HB Health Briefs Jan 2020

Live Near Green Spaces to Stave Off Metabolic Syndrome

Middle-aged and older adults that live in greener neighborhoods have a lower risk of metabolic syndrome, reports research from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health in the journal Environmental Pollution. The study followed more than 6,000 British adults in a cohort initially between ages 45 and 69 for 14 years, and correlated health records and interviews with satellite images of greenery. They found that exposure to green spaces seemed to help prevent metabolic syndrome and its individual components such as large waist circumference, high levels of blood fats and hypertension. The results “could be related to better opportunities provided by green spaces to perform physical activity, as well as a decrease in exposure to air pollution,” notes Carmen de Keijzer, first author of the study. Women fared even better than men, perhaps because women may spend more time in green spaces.

Munch More Nuts to Stave Off Weight Gain

Chomping on more nuts daily keeps the pounds at bay, according to research published in the journal BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health. Using records from three long-term longitudinal studies spanning 20 years and including nearly 300,000 health professionals, the report from Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that increasing nut intake by a half serving a day—about 12 almonds or seven walnut halves—was linked to lower instances of weight gain and obesity. Swapping out a serving of meats, refined grains or desserts for half a serving of nuts was associated with staving off weight gain of between 0.9 and 1.5 pounds in any four-year period. A consistently higher nut intake of at least half a serving a day was associated with a 23 percent lower risk of putting on 11 or more pounds and becoming obese in the same timeframe. No such links were found for eating more peanut butter. The researchers suggests the high fiber content of nuts can make a person feel full longer, and that that the fiber also binds well to fats in the gut, affecting a greater discharge of calories. 

Eat Garlic and Onion for Breast Health

Women eating more onions and garlic reduced their risk of breast cancer by 59 percent compared to those that ate less of these, according to a study in the journal Nutrition and Cancer. Researchers from the State University of New York at Buffalo and the University of Puerto Rico surveyed 660 women in Puerto Rico to measure their intake of onions and garlic, as well as sofrito, a local dish also cooked with bell peppers, tomatoes, cilantro and black pepper. Women that ate the onion- and garlic-rich sofrito sauce more than once a day slashed their risk of breast cancer by 67 percent compared to those that didn’t eat it. Both garlic and onions contain compounds with anticarcinogenic properties, and earlier studies have found a link between higher onion and garlic intake and fewer cancers of the lung, prostate and stomach. Puerto Rican women eat more onions and garlic than women in Europe and the U.S., mainly due to the popularity of those two ingredients in sofrito, and also have markedly lower breast cancer rates. 

Drink Pomegranate Juice to Protect Fetal Brain Growth

About one in 10 babies in utero struggles with a dangerous condition known as intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR), in which the flow of oxygen and nutrients through the placenta is restricted, hampering development of the growing fetus. Now a simple solution—of mom drinking an eight-ounce glass of pomegranate juice a day—offers hope of a solution that can reduce infant deaths and lower the need for infant surgery. Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in Boston, studied 77 mothers with IUGR at St. Louis’ Barnes-Jewish Hospital that received either one cup a day of pomegranate juice or a placebo. Evaluating 55 of the babies’ development with MRIs after birth, researchers found that the babies with pomegranate-drinking moms had evidence of both better brain connectivity and development of white matter—tissue through which messages pass in the central nervous system. Pomegranate juice is a rich source of polyphenols, a class of foods also found in nuts, berries, vegetables and teas that’s known to cross the blood-brain barrier and have neuroprotective effects.

Eat Fermented Dairy to Lower Heart Risk

Eating and drinking fermented probiotic dairy products such as yogurt, kefir, cheese and sour cream reduces the risk of heart disease for women, report researchers from the Netherlands that analyzed data from nearly 8,000 Australian women over a 15-year period. The effect was particularly strong for those that were obese and had Type 2 diabetes, according to the research. “In the process of dairy fermentation, beneficial compounds are released that have shown promise for improving glycemic control, blood lipids, cholesterol concentrations and blood pressure,” write the study authors.

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