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Recent research: 3 studies on diet & (cardiovascular) health, 2 on fish oil, dementia & postpartum depression, and 1 on walnuts!

Here are half a dozen studies on diet (see below for all abstracts and links).  The first three are about the benefits of healthy lifestyle.  Trichopoulou & colleagues evaluated the contribution of nine widely accepted components of the Mediterranean diet (high intake of vegetables, fruits and nuts, legumes, fish, and cereals; low intake of meat and dairy; high ratio of monounsaturated to saturated lipids; and moderate intake of ethanol) in the inverse association of this diet with all cause mortality.  They concluded that "The dominant components of the Mediterranean diet score as a predictor of lower mortality are moderate consumption of ethanol, low consumption of meat and meat products, and high consumption of vegetables, fruits and nuts, olive oil, and legumes.

Walking in Glen Affric: lifestyle & aging (second post)

Well here I am, eight or so miles up Glen Affric, lying in a little one man tent in the rain.  I'm 59 today.  I woke at 2.30am wanting a pee and murmured a quiet "Happy birthday" to myself before choosing a moment between showers to stumble out to relieve myself.  I could see a few stars through the clouds.  Since then it's been raining pretty much every time I've woken.  So comfortable, toasty in a sleeping bag on a self-inflating mat in this beautifully designed Hilleberg Akto tent.  Amazing.  I came in on a mountain bike yesterday along the Forestry track south of the loch, bumping and occasionally having to get off to push the bike ... but such an improvement on walking and having to backpack in all supplies, tent, sleeping things - everything I need for three days.  It would have been heavy and slow to have carried it.  As it was, I arrived pretty quickly and pretty easily.

Packhorse

Recent research: three depression papers that get me thinking

Looking back over relevant research papers that caught my attention last month, some stand out for me more than the others.  Here are three on depression that stood out and got me thinking.  The Fergusson et al paper looks at links between alcohol abuse and major depression.  There has been debate for years on whether alcohol dependence leads to depression or depression leads to alcohol dependence.  In this kind of debate, it's usually a good bet that both pathways contain some truth.  What this study adds is that often it is the alcohol dependence that is primary.  As the authors state " ... the associations between AAD (alcohol abuse or dependence) and MD (major depression) were best explained by a causal model in which problems with alcohol led to increased risk of MD as opposed to a self-medication model in which MD led to increased risk of AAD." 

Preventing cancer through life style choices

In 2001 the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) and the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) WCRF/AICR set themselves the task of systematically assessing all good research on diet, physical activity and cancer and publishing a report that would be the largest study of its kind with conclusions that would be best the evidence could demonstrate.  Over 100 scientists from 30 countries were involved.  An expert panel of 21 of these scientists worked for 5 years to produce the report "Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective."  The follow-up companion Policy Report "Policy and Action for Cancer Prevention"  was published a little over a month ago and has recommendations for a series of different groups and organizations including government, industry, the media, schools, and work places

Alcohol: know your limits and increase the price

A recent article in the British Medical Journal (Kmietowicz 2009) reports that "The chief medical officer for England has called for a minimum price of 50 pence (0.54; $0.70) to be charged for a unit of alcohol to reduce excessive drinking and its associated harms.  Liam Donaldson said that antisocial drinking should be targeted in the same way as smoking in public places so that being drunk is no longer an aim or socially acceptable.  ‘England has a drink problem and the whole of society bears the burden,' said Professor Donaldson at the launch of his 2008 annual report. ‘The passive effects of heavy drinking on innocent parties are easily underestimated and frequently ignored. The concept of passive drinking and the devastating collateral effect that alcohol can have on others must be addressed on a national scale.'  He said that evidence shows that price and access are the two key factors that can help to change drinking habits, as they were for tobacco."  

How to cut down on saturated fats

The excellent UK Food Standards Agency  has recently launched a campaign (see the TV ad) to encourage people to cut down their intake of saturated fats.  As the FSA points out on their webpage about saturated fats most people in the UK eat about 20% more than the maximum recommended amount.  They list examples of foods that are high in saturated fats, including:

  • fatty cuts of meat and meat products such as sausages and pies
  • butter, ghee and lard
  • cream, soured cream, crème fraîche and ice cream
  • cheese, particularly hard cheese
  • pastries
  • cakes and biscuits
  • some savoury snacks
  • some sweet snacks and chocolate
  • coconut oil, coconut cream and palm oil

The FSA recommend checking food labels for saturated fat content.  More than 5gm of saturated fat per 100gm of the food is a high level, while less than 1.5gm per 100gm is low.  Their ten tips to help reduce your saturated fat intake are:

Vegged out & fruitless: lifestyle & health

Last month's BMJ published another in the long line of research articles that highlight the huge importance of lifestyle choices for our health:

Dam, R. M. v., T. Li, et al. (2008). "Combined impact of lifestyle factors on mortality: prospective cohort study in US women." BMJ 337(sep16_2): a1440-  [Free Full Text]

Would you like to be 14 years younger – it’s largely a matter of choice!

Back in January I wrote a blog post entitle "Does a healthy lifestyle really make a difference? "   I highlighted that it makes a hell of a lot of a difference.  At around that time another major study was published that hammered this point home even more thoroughly and I've been meaning to mention it in a post ever since.  The recent publicity on poor fruit and veg intake in the UK population triggered me into looking the earlier study out. 

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