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Study: Flavonoids May Help Protect Against Parkinson’s


Berries, tea, apples and red wine are all rich in a naturally occurring compound called flavonoids, and a new study finds that men who eat a diet high in these healthy compounds may have a lower risk of Parkinson’s disease.

Previous research has shown that regular consumption of flavonoids is linked with reduced blood pressure and inflammation, as well as a lower risk of a variety of diseases, including heart disease, some cancers and dementia. But this is the first study to find that flavonoids may also protect brain cells against Parkinson’s.

Collaborating researchers from Harvard School of Public Health and Norwich Medical School looked at 130,000 men and women participating in the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study — long-running studies analyzing lifestyle behaviors, including diet, and health outcomes among health care professionals.

More than 800 participants developed Parkinson’s disease over the study’s 20-year follow-up. After adjusting for age and lifestyle, the researchers found that men who ate the most flavonoids were 40% less likely to develop Parkinson’s than men who ate the least.

The researchers did not find the same link for women, which was unexpected. “We were surprised to only find effects in men as there is no suggestion of endocrine related mechanisms being involved,” says study author Aedin Cassidy, professor of nutrition at Norwich Medical School at the University of East Anglia. “Interestingly, gender differences have also been observed for other factors involved in Parkinson’s, including caffeine intake, which is only protective in men.”

The findings don’t prove that flavonoids prevent Parkinson’s, since the study found only an association. However, based on his previous research on animals, researcher Dr. Xiang Gao of the Harvard School of Public Health speculates that flavonoids’ protective attributes may stem from their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects and their interactions with neurosignaling passageways.

In the current study, Gao says that anthocyanins — a subclass of flavonoids found in berries like strawberries, blueberries and blackberries as well as vegetables such as eggplant — appeared to be the real disease fighters. Study participants who consumed the most anthocyanins were 24% less likely to develop Parkinson’s disease than those who ate the least.

Both researchers are quick to note that their findings need to be confirmed in further studies. “We cannot exclude the possibility of chance,” says Gao. “We should still be cautious and larger, independent and prospective studies should be done.”

But that doesn’t mean you should hold off on an extra helping of blueberries. “For berries, there are no harmful effects and other studies have found they can help with hypertension and cardiovascular disease,” says Gao. “So why not add berries to our diet? “

source: Healthland.Time.com


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An Orange a Day May Keep Strokes at Bay

Globe and Mail
Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012

If your daily diet doesn’t include a serving of citrus fruit, it should. And for reasons that go beyond vitamin C.

According to a study published online last week in the journal Stroke, eating more oranges and grapefruit may help reduce stroke risk thanks to their flavonoid content.
Flavonoids are bioactive compounds in fruits, vegetables, nuts, dried beans and lentils, cocoa, tea and red wine. Flavonoids can be categorized into several classes; the ones found in citrus fruit are called flavanones.
The study analyzed 14 years of data from the U.S. Nurses’ Health Study involving 69,622 healthy women who reported their food intake every four years.
Over the course of the study 1803 strokes occurred, half of them ischemic strokes (caused when a blood clot interrupts blood flow topart of the brain).
Total flavonoid intake did not alter the risk of stroke but total flavanone intake did. Women who consumed the most flavanones were 19 per cent less likely to suffer a blood-clot related stroke compared to their peers whose diet contained the least.
Flavanone intake was not related to hemorrhagic stroke, the type caused by uncontrolled bleeding in the brain.
The vast majority – 95 per cent – of flavanones came from oranges, grapefruit and their juices. Women in the top flavanone category consumed at least 63 milligrams a day – an amount found in 1 pink grapefruit, 1 large orange or 1 cup of orange juice made from frozen concentrate.
While vitamin C has often been cited as a cardio-protective component in citrus fruit, in this study vitamin C was not linked with a lower risk of stroke suggesting that flavanones play an important role.
Flavanones in oranges and grapefruit have been shown to protect brain cells, strengthen and tone blood vessels and reduce inflammation. Recently naringenin, the predominant flavanone in grapefruit, was found to be the most potent anti-inflammatory flavonoid tested.
Although this study was conducted on women, the researchers suspect the findings should also apply to men.
There are other reasons to add citrus fruit to your diet. A citrus fruit rich diet has been associated with a lower risk of digestive tract cancers, lung cancer, colon cancer and pancreatic cancer. Citrus fruit is also though to help protect from cataract, macular degeneration and cognitive impairment.
In addition to flavanones, citrus fruit contains generous amounts of vitamin C, folate, potassium and thiamin as well as some vitamin A, calcium, magnesium and fibre. Pink and red grapefruit also contain lycopene, a phytochemical thought to guard against prostate cancer.
Aim to have at least one citrus fruit each day to boost your intake of flavanones and important nutrients. Choose whole fruits more often than juice because they contain more flavanones and fibre and less sugar.
(Note: Substances in grapefruit interfere with how your body absorbs and breaks down certain drugs. Certain medications used to treat high blood pressure, high cholesterol, migraines, depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, and impotence don’t mix with grapefruit or grapefruit juice. Seville oranges and tangelos may have similar effects. If uncertain, consult your doctor or pharmacist.)
Ten ways to enjoy citrus:
  • Add orange segments or ½ cup of 100 per cent orange juice to a breakfast smoothie.
  • Enjoy half a grapefruit with your morning meal.
  • Mix orange slices with low-fat yogurt for a midday snack.
  • Toss citrus fruit segments into green and spinach salads. (The vitamin C in citrus will enhance your body’s ability to absorb iron from leafy greens.)
  • Use freshly squeezed citrus juice in vinaigrettes and other salad dressings.
  • Top low-fat cottage cheese with orange or grapefruit segments and toasted walnuts for a light lunch. Drizzle freshly squeezed orange juice.
  • Place thinly sliced lemons, peel and all, underneath and around fish before baking. Baking softens the lemon so it can be eaten too.
  • Toss cooked brown rice or quinoa with chickpeas, scallions, lime juice and lime zest for a tasty side dish.
  • Sauté sliced cooked beets with freshly squeezed orange juice and orange zest for a vegetable dish.
  • Combine diced grapefruit with cilantro, chopped red peppers and red onion for a fruit salsa to serve with chicken or fish.
Leslie Beck, a Toronto-based dietitian at the Medcan Clinic, is on CTV’s Canada AM every Wednesday. Her website is lesliebeck.com.

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Blueberries and Apples Tied to Lower Diabetes Risk

Fri Mar 16, 2012

(Reuters Health) – Eating more blueberries, apples and pears may be linked to lower risk of diabetes, according to a new U.S. study.

These fruits are loaded with flavonoids, a natural compound present in certain fruits, vegetables and grains, which some research has tentatively tied to heath benefits such as a lower risk of heart disease or cancer.

“People who ate a higher amount of blueberries or apples, they tended to have a low risk of type 2 diabetes,” said An Pan, a research fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health who worked on the study.

The findings show an association, he added, but don’t prove the fruits, themselves, prevent diabetes.

The new work, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, parallels a study published in the same journal last year associating flavonoid-rich fruits with a reduced risk of high blood pressure.

According to the American Diabetes Association, approximately 26 million Americans have the disease. It’s caused by a defect in the body’s ability to produce or use insulin, a hormone that converts glucose in the blood into energy.

Type 2 diabetes can usually be controlled with exercise and diet changes and without insulin.

For the new U.S. National Institutes of Health-funded study, researchers tracked the dietary patterns of approximately 200,000 men and women for up to 24 years.

The participants, who were enrolled in three large ongoing studies of American health professionals, filled out regular questionnaires about how frequently they consumed certain foods and beverages of a standard portion size.

None had diabetes at the outset, but about 12,600 of the participants were diagnosed during the research period.

The lightest blueberry eaters in the study reported getting less than one serving (half a cup) of the fruit per month, while the biggest blueberry consumers had two or more servings per week.

Pan’s team found that blueberry-lovers had a 23 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared with those who ate no blueberries. People who ate five or more apples a week also had a 23 percent lower risk compared with those who didn’t eat apples.

The researchers suggested that certain flavonoids especially high in those fruits might be behind their possibly beneficial effect on diabetes risk.

“We found consistent results across the three (study groups) that apples and blueberries are beneficial for type 2 diabetes,” Pan told Reuters Health.

That was after taking into account other risk factors, such as body weight, cigarette smoking and a family history of diabetes.

These results jibe with an earlier Finnish report related to consumption of berries and apples and diabetes risk.

But these previous studies were much smaller in scope, Pan noted.

He and his colleagues reported no financial conflicts of interest.

While fruit sugar raises blood glucose levels rapidly, other substances in fruit such as fibers and pectin may have diabetes-related benefits, said Dr. Loren Greene, a professor of medicine at New York University who was not involved in the study.

“It argues very nicely for the consumption of whole fruits rather than fruit juices,” she told Reuters Health, citing recent evidence that fruit juices may increase the risk of diabetes.

SOURCE: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, online February 22, 2012. Reuters.com

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Don’t “Hold the Onions”

Thursday, March 8, 2012

By Janet Helm, MS, RD

Famously known for making you cry when you cut them and giving you bad breath when you eat them, onions just don’t get any respect. Yet, this Rodney Dangerfield of vegetables has a lot to boast about.

Maybe you’re ignoring onions – avoiding these pungent vegetables on a salad bar and skipping them on your sandwich or burger. But “holding the onions” means you’re missing out on the bevy of bioactive compounds hiding underneath the paper-like skin.

Onions, like garlic, belong to the Allium family. Both bulbs are rich in sulfur-containing compounds that are responsible for their distinctive odors and for many of their health benefits. Yet garlic seems to get all the glory.

It’s true that garlic is more heavily researched, but the scientific support for onions is not too shabby. People often underestimate the nutritional prowess of pale vegetables compared to deeply hued plants, but white and yellow onions contain a lot more health-enhancing polyphenols than you might expect. Red onions contain even more.

Onions are especially high in quercetin – one of the most well-studied flavonoids believed to protect against heart disease, stroke, and certain types of cancer. Population-based nutrition studies, or research that compares groups of people based on what they eat, have found that people who consume a lot of onions and other Allium vegetables have lower risks of stomach, colon, and prostate cancer.

Other studies suggest onions have anti-inflammatory benefits and anti-bacterial effects. Onions are rich in fructans – a type of carbohydrate that acts as a prebiotic, helping to fuel beneficial bacteria in our digestive tract.

To reap the benefits of onions, you need a bit more than a sprinkling on your salad once a week. Also, don’t count on deep-fried onion rings or the nearly 2,000-calorie Bloomin’ Onion at Outback Steakhouse as ways to increase the amount of onions you eat. Aim for at least one serving of an Allium vegetable on your plate every day – including onions, scallions, garlic, leeks, shallots, and chives. For onions, that’s about one-half of a medium onion. Here are some tasty ways you can do that:

  • Skewer chunks of onions when grilling kebabs.
  • Add slivers of onions to your stir-fry dishes.
  • Double the amount of chopped onions you sauté when making soups and stews.
  • Add onions when you’re roasting vegetables or making a pot roast.
  • Chop onions to add to omelets and frittatas.
  • Make a big batch of caramelized onions to top a lean filet or use on a homemade pizza (great combined with gorgonzola cheese)

source: webmd.com