Late night snack with cottage cheese has no major adverse metabolic effects

Associate Professor of Nutrition, Food and Exercise Sciences Michael Ormsbee and former Florida state university graduate student Samantha Leyh found that consuming 30 grams of protein about 30 minutes before bed appears to have a positive effect on muscle quality, metabolism, and overall health. They compared protein from whole food (cottage cheese) versus liquid protein shake and placebo. In their results they showed no difference between whole food and liquid protein shake in terms of appetite and metabolic changes. Research suggests that no adverse impact of pre-sleep protein on metabolic activity. Research findings are published in the British Journal of Nutrition.

Study participants active young women in their early 20s ate samples of cottage cheese 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime. Researchers specifically wanted to see if this food may have an impact on the metabolic rate and muscle recovery.

“Until now, we presumed that whole foods would act similarly to the data on supplemental protein, but we had no real evidence,” Ormsbee said. “This is important because it adds to the body of literature that indicates that whole foods work just as well as protein supplementation, and it gives people options for presleep nutrition that go beyond powders and shaker bottles.”

Leyh, who is now a research dietitian with the Air Force, said the results serve as a foundation for future research on precise metabolic responses to whole food consumption.

Ormsbee said that his research team will start examining more presleep food options and longer-term studies to learn more about the optimal food choices that can aid individuals in recovery from exercise, repair and regeneration of muscle and overall health.

Citation:Leyh, Samantha M., Brandon D. Willingham, Daniel A. Baur, Lynn B. Panton, and Michael J. Ormsbee. “Pre-sleep Protein in Casein Supplement or Whole-food Form Has No Impact on Resting Energy Expenditure or Hunger in Women.” British Journal of Nutrition120, no. 9 (2018): 988-94. doi:10.1017/s0007114518002416.

Pecan consumption linked to improved cardiovascular and diabetic biomarkers

Researchers have conducted a study to see if eating pecans had an impact on cardiovascular disease and diabetes biomarkers. This study was funded by National Pecan Shellers Association and findings are published in journal Nutrition.

Researchers conducted a placebo-controlled crossover trial of 26 subjects. All subjects were provided with meals to carefully control their food intake. For 4 weeks one group had a diet with 15% of daily calorie intake provided with pecans. Both the control diet and the pecan-rich diet were low in fruits, vegetables, and fiber. Calorie levels, as well as protein, carbohydrate, and total fat, were kept the same. Results of the study showed improvements in serum insulin, insulin resistance, pancreatic beta cell function and cardiovascular disease biomarkers.

“Pecans are naturally high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, so replacing a portion of the saturated fat in the diet with these healthier fats can explain some of the cardioprotective effects we observed,” said lead researcher, Diane McKay, Ph.D. “But pecans also contain a number of bioactive plant compounds as well as vitamins and essential minerals that all likely contributed to this benefit. What’s really interesting is that just one small change – eating a handful of pecans daily – may have a large impact on the health of these at-risk adults.”

Reference: Mckay, Diane, Misha Eliasziw, C. Chen, and Jeffrey Blumberg. “A Pecan-Rich Diet Improves Cardiometabolic Risk Factors in Overweight and Obese Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” Nutrients 10, no. 3 (2018): 339. doi:10.3390/nu10030339.

Research funding: National Pecan Shellers Association

Adapted from press release by Kellen Communications.

Study finds effectiveness of fasting diet (5:2 diet) in clearing fat

Researchers from the University of Surrey examined the effectiveness of the 5:2 diet vs. daily calorie restriction diet. They found that 5:2 diet clears triglycerides from blood quicker after eating meals. Their findings are published in British Journal of Nutrition reports.

The study divided overweight people into two groups. One group was assigned 5:2 diet another group was assigned daily calorie restriction diet. They measured days required for 5% weight loss, ability to clear fat and glucose from the blood. The 5:2 diet involved eating regularly for five days and restricting remaining 2 days to 600 calories per day.

Results of the study showed that subjects assigned to 5:2 diet lost 5% weight in 59 days compared other group which took 73 days. Researchers also found improved ability to clear triglycerides in this group. The study also found 9% reduction in systolic blood pressure by in 5:2 group.

Dr. Rona Antoni, Research Fellow in Nutritional Metabolism at the University of Surrey, said:

As seen in this study, some of our participants struggled to tolerate the 5:2 diet, which suggests that this approach is not suited to everybody; ultimately the key to dieting success is finding an approach you can sustain long term.

“But for those who do well and are able stick to the 5:2 diet, it could potentially have a beneficial impact on some important risk markers for cardiovascular disease, in some cases more so than daily dieting. However, we need further studies to confirm our findings, to understand the underlying mechanisms and to improve the tolerability of the 5:2 diet.”

Citation:  Antoni, Rona, Kelly L. Johnston, Adam L. Collins, and M. Denise Robertson. “Intermittent v. Continuous Energy Restriction: Differential Effects on Postprandial Glucose and Lipid Metabolism following Matched Weight Loss in Overweight/obese Participants.” British Journal of Nutrition 119, no. 05 (2018): 507-16. doi:10.1017/s0007114517003890.

Adapted from press release by the University of Surrey.

Diets rich in fruits and vegetables associated with lower depression risk

People who eat vegetables, fruit and whole grains may have lower rates of depression over time, according to a preliminary study that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 70th Annual Meeting.

Research found that people whose diets adhered more closely to the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet were less likely to develop depression than people who did not. DASH diet consists of fruit, vegetables, whole grains and fat-free or low fat dairy products. This diet limits intake of foods that contain sugar and saturated fats. Previous research have shown health benefits such as lowering high blood pressure and bad cholesterol (LDL), along with lowering body weight.

“Depression is common in older adults and more frequent in people with memory problems, vascular risk factors such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol, or people who have had a stroke,” said study author Laurel Cherian, MD, of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. “Making a lifestyle change such as changing your diet is often preferred over taking medications, so we wanted to see if diet could be an effective way to reduce the risk of depression.”

For the study, 964 participants with an average age of 81 were evaluated yearly for an average of six-and-a-half years. They were monitored for symptoms of depression and also filled out questionnaires about how often they ate various foods, and the researchers looked at how closely the participants’ diets followed diets such as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, Mediterranean diet and the traditional Western diet.

Participants were divided into three groups based on how closely they adhered to the diets. People in the two groups that followed the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet most closely were less likely to develop depression than people in the group that did not follow the diet closely.  On the other hand, the more closely people followed a Western diet, a diet that is high in saturated fats and red meats and low in fruits and vegetables the more likely they were to develop depression.

Cherian noted that the study does not prove that the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet leads to a reduced risk of depression; it only shows an association.

“Future studies are now needed to confirm these results and to determine the best nutritional components of the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet to prevent depression later in life and to best help people keep their brains healthy,” said Cherian.

Adapted from press release by the American Academy of Neurology.

Vitamin E requirements increased in people suffering from metabolic syndrome

New research has shown that people with metabolic syndrome need significantly more vitamin E – which could be a serious public health concern, in light of the millions of people who have this condition that’s often related to obesity. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition also made it clear that conventional tests to measure vitamin E levels in the blood may have limited accuracy compared to tests made in research laboratories, to the point that conventional tests can actually mask an underlying problem.

Vitamin E supplements. Credit: John Liu / Oregon State University.

Vitamin E – one of the more difficult micronutrients to obtain by dietary means – is an antioxidant important for cell protection. It also affects gene expression, immune function, aids in the repair of wounds and the damage of atherosclerosis, is important for vision and neurologic function, and largely prevents fat from going rancid.

Nutrition surveys have estimated that 92 percent of men and 96 percent of women in the United States fail to get an adequate daily intake of vitamin E in their diet. It is found at high levels in almonds, wheat germ, various seeds and oils, and at much lower levels in some vegetables and salad greens, such as spinach and kale.

This study was done by researchers at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University and the Human Nutrition Program at The Ohio State University, as a double-blind, crossover clinical trial focusing on vitamin E levels in people with metabolic syndrome. “The research showed that people with metabolic syndrome need about 30-50 percent more vitamin E than those who are generally healthy,” said Maret Traber, a professor in the OSU College of Public Health and Human Sciences, and Ava Helen Pauling Professor in the Linus Pauling Institute.

“In previous work, we showed that people with metabolic syndrome had a lower bioavailability of vitamin E. Our current work uses a novel approach to measure how much vitamin E the body needs. This study clearly demonstrates that people with metabolic syndrome need a higher intake of this vitamin.”

More than 30 percent of the American public are obese, and more than 25 percent of the adults in the United States meet the criteria for metabolic syndrome, putting them at significantly increased the risk for cardiovascular disease and type-2 diabetes primary causes of death in the developed world.

That syndrome is defined by diagnosis of three or more of several conditions, including abdominal obesity, elevated lipids, high blood pressure, pro-inflammatory state, a pro-thrombotic state and insulin resistance or impaired glucose tolerance. This research, for the first time, also clearly outlined a flaw with conventional approaches to measuring vitamin E.

By “labeling” vitamin E with deuterium, a stable isotope of hydrogen, scientists were able to measure the amount of the micronutrient that was eliminated by the body, compared to the intake. The advanced research laboratory tests, which are not available to the general public, showed that people with metabolic syndrome retained 30-50 percent more vitamin E than healthy people – showing that they needed it. When the body doesn’t need vitamin E, the excess is excreted.

But in the group with metabolic syndrome, even as their tissues were taking up and retaining the needed vitamin E, their blood levels by conventional measurement appeared about the same as those of a normal, healthy person.

“We’ve discovered that vitamin E levels often look normal in the blood, because this micronutrient is attracted to high cholesterol and fat,” Traber said. “So vitamin E can stay at higher levels in the circulatory system and give the illusion of adequate levels, even as tissues are deficient.

“This basically means that conventional vitamin E blood tests as they are now being done are useless.”

The findings support the conclusion that people with metabolic syndrome have higher levels of oxidative and inflammatory stress, scientists said in their conclusion, and require more antioxidants such as vitamins E as a result.

Citation: Maret G Traber, Eunice Mah, Scott W Leonard, Gerd Bobe, and Richard S Bruno. “Metabolic syndrome increases dietary α-tocopherol requirements as assessed using urinary and plasma vitamin E catabolites: a double-blind, crossover clinical trial.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2017 pp: ajcn138495
DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.116.138495
Research funding: National Institutes of Health, National Dairy Council, and DSM Nutrition.
Adapted from press release by Oregon State University.

Decreased mortality associated with eating red hot chili peppers

Researchers at the Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont, who found that consumption of hot red chili peppers is associated with a 13 percent reduction in total mortality primarily in deaths due to heart disease or stroke in a large prospective study. The study was published recently in PLoS ONE.

Chili Peppers. Wikipedia

Going back for centuries, peppers and spices have been thought to be beneficial in the treatment of diseases, but only one other study — conducted in China and published in 2015 – has previously examined chili pepper consumption and its association with mortality. This new study corroborates the earlier study’s findings.

Using National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey (NHANES) III data collected from more than 16,000 Americans who were followed for up to 23 years, medical student Mustafa Chopan ’17 and Professor of Medicine Benjamin Littenberg, M.D., examined the baseline characteristics of the participants according to hot red chili pepper consumption. They found that consumers of hot red chili peppers tended to be “younger, male, white, Mexican-American, married, and to smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, and consume more vegetables and meats had lower HDL-cholesterol, lower income, and less education,” in comparison to participants who did not consume red chili peppers. They examined data from a median follow-up of 18.9 years and observed the number of deaths and then analyzed specific causes of death.

“Although the mechanism by which peppers could delay mortality is far from certain, Transient Receptor Potential (TRP) channels, which are primary receptors for pungent agents such as capsaicin (the principal component in chili peppers), may in part be responsible for the observed relationship,” say the study authors.

There are some possible explanations for red chili peppers’ health benefits, state Chopan and Littenberg in the study. Among them are the fact that capsaicin – the principal component in chili peppers is believed to play a role in cellular and molecular mechanisms that prevent obesity and modulate coronary blood flow, and also possesses antimicrobial properties that “may indirectly affect the host by altering the gut microbiota.”

“Because our study adds to the generalizability of previous findings, chili pepper — or even spicy food – consumption may become a dietary recommendation and/or fuel further research in the form of clinical trials,” says Chopan.

Citation: Chopan, Mustafa, and Benjamin Littenberg. “The Association of Hot Red Chili Pepper Consumption and Mortality: A Large Population-Based Cohort Study.” PloS one 12, no. 1 (2017): e0169876.
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0169876
Adapted from press release by the University of Vermont.

Chronic headache and Vitamin D deficiency

Vitamin D deficiency may increase the risk of a chronic headache, according to a new study from the University of Eastern Finland. The findings were published in Scientific Reports.

The Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study, KIHD, analyzed the serum vitamin D levels and occurrence of a headache in approximately 2,600 men aged between 42 and 60 years in 1984-1989. In 68% of these men, the serum vitamin D level was below 50 nmol/l, which is generally considered the threshold for vitamin D deficiency. A chronic headache occurring at least on a weekly basis was reported by 250 men, and men reporting chronic headache had lower serum vitamin D levels than others.

When the study population was divided into four groups based on their serum vitamin D levels, the group with the lowest levels had over a twofold risk of a chronic headache in comparison to the group with the highest levels. A chronic headache was also more frequently reported by men who were examined outside the summer months of June through September. Thanks to UVB radiation from the sun, the average serum vitamin D levels are higher during the summer months.

The study adds to the accumulating body of evidence linking a low intake of vitamin D to an increased risk of chronic diseases. Low vitamin D levels have been associated with the risk of a headache also by some earlier, mainly considerably smaller studies.

In Finland and in other countries far from the Equator, UVB radiation from the sun is a sufficient source of vitamin D during the summer months, but outside the summer season, people need to make sure that they get sufficient vitamin D from food or from vitamin D supplements.

No scientific evidence relating to the benefits and possible adverse effects of long-term use in higher doses yet exists. The Finnish Vitamin D Trial, FIND, currently ongoing at the University of Eastern Finland will shed light on the question, as the five-year trial analyses the effects of high daily doses of vitamin D on the risk factors and development of diseases. The trial participants are taking a vitamin D supplement of 40 or 80 micrograms per day. The trial also investigates the effects of vitamin D supplementation on various pain conditions.

Citation: Virtanen, Jyrki K.,  Rashid Giniatullin, Pekka Mäntyselkä, Sari Voutilainen, Tarja Nurmi, Jaakko Mursu, Jussi Kauhanen & Tomi-Pekka Tuomainen. “Low serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D is associated with higher risk of frequent headache in middle-aged and older men.” Scientific Reports 2017 vol: 7 pp: 39697.
DOI: 10.1038/srep39697
Adapted from press release by the University of Eastern Finland.

Walnut consumption is key to better mood and happiness in college students

Professor Pribis recommends a handful of walnuts, 1 to 3 ounces,
daily for increased health benefits. The benefits from the tree nut
 not only positively affect mood but also the cardiovascular
system and can be used as a support for weight loss.
Credit: California Walnut Commission
College can be a stressful time for young adults as they figure out how to manage intense daily routines that include work, study, and play. Eat well, exercise and get plenty of sleep is a familiar mantra to alleviate this stress, but now with the results of his latest study, UNM Nutrition Professor Peter Pribis is able to tell college students that walnuts could be a key to a happier state-of-mind. 
In this first intervention study in humans, Pribis measured the effect of walnut consumption on mood. “In the past, studies on walnuts have shown beneficial effects on many health outcomes like heart disease, diabetes, and obesity,” said Pribis. “Our study was different because we focused on cognition, and in this controlled randomized trial (CRT) we measured mood outcomes in males and females.”

The participants of the study were 64 students between the ages of 18-25. They represented most ethnic groups: Caucasian, African American, Hispanic and Asian. The participants were asked to eat three slices of banana bread every day for sixteen weeks–eight weeks of banana bread with walnuts and eight weeks of banana bread without walnuts. The nuts were finely ground into the dough so the two banana breads were similar in taste and appearance. While eating banana bread with walnuts the participants consumed half a cup of walnuts daily. The mood of the students was measured at the end of each eight-week period.

“We used a validated questionnaire called Profiles of Mood States (POMS),” says Pribis. “It is one of the most widely used and accepted mood scales in studies on cognition. The test has six mood domains: tension, depression, anger, fatigue, vigor, confusion and also provides a Total Mood Disturbance score (TMD). The lower the TMD score the better the mood.”

In this double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, cross-over feeding trial with walnuts for eight weeks, Pribis observed a significant improvement in mood in young, healthy males. “There was a meaningful, 28 percent improvement of mood in young men,” said Pribis. “However we did not observe any improvement of mood in females. Why this is we do not know.”

There are several nutrients in walnuts that could be responsible for the improved mood like alpha-Linolenic acid, vitamin E, folate, polyphenols or melatonin. However, this was a whole food study, so in the end, it was the synergy and interaction of all the nutrients in the walnuts combined.

For Pribis, the lesson learned from this food study is clear, “Eat more walnuts. This is an easy intervention. They’re not only good for your mood but overall health as well. The recommended amount is one handful per day.” With this knowledge in hand–and hopefully, walnuts in the other–young men can happily tackle life’s daily stress.

Citation: Pribis, Peter. “Effects of Walnut Consumption on Mood in Young Adults—A Randomized Controlled Trial.” Nutrients 8, no. 11 (2016): 668.
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/nu8110668
Research funding: California Walnut Commission 

Adapted from press release by University of New Mexico.