It’s that time of year again, when we are all busy feasting with family and friends and eating what we shouldn’t! I wrote a blog recently about the connection between sugar and stress. It’s a Catch 22. According to one set of experts eating too much sugar makes you more susceptible to stress while another group of experts say stress makes women more likely to binge eat and reach for junk food. The take-out message is aim to cut down on sugar. The big question is what should we be eating?
I know that at Christmas time there are lots of temptations around and that is why I thought I’d write a blog giving you a bit more incentive to eat well.
Poor diet linked to dementia
For a long time the experts have been telling us that we need to be eating more fruit, vegetables and whole grains and cutting back on animals products. Now a new study has found that reducing your consumption of meat and dairy products and eating more fresh fruit and vegetables will also lower your risk of developing Alzheimer’s or dementia in later life.
Koh Woon Puay, a professor at the National University of Singapore's (NUS) Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health and the Duke-NUS Medical School, led the study and the research has been published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Prof Puay and his team look at data from the Singapore Chinese Health Study. This basically looked at the diets of 63,257 Chinese people in Singapore.
The adults aged 45–74 provided information during face-to-face interviews about their usual diet, cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, physical activity, sleep, height, weight, and medical history.
The information was collected between April 1993 and December 1998. Researchers interviewed the participants again during three follow-up visits, until 2016.
Prof Puay and his team then selected 16,948 people from this group. On average they were aged 53. These participants completed cognitive function assessments during their third follow-up visit in 2014–2016.
In 2014–2016, 2,443 of the participants (14.4 per cent of them) had cognitive impairment. The researchers found that people who had eaten more of a plant-based diet and less animal products during their midlife were less likely to develop cognitive impairment later.
People who had the most healthy diets (in the top 25 per cent) were 18–33 per cent less likely to develop cognitive impairment than those who ate little plant material and lots of meat and dairy products (in the bottom 25 per cent).
“Previous studies have shown mixed results when it comes to diet and the risk of cognitive impairment,” said Prof Puay.
“Our study suggests that maintaining a [healthful] dietary pattern is important for the prevention of onset and delay of cognitive impairment.
“Such a pattern is not about the restriction of a single food item but the composition of an overall pattern that recommends cutting back on red meats, especially if they are processed, and including lots of plant-based foods (vegetables, fruit, nuts, beans, whole grains) and fish.”
Late dinners linked to weight gain
Yet another study by Surrey University has found that eating dinner earlier in the day may help with weight loss. Eating later may promote weight gain and slow down metabolism.
The studies show that later mealtimes raise inflammatory markers that are usually associated with diabetes and heart disease.
A third study suggests that eating more in the evening may hurt women’s cardiovascular health. Dr Nour Makarem, an associate research scientist at the Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, in New York, is the lead author of the study.
Poor heart health also linked to late dinners
Dr Makarem and colleagues
recruited 112 healthy women, who were 33 years old, on average, to
participate in the study.
The researchers examined the participants' cardiovascular health at baseline and one year.
The women also used food diaries on their cell phones to track and report how much, what, and when they ate for one week at baseline and another week 12 months later.
The researchers used the data from the electronic diaries to calculate the relationship between cardiovascular health and the timing of the meals.
Fewer late calories may boost heart health
The research revealed that participants who consumed more calories after 6pm tended to have poorer heart health.
In fact, for each one per cent increase in food intake after 6pm, the cardiovascular health score declined. Blood pressure and body mass index tended to rise, and blood sugar control tended to be poorer. The analysis yielded similar results for every one per cent increase in calories after 8pm.
“So far, lifestyle approaches to prevent heart disease have focused on what we eat and how much we eat,” Dr Makarem said.
“These preliminary results indicate that intentional eating that is mindful of the timing and proportion of calories in evening meals may represent a simple, modifiable behaviour that can help lower heart disease risk.”
I think these studies are encouraging. A lot of people have to work really hard to keep their weight under control, but it’s good to know it’s not just what you eat that influences your weight – when you eat also matters.
If you are slimming down this summer, try having an earlier dinner and a later breakfast and see if that helps you shed some weight.
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