A large study carried out in China has found that people who eat the most vegetables have lower mortality rates, especially from heart disease, with the strongest protective benefits linked to intake of cruciferous vegetables (inducing broccoli, kale, cauliflower and cabbage). The analysis included 134,796 Chinese adults who participated in two cohort studies. Overall, fruit and vegetable intake was inversely associated with risk of total mortality in both women and men, and a dose-response pattern was particularly evident for cruciferous vegetable intake. People whose daily diets included the most vegetables were 15% less likely to have died during the 5-year study period and the risk of dying was 22% lower in women who ate the most cruciferous vegetables compared with those who ate the least. Most of the decreased risk was due to a drop in cardiovascular disease. (Cruciferous vegetable consumption is associated with a reduced risk of total and cardiovascular disease mortality. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 Jul;94(1):240-6).

A daily dose of cinnamon may improve blood pressure and blood sugar levels in people with type-2 diabetes, according to UK-based research. Fifty-eight people with type-2 diabetes were randomly assigned to receive a daily supplement containing 2g of cinnamon or placebo for 12 weeks. At the end of the study, the results indicated that the cinnamon supplement was associated with a significant decrease in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. The results also showed a significant reduction in levels of glycated haemoglobin (a long-term measure of blood sugar levels) over the 12 weeks in the cinnamon group, compared with an increase in the placebo group. (Glycated haemoglobin and blood pressure-lowering effect of cinnamon in multi-ethnic Type2 diabetic patients in the UK: a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trial. Diabet Med. 2010 Oct;27(10):1159-67).

A systematic review by British authors has concluded that eating a diet rich in green leafy vegetables may lower the risk of developing type-2 diabetes. Combining the results of six studies (a total of more than 220,000 participants), the authors found that eating more fruit and vegetables did not significantly reduce the risk of diabetes, although there was a general trend in that direction. However, meta-analysis suggested that eating an additional one and a half portions of green leafy vegetables (e.g. cabbage, brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach) daily had the effect of reducing the risk of diabetes by 14%, independent of any effect on weight loss. (Fruit and vegetable intake and incidence of type 2 diabetes mellitus: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ. 2010 Aug 18;341:c4229. doi: 10.1136/ bmj.c4229).

Cinnamon bark (Cinnamomi Cortex [Rou Gun) has a potential role in the prevention of many diseases, according to a review by American authors. Recent studies carried out in vitro and in vivo have shown that cinnamon can improve many of the factors associated with development of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes, including insulin resistance, elevated glucose and lipids, inflammation, decreased antioxidant activity, weight gain and increased glvcation of proteins. In addition, cinnamon has been shown to alleviate factors associated with Alzheimer’s disease and ischaemic stroke. In vitro studies have also shown that components of cinnamon inhibit angiogenesis associated with cancer cell proliferation. Human studies involving subjects with metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and polycystic ovary syndrome have all show beneficial effects of whole cinnamon and/or aqueous extracts of cinnamon on glucose and lipid levels, insulin sensitivity, antioxidant status, blood pressure, lean body mass and gastric emptying. (Cinnamon: potential role in the prevention of insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes. J Diabetes Sci Technol. 2010 May 1;4(3):685-93).

Daily supplementation with ginger root (Gan Jiang [Zingiberis Rhizomal] has been found to reduce exercise-induced pain by 25%. The anti-inflammatory action of ginger has previously been confirmed in rodents, but not in humans. American investigators conducted two studies to identify the impact of raw and heat-treated ginger supplements on muscle pain. Thirty-four volunteers were enrolled in the raw ginger study and 40 on the heat-treated ginger study. In each group, the subjects consumed capsules containing 2g of either raw or heat-treated ginger or placebo for 11 consecutive days. On Day 8 of the study, the volunteers performed resistance exercises with a heavy weight to induce moderate muscle injury. The results showed that daily ginger supplementation reduced exercise-induced pain by a moderate to large amount: 25% for raw, and 23% or heat-treated ginger, compared with placebo. (Ginger (Zingiber officinale) reduces muscle pain caused by eccentric exercise. J Pain. 2010 Sep;11(9):894-903).

Chinese nutritional theory has always held that beetroot has blood-nourishing properties. A British team has now found that beetroot juice can boost athletic stamina by increasing the nitrate concentration of the blood. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover study, eight men drank 500ml of beetroot juice every day for seven days and completed a series of exercise tests on the last three days. They were able to cycle 16% longer without feeling fatigued and analysis showed that levels of nitrate in their plasma had effectively doubled. The authors suggest that the additional nitrate had the effect of slowing the rate of muscular energy metabolism, and suggest the finding will be of interest not only to athletes but also to elderly people and those with metabolic, respiratory or cardiovascular diseases. (Dietary nitrate supplementation reduces the 02 cost of low-intensity exercise and enhances tolerance to high-intensity exercise in humans. J Appl Physiol. 2009 Oct;107(4):1144-55).

People who follow a Mediterranean diet rich in monounsaturated fats, vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains and fish) have a reduced risk of developing depression, according to Spanish research. A cohort of 10,094 healthy participants completed a food frequency questionnaire, on which basis researchers calculated their adherence to a Mediterranean diet. After four and a half years of follow-up, 480 new cases of depression were identified. Individuals who adhered to the Mediterranean diet most closely had a more than 30% reduction in the risk of depression than those who had the lowest Mediterranean diet scores. The authors speculate that components of the diet may improve blood vessel function, fight inflammation, reduce risk for heart disease and repair oxygen-related cell damage, all of which may decrease the chances of developing depression.

An American randomised controlled trial has compared the lipid-lowering effects of lifestyle changes plus dietary supplements with a standard dose of a statin drug. The study enrolled 74 patients with hypercholesterolaemia and randomised them to an alternative treatment group (AG) or simvastatin (40 mg / d). The alternative treatment included therapeutic lifestyle changes (weekly education meetings, adherence to a Mediterranean diet, aerobic exercise, relaxation with tai chi and yoga, and weight loss) and ingestion of red yeast rice and fish oil supplements for 12 weeks. The simvastatin group received medication and traditional counselling. There was a statistically significant reduction in LDL cholesterol levels in both the AG (-42.4%) and the simvastatin group (-39.6%). No significant differences were noted between groups. The AG also demonstrated significant reductions in triglycerides (-29% vs -9.3%) and weight (-5.5% vs -0.4%) compared with the simvastatin group. (Simvastatin vs therapeutic lifestyle changes and supplements: randomized primary prevention trial. Mayo Clin Proc. 2008 Jul;83(7):758-64).

Intake of apples and fish by women during pregnancy may reduce the risk of their children developing atopic conditions, according to the results of a longitudinal cohort study of nearly 2000 Dutch children. Mothers completed a food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) during pregnancy, and children in the cohort were followed up at five years of age with a symptom questionnaire and FFQ. Food groups analysed were fruit, vegetables, fruit juice, whole-grain products, fish, dairy products and fat spreads. Maternal consumption of apples was found to have a protective effect on the children against asthma, while fish consumption was associated with protection against eczema. (Maternal food consumption during pregnancy and asthma, respiratory and atopic symptoms in 5-year-old children. Thorax. 2007 Sep;62(9):773-9).

Eating apples and tomatoes may help prevent respiratory disease. Researchers at the University of Nottingham studied the lung function of 2,633 adults in 1991 and again in 2000, using spirometry to measure forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV-1). Eating more than five apples each week was strongly associated with increased FEV-1, as was having tomatoes more than three times a week. Wheezing was also less common among people who consumed apples, tomatoes and bananas. The authors theorise that the high levels of antioxidants in these foods may have a beneficial effect on lung function. (97th Annual Meeting of the American Thoracic Society).