHA supplement improves cognitive performance such as memory and reaction time in healthy young adults and whether there was a different response between genders.

The study included 176 adult men and women between the ages of 18 and 45. The participants were non-smoking and had self-reported low dietary DHA intakes. The subjects were randomized to receive either a supplement of DHA (1.16 grams) or a placebo daily for six months. Cognitive performance was analyzed using battery of tests including episodic and working memory, attention, reaction time of episodic and working memory, and attention and processing speed. The tests were administered before and after the treatment period.

At the end of the study, when compared with the placebo, those who received DHA showed improvement in the reaction time of episodic and working memory.  DHA improved episodic memory in women and reaction times of working memory in men.

This is the first study to show that DHA supplementation may improve memory and reaction time of memory in healthy non-smoking adults whose diets are habitually low in DHA. It also indicates that response to supplementation may be modulated by sex.

Welma Stonehouse et al. Am J Clin Nutr May 2013. 97(5):1134-43.

Green tea extract is correlated with numerous health benefits related to cardiovascular and metabolic health.

Green tea (GT) consumption has been known to be associated with enhanced cardiovascular and metabolic health.  Based on previous research showing that green tea extract has a positive impact on numerous health parameters, researchers at Poznan University of Medical Sciences in Poland hypothesized that supplementation with GTE would improve insulin resistance and cardiovascular risk factors in obese, hypertensive individuals.

Fifty-six obese, hypertensive study participants were randomized to receive either a placebo or 379 mg of GTE daily for three months. Several health-related measurements were taken at baseline and again at the end of the three month period. Some of the key measurements included blood pressure, plasma lipid levels, glucose levels, total antioxidant status, and insulin levels.

The results of this double-blind, placebo-controlled study showed a correlation between the GTE supplementation and several markers of health status. GTE supplementation was associated with a statistically significant decrease in systolic and diastolic blood pressure of 4.9 and 4.7 mmHg, respectively.

When compared with the placebo there was also a significant reduction in fasting serum glucose, insulin levels, and insulin resistance. A significant decrease in LDL and an increase in HDL cholesterol were also observed. In addition, total antioxidant status increased, while serum tumor necrosis factor α and C-reactive protein were lowered.

Results from this research continue to add strong evidence supporting the use of GTE supplementation. The researchers acknowledge that their study only apply to one particular group of individuals.  However, because this group of individuals is overrepresented in many modern populations, the study authors recommend that the effect of GTE supplementation should be further evaluated.

Bogdanski P. et al. Nutrition Research (New York, N.Y.). 2012; 32(6):421-7.

A recent study involving over 85,000 children has shown a correlation between prenatal folic acid supplement intake, and a reduced risk of autism spectrum disorders in children.

Folic acid is a water soluble B vitamin that in addition to being found naturally in a wide variety of foods, can be found in fortified grain products and in most multivitamin supplements. The Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI) of folate for pregnant women is set at 600 μg to help reduce the risk of spina bifida and other neural tube defects in infants. A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has found that there might be additional health benefits associated with folic acid supplementation.

This study draws upon data that was collected in the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study. This study includes data on mothers and 85,176 babies who were born between 2002-2008. Age at follow-up ranged from 3.3 through 10.2 years (mean = 6.4 years). Mother’s dietary intake was recorded before and during pregnancy. Analysis of this data focused specifically on folic acid supplement intake from 4 weeks before pregnancy to 8 weeks after pregnancy.

By the end of the follow-up period, 270 children in the study had been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), which includes autistic disorder, Asperger syndrome, and pervasive developmental disorder. In mothers who had not taken folic acid supplements during the target time period, 0.21% of their children had been diagnosed with ASDs, while only 0.10% of the children whose mothers had taken folic acid supplements had been diagnosed with ASDs. The adjusted risk indicates that those children whose mothers had taken folic acid supplements were 39% less likely to have been diagnosed with ASDs.

While more research is needed, these results provided further evidence to support the use of supplements containing folic acid before and during pregnancy.

Surén P, Roth C, Bresnahan M, et al. JAMA. 2013 Feb 13; 309(6):570-7.

Despite the introduction of mandatory iodine fortification of bread since 2009, the iodine status in pregnant women in South Australia still falls within mild deficiency range.

Iodine deficiency affects nearly 2 billion people globally and is easily preventable with the use of iodized salt in the diet. Iodine deficiency during pregnancy is associated with increased rates of stillbirths, spontaneous abortions, and congenital anomalies and is the leading worldwide preventable cause of intellectual impairment in children. Even Mild iodine deficiency during pregnancy can have significant effects on fetal development and future cognitive function.

The iodine intake of pregnant women in Australia has been found to be inadequate in several studies over the past decade but has not been examined in the South Australian population. A recent Australia study was conducted to characterize the iodine status of South Australian women during pregnancy and relate it to the use of iodine-containing multivitamins. The impact of fortification of bread with iodized salt was also assessed.

196 Women were recruited prospectively at the beginning of pregnancy and urine collected at 12, 18, 30, 36 weeks gestation and 6 months postpartum. The use of a multivitamin supplement was recorded at each visit. Spot urinary iodine concentrations (UIC) were assessed.

The study found that median UICs were within the mildly deficient range in women not taking supplements (<90 μg/L). Among the women taking iodine-containing multivitamins, their UICs were higher than women who did not consume iodine-containing multivitamins, and were within WHO recommendations (150–249 μg/L) for sufficiency, and showed an increasing trend through gestation. The fortification of bread with iodized salt increased the median UIC from 68 μg/L to 84 μg/L, which was still in the deficient range.

These results indicates that pregnant women in this region of Australia were unlikely to reach recommended iodine levels without an iodine supplement, even after the mandatory iodine supplementation of bread was instituted in October 2009. Women should consider using an iodine-containing multivitamin during pregnancy to improve their iodine concentrations. This is in line with the NHMRC’s recommendation that all women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or considering pregnancy, with the exception of women with pre-existing thyroid conditions who should seek advice from their medical practitioner, are to take a daily iodine supplement of 150 micrograms per day.

Vicki L Clifton et al; Nutrition Journal 2013; 12:32; doi:10.1186/1475-2891-12-32

A recent meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials suggests that CoQ10 supplementation may improve the ejection fraction of patients with congestive heart failure.

CoQ10 (ubiquinone) is an antioxidant that has been used to help improve functional status during congestive heart failure (CHF). Several clinical trials have examined the effects of CoQ10 on CHF, but some of the research has been inconclusive.

In a recently published paper in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers conducted a meta-analysis to evaluate the effect of CoQ10 supplementation on ejection fraction (EF) and functional improvements of patients with CHF.

A systematic review of the research literature was performed using databases that included Medline, Embase, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, and examination of references from other selected studies. Included studies were randomized controlled trials of CoQ10 supplementation that reported EF or specific functional improvements as a primary outcome.

When all studies were pooled, supplementation with CoQ10 resulted in a net change of 3.67% in the EF and a trend in functional improvements. Cross-over studies of 12 weeks or more, daily dosages of at least 100 mg CoQ10, and patients with less severe CHF showed the most significant improvements in EF and health outcomes.

This meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials suggests that CoQ10 supplementation may improve the EF of patients with CHF. However additional well-designed studies with a more diverse population are needed.

Fotino AD, Thompson-Paul AM, Bazzano LA. Am J Clin Nutr 2013 Feb;97(2):268-75.

New study suggests that vitamin E supplementation has an important role in delaying the onset of the diabetic complications.

Diabetes is accompanied by severe oxidative stress which is caused by increased oxygen free radical production. An imbalance which results from an increased production and/or the reduced scavenging of these free radicals leads to a metabolic state of oxidative stress, which consequently leads to tissue damage.

The damage which is done to the bimolecular by the reactive oxygen species (oxidative damage) is kept in check by a complex network of antioxidant defense and repair systems. One of the best characterized antioxidants is vitamin E, a fat-soluble vitamin that helps in preventing damage to the lipids by the oxygen free radicals. Vitamin E is known to be deficient in diabetes.

A recent prospective clinical study recruited 128 type I and II Diabetic patients with and without complications to investigate the role of vitamin E in preventing the development and the progression of the diabetic complications. These patients were divided separately into the test (which received insulin/oral hypoglycemic and vitamin E) and the control groups (which received only insulin/oral hypoglycemic drugs).

Fasting Blood Sugar (FBS), Post-prandial Blood Sugar (PPBS), Total Cholesterol (TC), and the Blood Pressure (BP) was monitored at 0(beginning),12,18 and 24 months. Cardiovascular disease, retinopathy, nephropathy and foot ulcer development and progression were also monitored. The data was analyzed by the Z test for the means and for the proportions.

The study found that there was a statistically significant decrease in the post-prandial blood sugar level, total cholesterol level and the diastolic blood pressure in the test groups of both type I Diabetes and type II Diabetes at 24 months as compared to those in the control group. The patients who were on the vitamin E supplementation had a delayed development and a slow progression of diabetic complications.

This study provided evidence that vitamin E supplementation has an important role in delaying the onset of the diabetic complications as well as for slowing down the progression of the complications. However it remains unclear if routine vitamin E supplementation should be recommended to all diabetic patients. Further larger studies are needed to better understand the role of vitamin E in diabetes.

Jain & Jain; Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research. 2012 December, Vol-6(10): 1624-162

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