Reaping the most benefits from food-related studies
March may be National Nutrition Month, but the way to obtain a healthy lifestyle through nutrition, or the determinants certain foods and drinks can cause, is the subject of research throughout the year.
These studies can affirm or call into question long-standing tenets of medicine, and often run the gamut of the food and beverage spectrum.
Mindful that there is not time for primary care physicians and clinicians to review every study published, we asked two experts — Jamie Stang, PhD, MPH, RD, an associate professor within the division of epidemiology and community health at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, and Jillian Hyttenhove, RD, a dietitian at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine — to discuss what they felt were the most important articles regarding important food- and beverage-consumption over the past year and why they ranked them so highly.
Plant-based diet reduces mortality
Lancet Public Health published a study that concluded that replacing animal-source foods with plant-based ones was “particularly effective” in high-income countries for reducing premature mortality, increasing nutrient levels and lowering greenhouse gases.
Stang said the broad-based approach of the study — researchers gathered information from more than 150 countries — makes these types of studies the most useful for developing professional guidelines and when making clinical decisions about how to discuss food intake with patients.
“Systematic reviews and meta-analyses use data from multiple studies and thousands of patients to come to their conclusions. PCPs can be more confident in the results because it’s more likely that the association was not just by chance. It’s also more likely that someone with the same background as the patient was included in the study,” she told Healio Primary Care Today.
“The reality is, people eat diets, not nutrients,” Stang continued. “We don’t just eat omega-3 fatty acids, we don’t just drink coffee. PCPs can do a disservice when they take information about a single nutrient and try to apply it to all components of health.”
She added that while some single-nutrient studies do not include diverse participants or consider a patient’s unique needs, they do provide some benefit to the medical community.
“Single-nutrient studies may not provide appropriate information for all patients, but they still provide useful information. Use them on a limited basis to optimize diet recommendations for individual patients.”
Similar outcomes with low-fat, low-carb diets
An article that appeared in JAMA in February 2018 concluded that weight loss over 12 months was substantially the same, regardless of whether an adult followed a healthy low-fat diet or a healthy low-carbohydrate diet.
“That study proved several things that I have been telling patients for a long time: diets are not one size fits all; just because a diet is trendy doesn’t mean it will work; and it’s the quality of the food a patient eats, not the quantity,” Hyttenhove told Healio Primary Care Today.
She added that forthcoming studies that suggest eating and drinking more unprocessed foods are also worth mentioning to patients upon release.
“Those types of research prove that you should be encouraging your patients to eat as many fruits and vegetables as possible and telling them to avoid the foods that come from boxes and packages,” Hyttenhove said.
Year of nutrition news in review
Articles that discussed ketogenic diets, as well as the health benefits of eating eggs, nuts and yogurt were just some of the stories that discussed food and beverages that proved popular with Healio Primary Care Today readers. Listed below are the most read nutrition-related articles from the last year. – by Janel Miller
Ketogenic diet: What you need to know
The ketogenic diet was called the “latest buzzy” weight loss plan by the mainstream media in 2018. However, this particular weight loss plan actually dates, according to some estimates, to as early as 500 BC. Read more.
Eggs, nuts, coffee, dairy, veggies positively impact health
A broad spectrum of foods and beverages produced an equally diverse range of health benefits, according to findings presented at Nutrition 2018, the first-ever flagship meeting of the American Society for Nutrition. Read more.
Fruits, vegetables, lower risk for dementia, increase cognition
Different foods provided benefits associated with dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and cognition, according to several abstracts presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference. Read more.
Plant-based diet lowers risk for chronic diseases, weight gain, death
Several studies presented at Nutrition 2018 highlighted the health benefits of a vegetarian or primarily plant-based diet. Read more.
How to use food as medicine to prevent, reverse chronic diseases
Encouraging a healthful diet in patients promotes the prevention and reversal of chronic diseases, such as CVD, diabetes, cancer and obesity, according to a presentation at the ACP Internal Medicine Meeting. Read more.
Vegan diet, walking, hydration, sleep reduced BP in just 2 weeks
Lifestyle intervention focused on nutrition, exercise and sleep significantly lowered BP and the need for antihypertensive medications over a period of 2 weeks, according to findings presented at Nutrition 2018. Read more.
SNAP participants do not meet many healthful diet goals
In nearly all dietary components, participants of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, did not meet the recommendations for a healthful diet, according to findings published in JAMA Network Open. Read more.
Yogurt reduces inflammation, cardiometabolic risk
Eating yogurt reduced biomarkers tied to chronic inflammation and the risk for cardiometabolic disease in healthy women who had not reached menopause, according to two published studies. Read more.
Frequently eating organic food may lower cancer risk
Researchers observed a significant reduction in overall risk of cancer among individuals who consumed organic food at a high frequency, according to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine. Read more.
Heavy coffee drinking associated with lower mortality risk
Consuming ground, instant or decaffeinated coffee was inversely associated with all-cause mortality even in individuals who drank 8 or more cups per day and had fast or slow caffeine metabolism, according to findings published in JAMA Internal Medicine. Read more.
For more information:
Gardner CD, et al. JAMA. 2018;doi:10.1001/jama.2018.0245,
Springmann M, et al. Lancet Public Health. 2018;doi:10.1016/S2542-5196(18)30206-7.
Reference: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “National Nutrition Month.” https://www.eatright.org/food/resources/national-nutrition-month/national-nutrition-month. Accessed March 4, 2019.
Disclosures: Hyttenhove reports no relevant financial disclosures. Stang reports grant funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Maternal and Child Health Bureau.