A new study presented March 30, 2015 at Experimental Biology 2015 confirms that vegetable consumption is very low among women of childbearing age (WCBA), and that the nutrient-rich white potato is an important vegetable to this population's diet, particularly among subgroups with the lowest intake.
The results are consistent with the Institute of Medicine findings that mean total vegetable consumption of women ages 19 to 50 years is extremely low--with intakes at just 50% of the 2.5 cup equivalents per day recommended for most WCBA by the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA). The 2010 DGA recommends about 5 cups of starchy vegetables per week, or approximately three-fourths cup per day, as part of a healthful diet.
"A nutritious diet and healthy lifestyle are crucial before, during and after pregnancy to optimize the health for both mother and child," stated Maureen Storey, PhD, co-author of the study and president and CEO of the Alliance for Potato Research and Education (APRE). "The results of APRE's study show that the intake of key nutrients from vegetables and white potatoes by women of childbearing age in general, and by non-Hispanic black women in particular, are well below adequate levels for the nutrition they need."
APRE researchers examined total vegetable and white potato (WP) consumption of WCBA, using the most recent data available from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and the Food Pyramid Equivalents Database 2009-2010 and 2011-2012. The study authors found that, on average, WCBA consumed 1.36 cup equivalents of total vegetables. Depending on physical activity levels, the 2010 DGA recommend 2.5 to 3 cups of vegetables a day for WCBA needing 1,800-2,400 calories per day; this recommendation includes 5 to 6 cups of starchy vegetables a week. Non-Hispanic white women, Hispanic women, and women of other races consumed an average of 1.39, 1.43, and 1.46 cup equivalents of vegetables, respectively. On average, non-Hispanic blacks consumed 1.11 cup equivalents of vegetables--significantly fewer than women of all other races. WCBA consumed about 0.31 cup equivalents of WP. According to the data, said Storey, white potato consumption is low for WCBA--about 2 cups a week, on average, or about 0.3 cups equivalents per day. Contrary to media reports, French fried potatoes are consumed in moderation--average consumption is about one-half cup a week--and can easily be incorporated into a healthy, well-balanced, nutritious diet.
Storey noted that the mean intakes of key nutrients, including potassium, dietary fiber, vitamin D, iron, and folates are lower than current recommendations for women 19-50 years old. Average intakes of potassium and dietary fiber are about half of the recommended intakes, while mean vitamin D intake is less than 30% of the recommendation.
The new study also shows that non-Hispanic black WCBA have significantly lower intake of key nutrients of concern such as potassium, dietary fiber, calcium and vitamin D. Lower consumption of potassium is especially concerning for non-Hispanic blacks because this population is already at greater risk for high blood pressure and stroke.
Affordable white potatoes are an important vegetable source of essential nutrients, such as potassium and dietary fiber. A small Russet baked potato with skin provides about 760 mg potassium and 3.2 g dietary fiber; even without the skin, the flesh of the white potato provides about 540 mg potassium and 2 grams of dietary fiber. A small serving of French fried potatoes provides 411 mg of potassium and 2.7 g fiber.
The APRE data analysis, "Total Vegetable and White Potato Consumption by Women of Childbearing Age," co-authored by Storey and Patricia Anderson, MPP, an independent consultant, will be submitted to a peer-reviewed journal.
Children do not eat enough vegetables
While the body of evidence for feeding recommendations for children continues to evolve, one constant remains: Children do not eat enough vegetables. In fact, more than 90% of young children fail to meet vegetable recommendations, and these patterns often persist into adolescence and adulthood, making it important to understand the factors involved in establishing feeding patterns in early childhood. Are children not eating their vegetables because of texture, lack of role modeling, negative sensory experience, delayed introduction, bitter taste, infrequent exposure, rejection of any new foods, or are they just plain picky and stubborn?
A panel of leading nutrition experts convened on Friday, March 27, 2015 to discuss these issues in an American Society for Nutrition (ASN) Satellite Session, "Science and Policy: Adopting a Fruitful Vegetable Encounter for Our Children," in conjunction with ASN's Annual Meeting, held as part of Experimental Biology 2015. The symposium was sponsored by the Alliance for Potato Research and Education (APRE), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to expanding and translating potato nutrition research into science-based policy and education initiatives.
Ron Kleinman, MD, Physician in Chief at Massachusetts General Hospital and co-chair of the symposium, noted that while it is well established that low vegetable consumption is a major dietary concern for infants and young children, a better understanding of current food consumption behaviors and behavior change strategies is needed to increase daily vegetable intake, particularly in light of the current evidence analysis and development of Dietary Guidelines for the birth-to-24 months age group.
"In the research that has been conducted to date, repeated exposure has been shown to have the most consistent impact on increasing vegetable acceptance in young children," says Susan Johnson, PhD, Professor of Pediatrics and Director of The Children's Eating Laboratory at University of Colorado-Denver. "It appears that many children need to try a new food 8 to 12 times in order to learn to like it, while parents often give up after 3 to 5 tries if the food is rejected. The bottom line is that in order for kids to eat vegetables, parents have to offer them consistently and persistently."
Co-chaired by Kleinman and Theresa Nicklas, DrPH, MPH, Professor of Pediatrics, USDA/ARS Children's Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine, the symposium examined the state of the science on vegetable feeding practices and consumption patterns, including theories on environmental and cultural influences on children's food acceptance, the impact of various policies on vegetable access, the influence of early exposure on the development of taste preferences, and the economic and nutrition implications of vegetable plate waste in schools.
Presenters covered a variety of topics, including:
Dr. Kleinman presented an historical overview of transitional feeding recommendations and current vegetable consumption patterns for infants and young children. Kleinman also identified research gaps, highlighting the need to better understand what factors are driving the top vegetables consumed and barriers to consuming a wider variety of vegetables.
Ed Cooney, Executive Director at the Congressional Hunger Center, provided an overview of current policies for government feeding programs targeting low-income families, and advised that increasing participation in federal child nutrition programs can be an effective strategy in reducing both hunger and obesity.
Dr. Johnson reviewed the developmental and maternal influences on vegetable consumption of children ages 3 - 5 years, citing the use of encouragement and praise, parental modeling of vegetable consumption, child-centered feeding practices, and the use of structure and rules for mealtimes as strategies that have been shown to positively influence preschooler vegetable consumption.
Maureen Storey, PhD, President and CEO of APRE, presented a new analysis of vegetable and nutrient intake in children ages 1 -3 years, using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2009-2012. The data show that mean nutrient intakes by children ages 1-3 years meets or exceeds recommendations except for potassium, fiber and vitamin D, and that vegetable, potato and starchy vegetable consumption is well below recommendations by the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
Dr. Nicklas presented a new model for analyzing the implications of replacing potatoes with other vegetables, showing significant decrease in intake potassium and fiber when potatoes are replaced by other vegetables. Given that the most commonly consumed vegetable by children are potatoes, and that plate waste is higher for other vegetables, the consumption of white potatoes provides a significant source of nutrients and may be an important strategy to help children meet vegetable recommendations.
G. Harvey Anderson, PhD, Professor of Nutritional Sciences at University of Toronto, provided new data evaluating the effects of carbohydrate sources in meals on satiety and food intake in lean, healthy children, comparing rice, pasta, boiled mashed potatoes and baked or fried French fried potatoes served with 100 g (~3 oz) of lean beef. Anderson stated, "Just as we've seen in adults, glycemic index was not a reliable predictor of satiation and blood glucose response in children when carbohydrates were consumed as part of a meal. Despite the comparatively high GI of potatoes, children consumed 30% fewer calories at meals with mashed potatoes with similar post-meal glucose response, and fried French fried potatoes resulted in the lowest post-meal glucose and insulin concentrations."
Jennifer Fisher, PhD, Professor of Public Health and Interim Director, Center for Obesity Research and Education at Temple University, identified top research priorities for advancing the science in this area, including establishing a better understanding of how caregivers can improve diet quality, identifying the types of exposure that promote acceptance of vegetables from weaning into early childhood, how to effectively provide exposure in terms of type, frequency, and preparation of vegetables, and how to best respond to children's fear of trying new foods.
Collectively, the symposium presentations demonstrated that young children do not meet recommendations for vegetable and potato intake and that consumption of all types of vegetables should be encouraged. White potatoes, with or without skin and regardless of how they are cooked, provide a significant source of shortfall nutrients including potassium (760 mg in a small baked potato with skin) and fiber (3.2 g), are well-accepted by children and may be an important strategy to help children eat more vegetables.
Several of the presentations are based on papers submitted for publication in an upcoming supplement to the peer-reviewed journal, Advances in Nutrition, which will help enhance the foundational guidance for feeding vegetables to young children in the 2020 Dietary Guidelines. A full video of the symposium will be available on ASN's website in the coming weeks.
Consuming eggs with raw vegetables increases nutritive value
There is burgeoning research showing that co-consuming cooked whole eggs with your veggies can increase carotenoids absorption. With the recent scientific report from the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee lessening past concern over cholesterol in eggs, this is particularly good news."Americans under consume vegetables, and here we have a way to increase the nutritive value of veggies while also receiving the nutritional benefits of egg yolks," said Wayne Campbell, Ph.D., Professor of Nutrition Science, Purdue University.
Campbell, working with postdoc fellow Jung Eun Kim, Ph.D., R.D., conducted a study to assess the effects of egg consumption on carotenoid absorption from a raw mixed-vegetable salad. Sixteen healthy young men ate three versions of the salad -- one with no egg, one with 1.5 scrambled whole eggs, and another with 3 scrambled whole eggs. Those who ate the highest egg amount with the salad of tomatoes, shredded carrots, baby spinach, romaine lettuce, and Chinese wolfberry increased absorption of carotenoids 3-9 fold. This is a very significant effect, said Campbell. The carotenoids found in the salad include beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, the latter two being found in egg yolk as well.
The research grew out of his group's previous study showing that by adding certain oils to mixed raw vegetables, the consumer experienced enhanced absorption of carotenoids.
"Next time you visit a salad bar, consider adding the cooked egg to your raw veggies," said Campbell. "Not only are lutein and zeaxanthin available through whole eggs, but now the value of the vegetables is enhanced."
The research findings were presented at the American Society for Nutrition's Annual Meeting during Experimental Biology 2015. Campbell believes the beneficial effects seen in this college-age population will extend to all populations and ages. His group would like to expand their research to explore the effects on other fat-soluble nutrients including vitamin E and vitamin D.
Eating bright-colored fruits and vegetables may prevent or delay ALS
New research suggests that increased consumption of foods containing colorful carotenoids, particularly beta-carotene and lutein, may prevent or delay the onset of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The study, published by Wiley in Annals of Neurology, a journal of the American Neurological Association and Child Neurology Society, found that diets high in lycopene, beta-cryptoxanthin, and vitamin C did not reduce ALS risk.
Carotenoids give fruits and vegetables their bright orange, red, or yellow colors, and are a source of dietary vitamin A. Prior studies report that oxidative stress plays a role in the development of ALS. Further studies have shown that individuals with high intake of antioxidants, such as vitamin E, have a reduced ALS risk. Because vitamin C or carotenoids are also antioxidants, researchers examined their relation to ALS risk.
According to the National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) roughly 20,000 to 30,000 Americans have ALS—also known as Lou Gehrig's disease—and another 5,000 patients are diagnosed annually with the disease. ALS is a progressive neurological disease that attacks nerve cells (neurons) in the brain and spinal cord, which control voluntary muscles. As the upper and lower motor neurons degenerate, the muscles they control gradually weaken and waste away, leading to paralysis.
"ALS is a devastating degenerative disease that generally develops between the ages of 40 and 70, and affects more men than women," said senior author Dr. Alberto Ascherio, Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Mass. "Understanding the impact of food consumption on ALS development is important. Our study is one of the largest to date to examine the role of dietary antioxidants in preventing ALS."
Using data from five prospective groups: the National Institutes of Health (NIH)–AARP Diet and Health Study, the Cancer Prevention Study II-Nutrition Cohort, the Multiethnic Cohort, the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, and the Nurses' Health Study, researchers investigated more than one million participants for the present study. A total of 1093 ALS cases were identified after excluding subjects with unlikely food consumption.
The team found that a greater total carotenoid intake was linked to reduced risk of ALS. Individuals who consumed more carotenoids in their diets were more likely to exercise, have an advanced degree, have higher vitamin C consumption, and take vitamin C and E supplements. Furthermore, subjects with diets high in beta-carotene and lutein—found in dark green vegetables—had a lower risk ALS risk. Researchers did not find that lycopene, beta-cryptoxanthin, and vitamin C reduced the risk of ALS. Long-term vitamin C supplement intake was also not associated with lower ALS risk.
Dr. Ascherio concludes, "Our findings suggest that consuming carotenoid-rich foods may help prevent or delay the onset of ALS. Further food-based analyses are needed to examine the impact of dietary nutrients on ALS."
Healthy Looking Skin Tone Linked To Fruit And Vegetable Consumption
Most people know eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables is good for long term health, but unfortunately, not that many actually consume the recommended daily amount. Now scientists at the University of St Andrews in the UK are hoping to appeal to another motivator: vanity. They report in a study published March, 2012 in the American Journal of Public Health, that eating more fruit and vegetables can change skin tone, lending it a healthier glow, within a matter of weeks.
Apparently it is all down to carotenoids, the orangey-red pigments found in fruits and vegetables.
Study supervisor Professor David Perrett and colleagues found that just two extra portions of fruit and veg a day for six weeks was enough to cause a detectable change in skin tone.
For the study, they recruited 35 students and followed their diet and changes in skin colour over 6 weeks. They also monitored how much of a change in skin colour had to take place before it was noticed by others.
The results showed that participants that increased their consumption of fruits and vegetables over the observation period showed a change in skin colour, toward more of a golden healthy glow. Those whose diet went the other way, with less fruit and veg, showed a reduction in skin tone.
In a media statement released this week, lead author Ross Whitehead, a researcher at St Andrews, said:
"People who eat more fruit and vegetables have a 'golden' skin tone that looks healthy and attractive. Our latest research finds that even small improvements in diet produces visible benefits to skin colour."
He said they were very surprised at how quickly the change occured.
Perrett said: "Although skin colour varies markedly across the world, we find similar effects across different cultures - for Asians and Europeans alike a good diet is associated with an attractive skin tone."
"The message that a good diet improves skin colour could improve health across the globe," he added.
The researchers note that 75% of Britons do not eat the goverment-recommended "5 a Day": five portions of fruit and/or vegetables. They say this is particularly shocking when you consider that the UK recommendations are lower than those of many other countries: for instance in the US, the government suggests active men should be eating up to "13 a day". However, the Americans appear to be faring as poorly as the Brits in turning the ideal into reality.
Perhaps it is time to appeal to vanity, or something that will yield tangible benefit in a shorter time, argue the researchers.
Co-author Dr Gozde Ozakinci lectures in Health Psychology at St Andrews. He said: "Appearance can be a powerful motivator. It is being used in other health campaigns to persuade people to avoid smoking, excessive sun exposure and alcohol consumption, all of which may speed up ageing. Our research points to the different benefits of a diet rich in fruit and vegetables on a healthy skin appearance."
Whitehead said: "Most of us know we should eat plenty of fruit and veg, yet we are not sufficiently motivated to actually go ahead and eat a healthy diet.Government strategies aimed at improving diet typically only offer information about why a healthy diet is good for us. These strategies have, so far, had no real impact on the nation's eating habits."
"We hope that by highlighting the rapidly achievable benefits of a healthy diet on our attractiveness will be a stronger incentive for people to eat more healthily. Knowing you are going to look more attractive in a few weeks may be more persuasive than the promise of health benefits later in life," he added.
He and his colleagues conclude: "This approach represents a novel direction for the field and is potentially suitable for cost-effective, population-level dissemination through the visual media."
The researchers believe eating much larger amounts of fruit and vegetables could make skin take on an even healthier glow in the long run.
Eat Fruits and Vegetables for Better Vision
Carotenoids, found in green leafy vegetables and colored fruits, have been found to increase visual performance and may prevent age-related eye diseases, according to a study in the Journal of Food Science, published by the Institute of Food Technologists. Authors from the University of Georgia compiled the results of multiple studies on the effects of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin on visual performance. These carotenoids play an important role in human vision, including a positive impact on the retina.
After reviewing the various studies, the authors concluded that macular pigments, such as lutein and zeaxanthin do have an effect on visual performance. Lutein and zeaxanthin can reduce disability and discomfort from glare, enhance contrast, and reduce photostress recovery times. They can also reduce glare from light absorption and increase the visual range.
Lead author Dr. Billy R. Hammond Jr. noted that the research of the effects of lutein and zeazanthin are important because “it is clear that they could potentially improve vision through biological means. For example, a study conducted in 2008 suggests that the pigments protect the retina and lens and perhaps even help prevent age-related eye diseases such as macular degeneration and cataract.”
Yellow and orange pigmented vegetables and fruits decrease hip fracture risk
Researchers from the National University of Singapore and the Singapore Ministry of Health, have announced a study which links carotenoids to decreased hip fracture risk in elderly, lean Chinese men.
In the study, the researchers examined the association between dietary antioxidant carotenoids and hip fracture risk across a range of BMI in elderly Chinese men and women using data from the Singapore Chinese Health Study. This population-based, cohort prospective study recruited 63,257 men and women aged 45 years between 1993. In this group, a total of 1,630 incident hip fractures up to December 2010 were identified via record linkage with the nationwide hospital discharge database.
Importantly, the study found that low BMI is a stronger risk factor for hip fracture risk among elderly men compared to women.
Also, in men, hip fracture risk decreased with increasing intakes of total vegetables and of total carotenoids, particularly carotene. The protective effect was higher in lean men than in men with higher BMI. In contrast, the intake of vegetables or carotenoids had no association with hip fracture risk in women, regardless of levels of BMI.
Cartenoids, which are found many fruits and vegetables (and especially in yellow and orange pigmented vegetables) are converted to vitamin A in the body. The researchers conclude that clinical trials are needed to demonstrate the efficacy of carotenoid supplementation on reduction of hip fracture risk in elderly men. The findings may have important public health implications on hip fracture prevention, particularly among Asians.
Eating green veggies improves immune defenses
Researchers reporting online in the journal Cell, a Cell Press publication, on October 13, 2011, have found another good reason to eat your green vegetables, although it may or may not win any arguments with kids at the dinner table.
It turns out that green vegetables -- from bok choy to broccoli -- are the source of a chemical signal that is important to a fully functioning immune system. They do this by ensuring that immune cells in the gut and the skin known as intra-epithelial lymphocytes (IELs) function properly.
"It is still surprising to me," said Marc Veldhoen of The Babraham Institute in Cambridge. "I would have expected cells at the surface would play some role in the interaction with the outside world, but such a clear cut interaction with the diet was unexpected. After feeding otherwise healthy mice a vegetable-poor diet for two to three weeks, I was amazed to see 70 to 80 percent of these protective cells disappeared."
Those protective IELs exist as a network beneath the barrier of epithelial cells covering inner and outer body surfaces, where they are important as a first line of defense and in wound repair. Veldhoen's team now finds that the numbers of IELs depend on levels of a cell-surface protein called the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR), which can be regulated by dietary ingredients found primarily in cruciferous vegetables. Mice lacking this receptor lose control over the microbes living on the intestinal surface, both in terms of their numbers and composition.
Earlier studies suggested that breakdown of cruciferous vegetables can yield a compound that can be converted into a molecule that triggers AhRs. The new work finds that mice fed a synthetic diet lacking this key compound experience a significant reduction in AhR activity and lose IELs. With reduced numbers of these key immune cells, animals showed lower levels of antimicrobial proteins, heightened immune activation and greater susceptibility to injury. When the researchers intentionally damaged the intestinal surface in animals that didn't have normal AhR activity, the mice were not as "quick to repair" that damage.
As an immunologist, Veldhoen says he hopes the findings will generate interest in the medical community, noting that some of the characteristics observed in the mice are consistent with those seen in patients with inflammatory bowel disease.
"It's tempting to extrapolate to humans," he said. "But there are many other factors that might play a role."
For the rest of us, he says, "it's already a good idea to eat your greens." Still, the results offer a molecular basis for the importance of cruciferous vegetable-derived phyto-nutrients as part of a healthy diet.
High alpha-carotene levels (from fruits and vegetables) associated with longer life
High blood levels of the antioxidant alpha-carotene appear to be associated with a reduced risk of dying over a 14-year period, according to a report published in the March 28, 2011 print issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.
Oxygen-related damage to DNA, proteins and fats may play a role in the development of chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer, according to background information in the article. Carotenoids—including beta-carotene, alpha-carotene and lycopene—are produced by plants and microorganisms and act as antioxidants, counteracting this damage. Carotenoids in the human body are obtained mainly through eating fruits and vegetables rich in the nutrients, or through antioxidant supplements.
Although studies suggest eating more fruits and vegetables is associated with lower risk of chronic diseases, randomized controlled trials have not shown any benefit for beta-carotene supplements, the authors note. "Therefore, carotenoids other than beta-carotene may contribute to the reduction in disease risk, and their effects on risk of disease merit investigation," the authors write.
Chaoyang Li, M.D., Ph.D., of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, and colleagues assessed the relationship between alpha-carotene and the risk of death among 15,318 adults age 20 and older who participated in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey Follow-up Study. Participants underwent a medical examination and provided blood samples between 1988 and 1994, and were followed through 2006 to determine whether and how they died.
Over the course of the study, 3,810 participants died; the risk for dying was lower with higher levels of alpha-carotene in the blood. Compared with individuals with blood alpha-carotene levels between 0 and 1 micrograms per deciliter, the risk of death during the study period was 23 percent lower among who had concentrations between 2 and 3 micrograms per deciliter, 27 percent lower with levels between 4 and 5 micrograms per deciliter, 34 percent lower with levels between 6 and 8 micrograms per deciliter and 39 percent lower with levels of 9 micrograms per deciliter or higher.
Higher alpha-carotene concentration also appeared to be associated with lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease or cancer individually, and of all other causes. "The association between serum alpha-carotene concentrations and risk of death from all causes was significant in most subgroups stratified by demographic characteristics, lifestyle habits and health risk factors," the authors write.
Alpha-carotene is chemically similar to beta-carotene but may be more effective at inhibiting the growth of cancer cells in the brain, liver and skin, they note. "Moreover, results from a population-based case-control study of the association between the consumption of fruits and vegetables and risk of lung cancer suggest that consumption of yellow-orange (carrots, sweet potatoes or pumpkin and winter squash) and dark-green (broccoli, green beans, green peas, spinach, turnips greens, collards and leaf lettuce) vegetables, which have a high alpha-carotene content, was more strongly associated with a decreased risk of lung cancer than was consumption of all other types of vegetables," the authors write.
The results support increasing vegetable consumption as a way of preventing premature death, and suggest a need for clinical research into the health benefits of alpha-carotene, they conclude.
More fruit and vegetables=calmer, happier, more energetic
Eating more fruit and vegetables may make young people calmer, happier and more energetic in their daily life, new research from the University of Otago suggests.
Department of Psychology researcher Dr Tamlin Conner, and Dr Caroline Horwath and Bonnie White from Otago's Department of Human Nutrition, investigated the relationship between day-to-day emotions and food consumption.
The study is published in the British Journal of Health Psychology on January 24, 2013.
A total of 281 young adults (with a mean age of 20 years) completed an internet-based daily food diary for 21 consecutive days. Prior to this, participants completed a questionnaire giving details of their age, gender, ethnicity, weight and height. Those with a history of an eating disorder were excluded.
On each of the 21 days participants logged into their diary each evening and rated how they felt using nine positive and nine negative adjectives. They were also asked five questions about what they had eaten that day. Specifically, participants were asked to report the number of servings eaten of fruit (excluding fruit juice and dried fruit), vegetables (excluding juices), and several categories of unhealthy foods like biscuits/cookies, potato crisps, and cakes/muffins.
The results showed a strong day-to-day relationship between more positive mood and higher fruit and vegetable consumption, but not other foods.
"On days when people ate more fruits and vegetables, they reported feeling calmer, happier and more energetic than they normally did," says Dr Conner.
To understand which comes first -- feeling positive or eating healthier foods -- Dr Conner and her team ran additional analyses and found that eating fruits and vegetables predicted improvements in positive mood the next day, suggesting that healthy foods may improve mood.
These findings held regardless of the BMI of individuals.
"After further analysis we demonstrated that young people would need to consume approximately seven to eight total servings of fruits and vegetables per day to notice a meaningful positive change. One serving of fruit or vegetables is approximately the size that could fit in your palm, or half a cup. My co-author Bonnie White suggests that this can be done by making half your plate at each meal vegetables and snacking on whole fruit like apples," says Dr Conner.
She adds that while this research shows a promising connection between healthy foods and healthy moods, further research is necessary and the authors recommend the development of randomised control trials evaluating the influence of high fruit and vegetable intake on mood and wellbeing.
Eat seven portions of fruit and vegetables for happiness and mental health
Happiness and mental health are highest among people who eat seven portions of fruit and vegetables a day, according to a new report.
Economists and public health researchers from the University of Warwick studied the eating habits of 80,000 people in Britain. They found mental wellbeing appeared to rise with the number of daily portions of fruit and vegetables people consumed. Wellbeing peaked at seven portions a day.
The research was carried out in conjunction with Dartmouth College in the USA and was published (October, 2012) in the journal Social Indicators Research.
Most western governments currently recommend ‘5 a day’ for cardiovascular health and as protection against cancer risk.
In Britain today, a quarter of the population eat just one portion or no portions of fruit and vegetables per day. Only a tenth of the British population currently consume the magic number of seven or more daily portions. The study does not distinguish among different kinds of fruits and vegetables and it defines a portion as approximately 80 grams.
Study co-author Professor Sarah Stewart-Brown, Professor of Public Health at Warwick Medical School, said “The statistical power of fruit and vegetables was a surprise. Diet has traditionally been ignored by well-being researchers.”
She emphasized that much remained to be learned about cause-and-effect and about the possible mechanisms at work, and that randomized trials should now be considered.
Fellow co-author, economist Professor Andrew Oswald from the Centre for Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE) in the Department of Economics at the University of Warwick, said: “This study has shown surprising results and I have decided it is prudent to eat more fruit and vegetables. I am keen to stay cheery.”
Eating five a day may keep the blues away
Fruit and vegetable consumption could be as good for your mental as your physical health, new research suggests.
The research, conducted by the University of Warwick’s Medical School using data from the Health Survey for England, and published by BMJ Open focused on mental wellbeing and found that high and low mental wellbeing were consistently associated with an individual’s fruit and vegetable consumption.
33.5% of respondents with high mental wellbeing ate five or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day, compared with only 6.8% who ate less than one portion. Commenting on the findings Dr Saverio Stranges, the research paper’s lead author, said: “The data suggest that higher an individual’s fruit and vegetable intake the lower the chance of their having low mental wellbeing”.
31.4% of those with high mental wellbeing ate three-four portions and 28.4% ate one-two.
Other health-related behaviours were found to be associated with mental wellbeing, but along with smoking only fruit and vegetable consumption was consistently associated in both men and women. Alcohol intake and obesity were not associated with high mental wellbeing.
Commenting on the findings Dr Saverio Stranges, the research paper’s lead author, said: “Along with smoking, fruit and vegetable consumption was the health-related behaviour most consistently associated with both low and high mental wellbeing. These novel findings suggest that fruit and vegetable intake may play a potential role as a driver, not just of physical, but also of mental wellbeing in the general population”.
Low mental wellbeing is strongly linked to mental illness and mental health problems, but high mental wellbeing is more than the absence of symptoms or illness; it is a state in which people feel good and function well. Optimism, happiness, self-esteem, resilience and good relationships with others are all part of this state. Mental wellbeing is important not just to protect people from mental illness but because it protects people against common and serious physical diseases.
Discussing the implications of the research, co-author Professor Sarah Stewart-Brown says that: “Mental illness is hugely costly to both the individual and society, and mental wellbeing underpins many physical diseases, unhealthy lifestyles and social inequalities in health. It has become very important that we begin to research the factors that enable people to maintain a sense of wellbeing.
“Our findings add to the mounting evidence that fruit and vegetable intake could be one such factor and mean that people are likely to be able to enhance their mental wellbeing at the same time as preventing heart disease and cancer”.
Mental wellbeing was assessed using the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (WEMWBS), in which the top 15% of participants categorised as having High mental wellbeing, the bottom 15% Low and the middle 16-84% as Middle.
The research involved 14,000 participants in England aged 16 or over, with 56% of those being female and 44% male, as part of the Health Survey for England – which saw detailed information collected on mental and physical health, health related behaviours, demographics and socio-economic characteristics.
Vegetables can protect unborn child against diabetes
New evidence is emerging for how important it is for pregnant women to eat good, nutritious food. Expecting mothers who eat vegetables every day seem to have children who are less likely to develop type 1 diabetes, a new study from the Sahlgrenska Academy has revealed.
The study was performed in collaboration with Linköping University, which is conducting a population study called ABIS (All Babies in Southeast Sweden). The results have been published in the journal Pediatric Diabetes.
"This is the first study to show a link between vegetable intake during pregnancy and the risk of the child subsequently developing type 1 diabetes, but more studies of various kinds will be needed before we can say anything definitive," says researcher and clinical nutritionist Hilde Brekke from the Sahlgrenska Academy.
Blood samples from almost 6,000 five year-olds were analysed in the study. In type 1 diabetes, certain cells in the pancreas gradually get worse at producing insulin, leading to insulin deficiency. Children at risk of developing type 1 diabetes have antibodies in their blood which attack these insulin-producing cells.
Of the 6,000 children tested, three per cent had either elevated levels of these antibodies or fully developed type 1 diabetes at the age of five. These risk markers were up to twice as common in children whose mothers rarely ate vegetables during pregnancy. The risk was lowest among children whose mothers stated that they ate vegetables every day.
"We cannot say with certainty on the basis of this study that it's the vegetables themselves that have this protective effect, but other factors related to vegetable intake, such as the mother's standard of education, do not seem to explain the link," says Brekke. "Nor can this protection be explained by other measured dietary factors or other known risk factors."
The term "Vegetables "in this study included all vegetables except for root vegetables.
Eating vegetables, fruit reduces risk of diabetes
Eating just one more serving of green leafy vegetables or three more servings of fruit a day reduces the risk of developing Type II diabetes, according to results of data analysis performed by researchers in the Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine and the Harvard School of Public Health.
Tulane epidemiologist Dr. Lydia Bazzano says, “Based on the results of our study, people who have risk factors for diabetes may find it helpful to fill up on leafy greens like lettuces, kale and spinach and whole fruits, like apples, bananas, oranges and watermelon rather than drink fruit juices.
Bazzano, an assistant professor of epidemiology, cautioned that since this is one of the first studies to separate fruit juice consumption from fruits as a whole, the association between juice and diabetes must be confirmed by additional research.
She and her team analyzed 18 years worth of diet and health data from 71,346 nurses who participated in the Nurses’ Health Study from 1984 to 2002. The women were all between 38 and 63 years old and diabetes-free when the study began. Approximately 7 percent of the participants developed diabetes over the course of the study.
The researchers determined that the association between fruit and green leafy vegetable consumption and lowered diabetes risk remained after other factors, such as family history, cigarette smoking and weight, were analyzed. However, they found that women who ate more fruits and green leafy vegetables also were likely to be older, non-smokers and more physically active.
In addition to emphasizing the importance of eating whole fruits and green leafy vegetables to prevent diabetes, the team also recommends replacing refined grains and white potatoes with whole fruit or green leafy vegetable servings. White flours and potatoes have been associated with an increased risk of diabetes.
Fruits and vegetables had a demonstratively positive, protective effect against diabetes
Before people develop type 2 diabetes, they almost always have "prediabetes," defined as blood glucose levels that are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. There are 79 million people in the United States who have prediabetes. Recent research has shown that even during prediabetes both heart and circulatory long-term damage to the body may already be occurring.
Both pre-diabetics and diabetics are sometimes concerned about eating fruit due to its reported “high sugar content.” Are fruits wrongly lumped into the catch-all phrase “carbohydrate” and incorrectly classified as a sugar food?
Regardless of which stage of diabetes one might be experiencing or not, all of us would fare far better by including more fruit consumption in our daily diets while reducing grains, breads, meal replacement bars and the plethora of refined manufactured carbohydrates that are consumed instead, according to Dian Griesel, Ph.D. and Tom Griesel, co-authors of the new book, TurboCharged: Accelerate Your Fat Burning Metabolism, Get Lean Fast and Leave Diet and Exercise Rules in the Dust (BSH, 2011).
There is considerable research supporting their claims. Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta completed a 20-year study that involved closely watching the diets of a group of individuals between the ages of 25 and 74.
The study, named the first National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, concluded that fruits and vegetables had a demonstratively positive, protective effect against diabetes.
As reported in Preventive Medicine, "A healthy diet including fruits and vegetables could help prevent diabetes from ever occurring. The higher levels of fruit and vegetable consumption might decrease the risk of diabetes in adults, particularly women.”
The average daily intake of fruits and vegetables as well as the number of participants consuming five or more fruits and vegetables per day was lower among the participants who developed diabetes than among the participants in the study who remained free of this disease. The investigators determined that these results suggest that fruit and vegetable consumption may decrease the risk for diabetes."
“Lumping fruit into the broad category of carbohydrates is confusing to us as consumers—diabetic or not. Fruits are loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber and perfectly filled with water that allows better absorption of their natural nutritive properties,” says Tom Griesel.
The confusion with fruit eating by diabetics at any stage may have arisen because according to the Glycemic Index, some fruits, like bananas, considered by many “Nature’s Perfect Food,” are rated with a high glycemic index.
“Glycemic index is significantly altered by the type of food, its ripeness, processing, the length of storage, cooking methods, and its variety. Watermelon has a glycemic score of 100—which is identical to heavily processed and nutrient poor white bread,” says Dian Griesel, Ph.D.
The misconceptions for prediabetics and diabetics concerning fruit is two-fold: Since fruit is very high in both water and naturally occurring fiber, the digestion time of any naturally contained sugars is slowed significantly. “The natural water and fiber content of fruit actually causes a slow release of sugar into the bloodstream. This is quite unlike the instant sugar impact of no-fiber, high-chemical, heavily processed white bread that is also quite dehydrating,” say the Griesels.
Fruit is an excellent food. It satisfies our natural urges for something sweet. Prediabetics and diabetics would benefit from eating more fresh, raw fruits and vegetables and less refined carbohydrates, in any form.