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5 Aspects of How Diet Does, and Does Not, Impact Health

Laura Joszt
For the most part, it’s well known that eating healthy and in moderation is more beneficial to our health. In 2017, there were a number of news stories that drove that knowledge home.
Lifestyle changes are an important part of health, and can have a huge impact in cases where medications can’t or shouldn’t be used. For the most part, it’s well known that eating healthy and in moderation is more beneficial to our health. In 2017, there were a number of news stories that drove that knowledge home.

Here are 4 ways diet does impact health and 1 way that it doesn’t.

1. Diet and cancer prevention and outcomes

A collaborative study at various cancer institutions across the country presented results at the 2017 American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting that found patients with colon cancer who had a healthy body weight and ate a healthy diet had longer overall survival and disease-free survival. Patients who lived a healthier lifestyle had a 42% lower risk of death compared with lower-scoring counterparts. Diets rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and low in processed and red meats had a positive impact.

Another study found that diet can contribute to breast cancer prevention. For instance, that alcohol-induced cancer cells lead to spread of cancer to other tissues and that genistein, a component of soy, decreased the risk of breast cancer. A third trial determined that low-fat dietary patterns were potentially linked to a lower breast cancer mortality rate.

2. Reducing gut bacteria

Another disease area that can be impacted by diet is Crohn’s disease. Research from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine found that a high fat diet could reduce the bacteria of the gut, which helps the body fight against the harmful inflammation of Crohn’s disease. The study was conducted in mice, but the researchers found mice on a beneficial fatty diet had up to 30% fewer kinds of gut bacteria. As a result, there was a decrease in severe intestinal inflammation.

3. Impact on brain aging

A presentation at the 2017 Neuroscience Educational Institute Congress highlighted out exercise, diet, sleep, and hearing impact aging. Stephen M. Stahl, MD, PhD, adjunct professor of psychiatry, University of California San Diego, explained that diets that recommend high consumption of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and low amounts of red or processed meats were associated with better cognitive function in older adults, slower cognitive decline, and a decreased risk of dementia.

4. The importance of moderation

An analysis of data from more than 135,000 adults in 18 countries tracked what people ate for an average of 7.4 years and who developed cardiovascular disease and later died. The researchers determined that moderation is important. People with the lowest risk of death ate just 3 to 4 servings of fruits, vegetables, and legumes a day. More than that did not provide much additional benefit.

In addition, people with diets heavy in carbohydrates were more likely to have died than those with low-carb diets. This diet was not necessarily associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, though.

5. Diet does not reduce risk of infection in patients with neutropenia

Finally, research also found one instance where a diet does not have an impact. Despite there being no evidence, the neutropenic diet is a common strategy in cancer care. The idea is to have patients avoid certain foods that might carry bacteria to reduce the risk of infection.

A poster presented at the 42nd Annual Congress of the Oncology Nursing Society took a look at past literature on the neutropenic diet and couldn’t find a single instance where the diet reduced infection or mortality rates. As a result, the neutropenic diet was officially removed from University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Shadyside Hospital, where the researchers worked.

 
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