Research Roundup: Yogurt and CVD, protein and bone health and more

  • Article
  • April 17, 2018

In this edition, we cover new research on how yogurt and the DASH eating plan is associated with lower cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk, the influence of protein from plant and animal foods on bone health, and the relationship between eating breakfast and diet quality in young children.

Yogurt may help lower risk of cardiovascular disease in adults with high blood pressure

The results of a large prospective study showed that higher yogurt consumption among hypertensive adults was associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), including heart attack among adults with high blood pressure. This study found that eating at least two cups of yogurt per week was associated with a 30 percent lower risk of heart attack in women and a 19 percent lower risk in men. Participants who ate one cup or more of yogurt per week also had an approximately 20 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease or stoke during the follow-up period. Finally, higher yogurt consumption and greater adherence to the heart-healthy Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating pattern was associated with a 16 percent reduction of CVD risk in women and a 30 percent reduction in men. See this NDC blog post for more.

Neither animal nor plant sources of protein are linked to poor bone health

A recent systematic review and meta-analysis found no significant difference between the type of protein on markers of bone health. Researchers compared the effect of isolated isoflavone-rich soy protein (plant protein) with animal protein (milk, egg or a combination of animal proteins) on bone mineral density, bone mineral content, and markers of bone formation and breakdown from seven clinical trials. These results build on those of a recent systematic review showing that higher protein consumption (within the range of recommended intakes) was not harmful to bone. Read more in this NDC blog post, “Research dispels the myth that protein is bad for bone.”

Eating milk, yogurt and cheese is associated with markers of bone strength in men

A cross-sectional study among men and women enrolled in the Framingham Heart Study found that drinking milk or eating a combination of milk, yogurt and/or cheese was associated with improved markers of bone strength of the spine in men, but not in women. In men, there were also beneficial associations between dairy intake and bone at all vitamin D levels. Previous research has shown higher dairy food consumption is associated with greater bone mineral density (BMD), which is a substitute marker of bone strength. This study examined bones using methods that generate 3-D images that can be used to more directly measure bone strength.

Dietary guidance that focuses on whole foods, including lower-fat dairy foods, may help improve heart health

Experts from the Pennsylvania State University reviewed recent developments in nutrition and cardiovascular disease. They present the case for dietary guidance based on a dietary pattern of whole foods rather than goals for individual nutrients such as saturated fat, added sugars, sodium or cholesterol. Dietary guidelines from government and health organizations consistently recommend dietary patterns that include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat and fat-free dairy, lean protein, nuts, seeds and vegetable oils. These eating patterns promote health and are linked to lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

Exercise may help problem-solving skills in children and teens

An updated Cochrane Review evaluated the evidence linking school programs that encourage healthier weight among children and teens through diet and exercise with thinking skills and school performance. High-quality evidence showed that increased physical activity compared with usual routine can lead to small improvements in problem-solving skills. Also, changing knowledge of nutrition and the foods offered in schools can lead to moderate improvements in general school achievement in teenagers with obesity. However, there is a need for more high-quality research examining healthy weight strategies that also test thinking skills and school performance.

Eating breakfast is associated with higher diet quality in U.S. children

A study in a nationally representative sample of younger (ages 2 to 5 years) and older (ages 6 to 12 years) children found that eating breakfast is linked to higher diet quality including key nutrients like calcium, vitamin A, vitamin C, riboflavin, zinc and iron. Overall, diet quality scores for nutrient-rich foods such as fruit, whole grains and dairy foods were substantially higher and scores for empty calories were substantially lower among children who ate breakfast, when compared to those who skipped breakfast, on average. In comparison, skipping breakfast was associated with lower diet quality (as measured by the Healthy Eating Index 2010), eating more added sugars for the total day and eating less fiber, folate, iron and calcium.

Whey protein, vitamins D and E may support maintenance of muscle mass and strength in older adults with sarcopenia

A six-month double-blind, randomized controlled trial among older adults with sarcopenia (i.e., age-related loss of muscle mass, strength and function) demonstrated that a whey protein beverage containing vitamins D and E can support muscle mass and strength. The beverage, consumed before breakfast and dinner, contained 22 grams of whey protein, 702 IUs of vitamin D and 109 mg of vitamin E. The authors noted that whey protein has high amounts of the amino acid leucine, which stimulates muscle growth. Also, increased vitamin D intake could help support muscle strength, while vitamin E may help promote adaptations that reduce muscle damage. Larger, long-term studies may determine whether whey protein can help slow declines in muscle mass and function in older adults with sarcopenia.