Research news from Tufts University, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy: March 2004


Alcohol May Blur Vision Long Term

Moderate consumption of alcohol may improve health and longevity in a number of ways, including prevention of diseases such as cancer and heart disease, but some forms of alcohol have been shown in a recent study to play a role, both beneficial and harmful, in a condition commonly referred to as cataracts.

According to new research from Martha S. Morris, an instructor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and her colleagues, alcohol may affect different areas of the lens differently. The researchers studied women who had early forms of two types of cataracts, the most common form, a nuclear opacity as well as a less common form, cortical opacity. The researchers at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts found that women who drank more than 2 glasses per week of any type of alcohol (beer, wine or distilled spirits) all increased their risk of getting a nuclear opacity by 13 percent.

When it came to the less common form, cortical opacities, women who drank more than 2 glasses of wine or distilled spirits were less likely to develop a cortical opacity.

The different effects of alcohol on the different types of opacities may be a result of both pro- and anti-oxidant properties of alcoholic beverages and the different ways they interact with components of the eye.

"This study reinforces the importance of eating and drinking in moderation," Morris notes. "For people who are predisposed to a nuclear cataract, including those who smoke, who are exposed to too much unprotected UV sunlight or have diabetes, drinking less is probably a good idea."

Eat That Big Healthy Breakfast and Lose Weight

Eating more calories earlier in the day may prove to be more satiating than calories consumed later in the day. By consuming meals earlier in the day, dieters and non-dieters may take in fewer calories overall than those who skip or skimp on breakfast, according to recent research summarized in the March issue of the Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter.

Nighttime is often problematic for dieters a big dinner and a hefty snack (or snacks) just a short time later is a quick way to add pounds. However, Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter executive editor Larry Lindner notes that those people who have eaten more earlier in the day by eating a full breakfast may not feel the need to eat as much as the day progresses.

According to Lindner, who is also an instructor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, "Starting off the day with a nutritious breakfast possibly prevents overeating later in the day." He reminds, however, that "yogurt, whole-grain toast or cereal and fruit are preferable to bacon and hash browns."

The article says that there are a number of biological factors that come into play that may shed some light on the breakfast phenomenon. One possibility is that the body is set to certain rhythms that cause people to eat more frequently later in the day. But eating more calories earlier can have a big impact on balancing energy needs later. According to Lindner, "eat a hearty morning repast and you may be less inclined to reach into the cupboard once evening comes."

Three Servings of Whole Grains a Day Might Keep Diabetes Away

The number of people with Type 2 diabetes has been on the rise in the United States and an estimated 24% of adults in the US have the metabolic syndrome that often precedes Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. New research from Tufts University shows that people who eat three or more servings per day of whole-grain foods, particularly fiber-rich cereals, may be less apt to develop the metabolic syndrome.

"Higher consumption of whole-grain foods is associated with a lower risk of insulin resistance, thereby decreasing the risk of diabetes" said Nicola M. McKeown, PhD, scientist at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging.

McKeown, the study's lead author, noted that consumers have to be careful when identifying whole grain products. "Pay attention to the ingredients, not the labels. Look for breads with ingredients such as whole wheat, whole rye, whole oats or graham flour rather than breads made with refined wheat flour."

The study, which appeared in the February issue of the journal Diabetes Care, is based on data from more than 2,800 subjects in the Framingham Study. The metabolic syndrome is a clustering of risk factors that include abdominal obesity, dyslipidemia (abnormal blood lipids), high blood pressure and a decreased ability for the body to produce enough insulin.

"There are substantial health benefits to adding just three servings of whole grains a day, and it is not that difficult to do - just substitute your refined grains with comparable whole grain foods" said McKeown. "For example, substitute white rice with brown rice, white bread with whole wheat bread, and choose a whole-grain breakfast cereal."

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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