Three New Studies Highlight Benefits Of A Plant-Based Diet

There were 4 studies in this month’s issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that beg some blog space. Three of them point to the benefits of a plant-based diet. One cautions about low vitamin B12:

FolateFoodSources

Good sources of folate are beans and greens.

1. Dietary folate, B vitamins, genetic susceptibility and progression to advanced nonexudative age-related macular degeneration with geographic atrophy: a prospective cohort study

Conclusions: High folate intake was associated with a reduced risk of progression to [macular degeneration] GA.

GA is geographic atrophy, an advanced form of dry macular degeneration where one loses sight in the center of their vision. There is no cure.

If you’re tempted to take a folic acid supplement, don’t. Too much folic acid is linked to cancer. Also, folate that comes wrapped in food has other benefits like fiber and flavonoids (see next study.)

2. Flavonoid intake and incident hypertension in women

Conclusion: In this large prospective cohort of French middle-aged women, participants with greater flavonol, anthocyanin, and polymeric flavonoid intakes and greater total flavonoid intake were less likely to develop hypertension.

Flavonoids are a class of polyphenolic compounds which occur primarily in plants. There are thousands of them. You may have heard there are flavonoids in tea, dark chocolate, and berries (and so, red wine) but hundreds of foods contain flavonoids … apples, oranges, onions, kale, broccoli, beans, legumes. Here’s a searchable database:

PhenolExplorer2

Oatmeal53. Intake of whole grains is associated with lower risk of myocardial infarction: the Danish Diet, Cancer and Health Cohort

Conclusion: In this study, we provide support for the hypothesis that whole-grain intake is related to lower risk of myocardial infarction and suggest that the cereals rye and oats might especially hold a beneficial effect.

Their definition of “whole grains”:

Whole grains shall consist of the intact, ground, cracked or flaked caryopsis, whose principal anatomical components – the starchy endosperm, germ and bran – are current in the same relative proportions as they exist in the intact caryopsis.

The story here is more about rye and oats than wheat. The authors think that may be because respondents thought they were eating whole grain wheat bread (and, so, said they were) but it wasn’t. Chalk that up to deceptive marketing.

This was a Danish population. I wish we had a whole grain rye bread here like they do there.

4. Vitamin B-12 concentration, memory performance, and hippocampal structure in patients with mild cognitive impairment

Conclusions: Low VitB12 concentrations within the normal range are associated with poorer memory performance, which is an effect that is partially mediated by the reduced microstructural integrity of the hippocampus.

They don’t say explicitly that taking vitamin B12 improves memory, but their finding isn’t the only one along these B12-mental-health lines. Note that those with poorer cognition had normal levels of B12, albeit on the low end.

Everyone over 50 should be supplementing with vitamin B12 – no matter what they eat. Even the government says that.

Related: Can You Take Too Much Vitamin B12?

There you have it. For macular degeneration, high blood pressure, and heart disease – a plant-based diet (whole grains, beans, fruits, vegetables) strikes again!

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