World-famous futurist Alvin Toffler said that “the illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” Our evolving understanding of the impact of certain foods on our health underscores his statement. Here are four new discoveries:
Decaffeinated Coffee May Improve Memory and Prevent Diabetes: Drinking decaffeinated coffee may improve brain energy metabolism, a function that has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease and type 2 diabetes. In the study, scientists at Mount Sinai School of Medicine discovered that a decaffeinated dietary supplement helped to improve insulin resistance and glucose utilization in mice after only five months. Prior research has shown coffee to be helpful in preventing type 2 diabetes, but drinking caffeine remains dangerous for some patients because it has been associated with cardiovascular risks.
Giulio Maria Pasinetti, MD, PhD, professor of neurology and psychiatry and lead researcher of the study, expressed optimism about the findings: "This is the first evidence showing the potential benefits of decaffeinated coffee preparations for both preventing and treating cognitive decline caused by type 2 diabetes, aging, and/or neurodegenerative disorders." Although more research is needed, the results look promising.
Grape Seed Extract May Play a Role in Preventing Cancer: New findings published in the Journal of Carcinogenesis suggest a promising use for grape seed extract in the prevention of head and neck cancer—a disease that claims half a million lives annually worldwide. In experiments with mice, grape seed extract stopped cancer cells dead in their tracks without leaving a toxic trace. As a next step, the researchers will begin clinical trials on humans that combine grape seed extract supplements with existing treatments that target head and neck cancer.
Have Your Cake and Lose Weight Too? Can eating cake help individuals lose weight? Yes, but only if the treat is eaten in the morning as part of a balanced breakfast. Over a 32-week long period, researchers found that subjects who added something sweet to their morning fare (a cookie, a piece of cake or a piece of chocolate) lost 40 pounds more than those who ate the same number of calories spread evenly over three meals without eating a morning treat. One explanation for the counterintuitive results? Attempting to eliminate sweets entirely may lead to an irresistible urge to eat treats later in the day. In contrast, eating something sweet in the morning as part of a balanced, 600-calorie breakfast seems to prevent overindulging later in the day.
Zap Fat with Healthy Super Foods: Maintaining a healthy, disease-free lifestyle involves eating healthfully and keeping fit. Super foods pack extra punch. For example, foods containing healthy fats (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids) include avocados, olives and olive oil, peanut butter, salmon, almonds, walnuts and eggs. Other foods with high antioxidant levels include blueberries and dark chocolate. And don’t forget about broccoli—a vegetable chock-full of vitamin C, folic acid and potassium. Incorporate these super foods into your diet to zap the fat and improve your health.
In the last 20 years, researchers in the field of nutrition have produced remarkable insights, some of which confirm folk wisdom about the value of certain foods in maintaining health—for example, the centuries-old tradition of drinking wine with meals. Other widely accepted beliefs about food have been debunked. We used to believe, for instance, that any and all fat made our bodies fat. Now we know that certain fats are essential to good health.
To complicate matters further, some beliefs have been debunked only to be returned to favor. Eggs, for example, were a diet staple before we were told they should be avoided because of their cholesterol. Today, the consumption of eggs in moderation is recommended.
The field of nutrition—the study of the relationship between food and a healthy body—is relatively young, so it is reasonable to expect that researchers will report conflicting findings. As consumers, we need to learn what we can and update our understanding as new information and insights become available.
Photo courtesy of modomatic