U.S. Government Launches Massive Study of Children

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, one of the National Institutes of Health, is gearing up to track roughly 100,000 children from before birth. It's one of the most ambitious studies ever of this kind. This is from the NICHD's press release:

In the search for environmental influences on human health, and their relationship to genetic constitution, National Children's Study researchers plan to examine such factors as the food children eat, the air they breathe, their schools and neighborhoods, their frequency of visits to a health care provider, and even the composition of the house dust in their homes.

Initial results will be available in 2010, although the study will last for decades.


Study: Omega-3 Fatty Acids Prevent Cancer in Mice

The New Scientist has word of a study suggesting mothers can reduce their daughters likelihood of developing breast cancer by getting lots of omega-3s during pregnancy and breast-feeding:

Elaine Hardman at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana looked at the effects of mothers' diets on mice predisposed to develop breast cancer. Female mice whose mothers ate a diet rich in omega-6 fatty acids and which ate the same diet themselves after weaning all developed tumours by six months. The diets of most people in western countries are much richer in omega-6 oils than omega-3s.

In mice whose mothers ate a diet richer in omega-3s, or mice fed this diet only after weaning, tumour rates fell to 60 per cent. In female mice fed the omega-3-rich diet and whose mothers ate it as well, the rate fell to just 13 per cent, Hardman told a meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research this week.

Eat Your Greens

Yet another medical study shows health benefits of leafy greens. This time researchers at Tufts are finding that folate, a B vitamin prevalant in greens, helps to protect against cognitive decline in older adults. (Thanks to VegSource for the heads up.)

The Lancet: Breast Feeding Saves Lives

The benefits of breast feeding are many, varied, and (at least in some settings) profound. According to a recent paper, widespread breastfeeding could save millions of lives around the globe.

In the new issue of the medical journal The Lancet, Sonia Bechara Coutinho, Pedro Israel Cabral de Lira, Marilia de Carvalho Lima, and Ann Ashworth report on the "Comparison of the effect of two systems for the promotion of exclusive breastfeeding." In the article's introduction, they report some chilling numbers about how many child deaths would be prevented if mothers would breast feed.

Most of the 10*8 million child deaths during the year 2000 were from preventable causes... If 90% of infants were exclusively breastfed at 0-5 months and continued to be breastfed from 6 months to 11 months, there would be an estimated 13% reduction in child deaths worldwide.2 This potential reduction in mortality is higher than for any other level-1 intervention. Current rates of exclusive breastfeeding are far below 90% in most countries, and in some, for example in Latin America, even the duration of breastfeeding is short.

...We report a randomised trial comparing the effect on rates of exclusive breastfeeding of two systems to promote breastfeeding in northeastern Brazil. The interventions were a hospital-based system, in which maternity staff were trained with the course content for the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI), and a combination of this hospital-based system and a community-based system providing ten postnatal home visits.

The study found that home visits significantly increased the chances that babies would be exclusively breast fed.
The patterns of exclusive breastfeeding in the two trial groups for days 10-180 differed significantly (p<0*0001), with a mean aggregated prevalence of 45% among the group assigned home visits compared with 13% for the group assigned none.

Dr. Campbell's China Study

T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D. is the author of The China Study, a multi-faceted and highly respected research project and book that demonstrates with solid science a number of the research principles Dr. Fuhrman discusses.

The China Study has its roots in Dr. Campbell's efforts as a young researcher to try to find ways to get people in developing countries to eat more animal protein like milk, eggs, and meat. Decades later, after one of the largest health research projects ever, he concludes that more animal protein does not inspire good health.

The research behind the China Study is far-reaching. In fact, it has been called the most comprehensive study of health and nutrition ever conducted, and it was the culmination of a 20-year partnership of Cornell University (where Dr. Campbell is a professor), Oxford University, and the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine.

As Dr. Campbell explains in the introduction of The China Study, he didn't set out to disprove many of the assumptions of American nutrition. It just worked out that way:

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Nutrition Researcher: Frank Hu

One of the world's most respected nutrition and disease prevention researchers is Frank Hu, MD, Ph.D., who is an assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Dr. Hu has been instrumental in many of the studies that Dr. Fuhrman cites. Anyone who wants to know more about nutrition research would be smart to follow his work. Here are some of the studies Dr. Hu has been involved with.

2002 Diabetes in Men Study
This study, released in 2002, tracked 42,000 men for twelve years. At the beginning of the study, none had diabetes. 1,321 cases of type 2 diabetes were diagnosed during the study. All participants were asked repeatedly about their diets, and those who ate what the researchers called the "western diet" (high in red meat, processed meat, high-fat dairy products, and refined grains) and were obese and inactive were at a mich higher risk to get type 2 diabetes.

A Harvard School of Public Health press release describes the study. "The implications of the study are straightforward," says Dr. Hu in the release. "To substantially decrease the chances of getting type 2 diabetes and developing potentially serious complications like blindness, kidney failure and heart disease, men should change their eating pattern and increase their intake of whole grains, fruits, vegetables and fish. They should also get plenty of exercise and avoid weight gain."

2004 Study of Weight and Exercise in Women
More than 115,000 women were studied between 1976 and 2000. The findings were clear: being overweight and not exercising both significantly affected mortality. "There is no question that one should be as active as possible no matter what your weight is, but it is equally important to maintain a healthy weight and prevent weight gain through diet and lifestyle," Dr. Hu says in a press release describing the study.

2004 Study of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages
This study attempted to assess some of the impact of sugar-sweetened beverages on health. More than 91,000 participants filled out questionnaires between 1991 and 1999, and the results were remarkable: those who had more than one sugared soft-drink per day had an 80 percent increased risk of diabetes compared to those who had one per month.

"This is the first study to show a strong positive association between sugar-sweetened beverages, including regular sodas and fruit punches, and diabetes risk," said Frank Hu in a press release describing the study. "Our study suggests that limiting consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, especially soft drinks, is an important public health strategy to curb the epidemic of obesity and type 2 diabetes."

2000 Studies of Coronary Heart Disease in Women
Two studies taken together showed coronary heart disease was dramatically reduced among women who stopped smoking and ate a healthier diet. The studies tracked 86,000 women over a 14-year period.

Here's how Dr. Hu summarized his findings: "Taken together, these studies give strong support to the theories that much of heart disease can be prevented through changes in diet and lifestyle. This newest study shows that a person's risk can drop very quickly by improving their diets and by quitting smoking."

You can read more about Dr. Hu's research at the Harvard School of Public Health website.