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Health Beat | Spectrum Health by Marketing Researchers Have Found Th.. - 1h ago
If you’d like to sweeten up that pedestrian dish, you may want to take a seat. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

Everybody eats while standing at parties, picnics and food trucks, but science suggests we’d all enjoy our food much more if we sat down.

Your posture—that is, whether you’re sitting or standing—affects your sense of taste. And researchers at the University of South Florida say sitting makes your food taste better.

They investigated how the vestibular sense—which deals with balance, posture and spatial orientation—works with the senses that deal with taste.

Standing for even a couple of minutes, they found, increases physical stress and shuts off the taste buds.

To confirm the finding, marketing professor Dipayan Biswas had 350 people rate the taste of pita chips. People who ate while standing judged the chips less tasty than those who nibbled while seated in a padded chair.

The same thing happened with brownies. But when lots of salt was added to the recipe, the outcome reversed. People seated found the treats unpleasant, while people who were standing didn’t notice the extra salt and judged the treats tastier than those who were sitting.

“This finding suggests that parents might be able to make unpleasant-tasting, healthy foods seem more palatable to reluctant children by having them eat standing up (vs. sitting down),” Biswas said in a university news release. “In a similar vein, it might be beneficial to maintain a standing posture when consuming pharmaceutical products that have unpleasant tastes.”

Biswas also asked participants to eat fruit snacks while holding shopping bags—similar to nibbling samples at a supermarket or food court. Whether they were seated or standing, participants said the added weight and stress made food taste worse.

Finally, to test temperature perception, researchers also gave participants hot coffee. Compared to those who were seated, those who were standing said its temperature was not as intense. They also drank less.

The takeaway: Eating while standing might help people lose weight because they tend to consume less while standing. Plus, the physical stress of standing may burn more calories.

The report was published recently in the Journal of Consumer Research.

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Health Beat | Spectrum Health by The Mediterranean Diet May Hold The.. - 22h ago
Mediterranean food that’s full of vegetables, extra virgin olive oil, and fish tend to reduce insulin resistance. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

The best way to get through midlife and menopause is to know the tricks.

One of the tricks for healthy aging is to eat the Mediterranean way. This way of cooking and eating is healthy, tasty, satisfying and good for staying on a budget.

Mediterranean cooking includes whole grains, lean protein such as seafood and chicken, extra-virgin olive oil and lots of veggies.

For flavor and health benefits, the recipes use lemons, lots of garlic, and spices such as oregano, dill and parsley.

There are so many options to consider, and my favorite cookbook for Mediterranean cooking is ‘Live to Eat’ by Michael Psilakis.

He organizes everything by key items to keep on hand: Greek yogurt for sauces and dips, garden-fresh veggies and fruits, peppers, onions, roasted cherry tomatoes, tomato sauce and garlic confit. From these items, healthy meals are a snap.

Mediterranean cooking has been proven to reduce risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.

Insulin resistance is the common denominator for all these issues, which combined are the cause of death for a third of women.

Insulin resistance is when the blood sugar stays higher longer after consuming food—and especially higher after consuming simple carbs such as white flour pasta, white bread, white rice, alcohol or treats.

When blood sugar stays high, it can damage tissue and cause higher levels of insulin, which increase cravings for sugar, as well as promote storage of sugar into belly fat.

One of the other things sugar does is make blood vessel linings sticky, which allows fat to adhere to them, increasing the risk of a blockage.

The bottom line, a diet high in foods made with simple carbs cause preventable disease.

Learning how to cook the Mediterranean way can save lives.

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Health Beat | Spectrum Health by There’s Much To Celebrate In .. - 1d ago
As caregivers and clinicians navigate the various phases of cancer survivorship, it spotlights the ever-present need for resources that optimize care. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

More Americans are surviving cancer and their numbers could top 22 million in another decade, the American Cancer Society says.

Currently, thanks to better screening and treatment, more than 17 million Americans who had cancer remain alive, the society said in a new report.

While this is good news, it comes with a cautionary note.

Cancer survivors often have long-term difficulties. Many must also overcome barriers to get the treatments they need, the researchers said.

“People with a history of cancer have unique medical, psychosocial and economic needs that require proactive assessment and management by health care providers,” said report co-author Robin Yabroff. She’s senior scientific director of health services research for the cancer society.

“Although there are growing numbers of tools that can assist patients, caregivers and clinicians in navigating the various phases of cancer survivorship, further evidence-based resources are needed to optimize care,” Yabroff said in a society news release.

The report estimated that 8 million men and nearly 9 million women have a history of cancer.

Among the survivors, 68% had their cancer diagnosed five or more years ago and 18% at least 20 years ago.

Also, while nearly two-thirds of survivors are 65 or older, nearly 66,000 survivors are 14 and younger. Close to 48,000 are 15 to 19 years old.

Because of the growing and aging population, survivorship is increasing even though the number of women who develop cancer remains stable and the number of men with cancer declines, the researchers found.

The most common cancers among men are prostate, colon cancer and melanoma. Among women they are breast, uterine and colon cancer.

The report was published recently in the journal CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.

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Health Beat | Spectrum Health by This 11-year-old Gained Great Wisdo.. - 2d ago

Ezequiel Gonzalez is only 11 years old, but already he has developed an abundance of wisdom to share with the world.

He’s got cheer, too. Plenty to go around.

“He wheels up to people in the grocery store just to tell them to have a nice day,” said Gamalier Gonzalez, his father.

Ezequiel, dubbed “Q” by his family, grins proudly at such observations.

“I like to make people happy,” he said.

The Belmont, Michigan, sixth-grader has been in a wheelchair since age 4. Doctors diagnosed him at age 2 with spinal muscular atrophy type 2, a rare neuromuscular disorder that causes muscles to progressively weaken.

I want people to know that all disabled kids are the same as any other kid, despite our disabilities. And if you have something degenerative, work hard—don’t give in.

Ezequiel Gonzalez

The genetic disease affects the part of the nervous system that controls voluntary muscle movement. Most of the affected nerve cells are located in the spine.

Spinal muscular atrophy is graded by four types, type 1 being the most severe.

Ezequiel’s condition began to manifest itself early on.

“We first noticed something was wrong when Q started to crawl but was never able to stand,” Gonzalez said. “And then he stopped crawling, too. He couldn’t seem to move anymore and he cried a lot.”

When the diagnosis came, it proved difficult for the family to accept. But as Ezequiel grew, he began to teach his family lessons about the incredible power of a positive attitude and an indomitable spirit.

And he has shown those in his corner of the world that he cannot be subdued.

The once-crying infant, one of three brothers, turned into a little boy with a mop of dark, curly hair and a quick, wide smile.

He became adept at zipping around in his power wheelchair, ever in search of someone with whom to strike up a conversation.

Spinal surgery

As he grew over the years, Ezequiel’s spine couldn’t keep up with the rest of him.

Scoliosis, curvature of the spine, gradually curled his body into a position that made it difficult for him to breathe.

For a time he wore a hard brace that enveloped his body.

But eventually, he had to undergo surgery.

Scary, Ezequiel admits—he’d never had surgery, other than to remove his tonsils.

In fact, his primary medical treatments had only entailed a regular schedule of lumbar injections, always under anesthesia.

“Ezequiel has received injections of a drug called Spinraza into the fluid around his spine,” said John Kemppainen, MD, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. “That slows the progression of (spinal muscular atrophy) by boosting the production of a protein involved in motor neuron, or motor nerve, development.”

Ezequiel needed to undergo spinal fusion surgery to prevent his spine from curving and to help him breathe, Dr. Kemppainen said.

The surgery took place March 5.

While most procedures of this sort involve fusing the entire spine, Dr. Kemppainen left a section of Ezequiel’s spine free to allow for continued lumbar injections.

“We fused vertebrae from T3 to the pelvis, using two rods and 21 screws to hold Ezequiel’s spine in place,” Dr. Kemppainen said. “The surgery took a whole day, from 7:30 a.m. to about 5 p.m.”

Simple things

Doctors and Ezequiel’s family will remember the surgery for its medical aspects, but Ezequiel will remember things for much different reasons.

“Suddenly, Darth Vader walked into the room,” he said, his face lighting up as he recalled that day. “He gave me collector cards and we hung out for a while.”

Star Wars characters often visit the children at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, bringing light on the darkest of days.

Even Darth Vader can spread a little cheer.

“My bedroom at home is decorated with Star Wars characters, too,” Ezequiel said. “Otherwise, yes, it was a little painful after the surgery. Getting into my chair was a hassle. But now, I’m way better.”

Ezequiel returned home after four days in the hospital.

He has since kept up with his daily exercise regimen—arm and leg stretches in the mornings and evenings. He’ll eventually do physical therapy.

For now, his goals remain simple: Use the restroom and shower without assistance. Sit up and, generally, remain as independent as possible.

On one recent afternoon, Ezequiel grew emotional as he glanced at Anna Lane, his father’s fiancé.

Lane has been a cherished part of his life for years.

Ezequiel knows that more independence on his part means more time with her.

“Q loves to help me garden,” Lane said. “We grow vegetables and herbs, tomatoes and cucumbers. And when we’re not gardening, he helps me gather eggs.”

Five hens oversee their garden. They can name all the breeds: Barred Rocks, Americana, Rhode Island Red and Araucanas.

When they’re stuck inside the house, Ezequiel will challenge his dad to a game of chess or a game—or three—on the Xbox.

Who wins those? Dad grinned. “It goes back and forth.”

“Q is extremely skilled,” Lane said.

“We’re really proud of Q,” Gonzalez said. “He’s getting great grades and he’s working on a battery-powered car in his science class in school. It’s his favorite subject.”

Best man

When it comes to lessons learned, family members have a list.

“This kid,” Gonzalez looked at his son. “This kid has taught me so much.

“He’s my purpose,” he said. “He’s taught me about commitment, about getting through the ups and downs in life, about patience and to be grateful. I hear people complain about things sometimes … this, for us, is a long, draining fight. But Q has taught me to stay focused and fight for what matters.”

Lane nodded.

“Q has the right to be angry, but he’s not,” she said. “He’s taught me about the difference it can make to be positive. He makes me want to be a better person. He’s my heart.”

For his part, Ezequiel is quick to impart a few wise messages.

“I want people to know that all disabled kids are the same as any other kid, despite our disabilities,” he said. “And if you have something degenerative, work hard—don’t give in.”

Treating disabled people with dignity and equality—the same as you’d treat other kids, he said—means thinking about the challenges faced by those in wheelchairs.

“A lot of times when I am out with my family, we find the handicapped entrance is in the back of buildings,” he said. “Maybe in some back alley or by a dumpster. It would be great to have a door up front for us, too.”

Meanwhile, Ezequiel readied for his own grand entrance.

Lane and Gonzalez married June 8.

“And Q is our best man,” they said.

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Health Beat | Spectrum Health by Cortisol Levels In Dogs Often Mirro.. - 2d ago
You aren’t the only one feeling the harried pace of modern living—your best friend is probably picking up on your frazzled vibes. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

This dog-eat-dog world got you feeling anxious? If so, your canine companion probably feels the same way, new research shows.

A Swedish research team measured levels of the stress hormone cortisol in hair samples taken from dogs and their owners.

“We found that the levels of long-term cortisol in the dog and its owner were synchronized, such that owners with high cortisol levels have dogs with high cortisol levels, while owners with low cortisol levels have dogs with low levels,” researcher Ann-Sofie Sundman, of Linkoping University’s department of physics, chemistry and biology, said in a university news release.

For the study, Sundman’s team took hair samples from 25 border collies and 33 Shetland sheepdogs, all of them owned by women.

Dog owners also completed questionnaires about their own and their dog’s personalities.

The researchers then factored in the dog’s activity level, which can increase cortisol levels.

The results: There was no major effect of a dog’s individual personality on their long-term stress level. However, the personality of the dog’s owner did seem to have a strong effect on their pet’s own anxiety level.

That led the researchers to hypothesize that dogs are mirroring their owners’ stress levels.

The investigators said that they are planning to study other breeds, to see if a similar connection exists among other types of dogs.

According to researcher Lina Roth, a senior lecturer at the university, “If we learn more about how different types of dogs are influenced by humans, it will be possible to match dog and owner in a way that is better for both, from a stress-management point of view. It may be that certain breeds are not so deeply affected if their owner has a high stress level.”

The report was published recently in the journal Scientific Reports.

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Health Beat | Spectrum Health by It’s A Lovely Summer Treat On.. - 3d ago
There’s no arguing that ice cream is a welcome sign of summer—just be careful to keep the scoops in check. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

Cold, sweet ice cream cones are a favorite summertime treat—but don’t overdo it.

They’re high in calories and less nutritious than you probably think. That goes for frozen yogurt and flavored snow cones too, according to Suzy Weems, a professor of family and consumer sciences at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.

Many people think ice cream is a good source of vitamin D and calcium.

Not so fast, Weems said.

“It does have calcium along with vitamin D, vitamin A and some of the B vitamins to help with energy release, along with about 2.5 to 3 grams of protein—not much, but more than none,” she said in a university news release.

But at about 145 calories for a half-cup of vanilla and 160 for chocolate chip, it can break your diet—and fast.

A half-cup of vanilla frozen yogurt has about 117 calories and a little more calcium and protein, but Weems said it’s not any healthier.

As for snow cones, which are generally syrup and flavorings poured over shaved ice, Weems pointed out that each ounce of flavored syrup contains about 90 calories (4 calories for sugar-free).

In other words, you’re basically gobbling down sugar water.

“Sweetness doesn’t quench your thirst, but few people are going to drink water after a snow cone,” Weems said.

If you really crave a shaved ice treat, she suggests a pickle-juice cone. Its sourness will make you thirsty and kick-start your natural cooling system.

“The more you drink, the more you sweat,” Weems said. “When sweat evaporates, you’re cooler.”

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Health Beat | Spectrum Health by Don’t Let Parasites Get Under.. - 4d ago
Keep your days at the lake fun and itch-free by following these precautions. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

Ahhh … summer.

Lazy days hanging out with friends, enjoying family and swimming at the beach.

It’s all fun and games until somebody develops swimmer’s itch.

“Swimmer’s itch is a reaction to a parasite that gets under the skin,” said Angela Weirich, MD, a primary care provider with Spectrum Health Family Medicine. “Some people will notice a pimply, itchy rash or welts almost immediately after they’ve been exposed, while it could take a day or two for others.”

These tips could help you avoid, or deal, with swimmer’s itch: 1. Ducks, geese and swans–oh my

Avoid swimming where there is waterfowl or other wildlife. Swimmer’s itch is caused by a parasite in the feces of animals.

So if the area is marshy, the beach is littered with goose droppings or if someone is feeding ducks, there’s a good chance that parasites are lurking under the surface. 

The parasites infect snails first, and then the snails release the parasites into the water, which is how they come into contact with humans.

2. Watch your kids

“Anyone can get swimmer’s itch,” Dr. Weirich said. “But we most often see it in children because they play in the shallow shoreline water for a long time, which means they’re more apt to be exposed.”

3. Be careful out there

Although you can get it in June or August, swimmer’s itch peaks in July. Was there a recent storm? You’re more likely to be exposed where the wind and waves have blown debris toward the shore.

4. Know where the action is

Lakes and ponds in Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula are more likely to carry the swimmer’s itch parasite than bodies of water farther south. Also, it’s very unusual to get it from Lake Michigan or other large lakes.

5. Swim, rinse, dry

You’re less likely to get swimmer’s itch if you rinse your skin with clean water and dry off by rubbing briskly with a towel. This removes the parasites so they can’t get under your skin.

6. Get relief with over-the-counter treatments

Generally you don’t need to see a doctor for swimmer’s itch.

An antihistamine such as Benadryl will decrease the reaction. Rubbing on cortisone cream or calamine lotion will also make you more comfortable, Dr. Weirich said.

7. Don’t scratch where it itches

Scratching is almost irresistible, but scratching too vigorously can open the rash and lead to infection. If that happens, you should seek a doctor’s care.

8. Give it a week

It usually takes a good five days for the itchiness to go away. In the meantime, it may help to soak in a bath with Epsom salts, baking soda or oatmeal. Using cool compresses may help, too.

9. Don’t worry about being contagious

Swimmer’s itch can’t be passed from person to person.

It’s even OK for victims to go into a swimming pool as long as it is well maintained and chlorinated.

10. Avoid risks

Some people are more sensitive to the parasites than others, so they’ll get a rash when others don’t.

But even if you’ve avoided problems in the past, it’s important to know that your sensitivity can go up every time you swim with the parasites.

“Even if you get swimmer’s itch, you don’t need to worry about the parasites that caused it,” Dr. Weirich promised. “Once they crawl under your skin, they’ll die.”

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Health Beat | Spectrum Health by An Hour Of Moderate-to-vigorous Act.. - 4d ago
The sustained intensity of certain sports may deliver significant benefits to your youngster’s developing mind. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

Exercise is important for all kids because it boosts their overall health and wards off excess weight.

But it holds added benefit for teens. According to a study in The Journal of Pediatrics, it improves their attention, which can help them do better in school.

The greatest payoff came from about an hour a day of moderate-to-vigorous activity, the study found.

It seems that sustained exercise at a moderate level releases a specific protein that improves numerous brain functions.

But overly vigorous activity could make teens too tired to focus on learning.

These findings suggest that exercise could also help children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, as part of an overall care plan.

With many schools cutting back on physical education time during the school day, encourage your teen to take up a sport or activity that calls for a daily conditioning session, ensuring that they’ll be active not just on game days.

Some kids thrive on team sports, such as soccer and lacrosse, while others do better with activities that allow them to develop more as individuals, such as track and tennis.

If you have home cardio equipment, like a treadmill or exercise bike, suggest that your teen use it while listening to music.

Remember to model the behavior you want your kids to follow, so let them see you working out and having fun doing it.

You might even get your teen to agree to some family fitness time on weekends—and that’s something everyone will benefit from.

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Health Beat | Spectrum Health by When Severe Chest Pain Turned Out T.. - 5d ago

The day started out just fine.

Kim Lautner spent the morning snowmobiling with her boyfriend, Bob Mick, and his family in Bear Lake, Michigan. They returned to his house and she made a salad for lunch.

“He went outside to do something and all of a sudden, I had a severe weight on my chest and a stabbing feeling on my back,” she said. “The pain was unbearable.

“It was very hard to breathe. I couldn’t move. I thought I was having a heart attack.”

Mick rushed her to a local hospital. A CT scan showed a heart attack did not cause her chest pain. Instead, Lautner suffered an aortic dissection—a tear in her largest artery.

The condition, much less common than a heart attack, can also be life-threatening.

And for Lautner, the treatment involved a new device—a system of stents placed during a minimally invasive procedure.

“She is the first person here in the Midwest to have this procedure done,” said Eanas Yassa, MD, a vascular surgeon with Spectrum Health Medical Group. “She was quite lucky to have her dissection when she did, to have the tools available for us to be able to treat her.”

From the local hospital, Lautner was airlifted to Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital by North Flight Aero Med, a service of Munson Healthcare and Spectrum Health.

“It was a nice day. The sky was blue,” she said. “The staff was so good on the helicopter. They did a good job of managing my pain.”

She went straight to the intensive care unit of the Meijer Heart Center, where tests pinpointed the location of the dissection—or tear—in her aorta. Vascular specialists began treatment.

A tear in the aorta

Of all the blood vessels in our body, the aorta is the mighty Mississippi, a grand, fast-flowing river pumping blood straight from the heart to the rest of the body. Smaller arteries branch off from it, carrying blood to vital organs.

The wall of the aorta consists of three layers. In a dissection, a tear occurs in the inner lining, which allows blood to flow between the inner and middle layers.

In some cases, the blood surging into this opening creates a new, false channel that runs alongside the vessel’s normal channel.

With this double-barreled aorta can come profound risks. It can interrupt blood supply to vital organs or cause a stroke, if not enough blood reaches the brain. Or, most deadly of all, the tear can lead to a complete rupture of the aortic wall.

About 2,000 new cases are reported each year in the U.S., according to the International Registry of Acute Aortic Dissection.

“They are relatively rare,” Dr. Yassa said. “We see a lot of them here (at the Meijer Heart Center) because we are a big referral center that handles the complicated cases most hospitals don’t have the resources to treat. But they are quite rare in the general population.”

Like Lautner, patients often describe heart attack-like symptoms, such as chest pain and tightness. But with an aortic dissection, the pain is more likely to radiate to the back, Dr. Yassa said.

“Some people actually say it feels like something is tearing,” Dr. Yassa said. “And in both situations (a heart attack and an aortic dissection), there is often just that overwhelming pain and a sense of impending doom.”

Public awareness of the condition rose after actor John Ritter died at the age of 54 of acute aortic dissection in 2003. His widow, Amy Yasbeck, created the John Ritter Foundation for Aortic Health to improve diagnosis and treatment.

Preparing for the repair

The treatment needed for an aortic dissection depends on several factors, including the location of the tear. Some are so complex or immediately life-threatening that they require emergency surgery.

“Thankfully, that wasn’t the case (for Lautner),” Dr. Yassa said. “That allowed us to wait a bit to perform surgery.”

She put Lautner on medication to keep her blood pressure low, while giving time for the inflamed aorta to heal.

After a week in the hospital, Lautner returned to her home near Traverse City, Michigan. She went back to her job as in the Traverse City Clerk’s office, though at reduced hours. And she avoided any activity that could raise her blood pressure.

The low-key lifestyle was quite an adjustment for Lautner, a high-energy 60-year-old who loves the outdoors. She has run a half-dozen marathons, hikes, rides bikes and plays with her grandchildren.

“I’m an all-or-nothing kind of girl,” she said. “A walk for me is not a stroll—give me a three-mile walk.”

About six weeks later, she arrived at Spectrum Health Meijer Heart Center for the operation to repair her aorta.

Dr. Yassa performed the procedure using the Zenith Dissection Endovascular System, created by Cook Medical. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved its use in December 2018 and it had been used in only about 20 patients since then.

Dr. Yassa was familiar with the technique because, during her vascular surgery fellowship, she had trained under the surgeon who led the research into the device.

Working through a tiny incision in the groin, Dr. Yassa placed a catheter into Lautner’s artery and threaded it up to the aortic arch, the spot where she had suffered a tear in the blood vessel.

Dr. Yassa first deployed a fabric-covered stent. It expanded in the aorta and blocked the tear, so blood no longer flowed through that gap in between the layers. A second fabric stent was placed next to it, overlapping, to provide additional coverage.

She then placed a series of open mesh stents along the length of the aorta through the chest area. When in place, they expanded, pushing open a wider channel in the aorta.

“The true passageway for her blood was nearly obliterated by the false passageway,” Dr. Yassa said.

These stents were not covered, so blood could continue to flow from the aorta into the smaller arteries that feed the spine and vital organs.

The true passage grows wider

A week after surgery, CT scans showed the stent system was doing its job.

“We have repeat imaging that shows the true passageway for blood has expanded nicely,” Dr. Yassa said. “There’s already some signs the aorta is shutting down the false passageway for blood, at least in the chest area.”

Dr. Yassa plans to closely monitor Lautner and the blood flow in her aorta in the coming months. If all continues to go well, she believes the stent system will reduce the chance Lautner will need surgery on the aorta.

“My hope is that as her aorta remodels, she can come off some of her blood pressure medications and activity restrictions,” she said. “Hopefully, she will be able to get back to a very, very active lifestyle again.”

Taking it easy and accepting help from others may not be in her nature, but Lautner vowed to do both as she recovers.

“This is not going to stop me,” she said. “It might slow me down, so I stop and smell the roses when I’m taking that walk.

“I’m excited. It’s going to be a long road, but at least I’m on my way.”

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Health Beat | Spectrum Health by Your Chosen Foods Aren’t The .. - 5d ago
Diets that prominently feature nutritionally-rich, plant-based foods are far more likely to ward off diabetes. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

The kind of foods you eat and even the order in which you eat them can affect your odds of developing Type 2 diabetes, three new studies suggest.

The studies, being presented to the American Society for Nutrition, found:

  • Switching to a mostly plant-based diet—but one that could still include meat and dairy—could reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes by as much as 60%.
  • Eating greater amounts of vitamins B2 and B6 was linked to a lower risk of Type 2 diabetes, while getting more B12 in the diet seemed to be associated with a higher risk of Type 2 diabetes.
  • The order that you eat your foods appears to matter. People who ate vegetables before having meat or rice had lower blood sugar levels, along with positive changes in their hunger hormones.

Dr. Rekha Kumar, an endocrinologist at NewYork-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City, reviewed the findings.

“Emphasizing fruits and vegetables and whole foods is a very practical and easy way to manage Type 2 diabetes,” she said. “Half your plate should be green, even at breakfast, when you could have an egg white omelet with spinach for example.”

As for the sequence of eating, Kumar said vegetables, high-fiber foods and even protein take longer to leave the stomach, which slows down the rise in blood sugar levels.

“Theoretically, changing the order you eat foods could have implications on weight and appetite control,” she said.

Prioritize plants

The first study included more than 2,700 people recruited at an average age of 25. Forty percent were black and nearly 60% were women. Their health and diets were followed over 30 years.

People who made the greatest improvement in dietary quality from early to middle adulthood cut their odds of diabetes by almost two-thirds compared to those whose diet quality declined slightly, the study found.

What constitutes a quality diet? Researchers said it’s one that contains more “nutritionally rich, plant-centered” foods.

The study’s lead author, Yuni Choi, a doctoral candidate at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in St. Paul, said a plant-centered diet is high “in natural plant foods, low in highly processed plant foods and generally low in animal-based foods.”

So, vegetables, fruits and whole grains get a thumbs-up, but white bread and white rice get low-quality scores.

Choi said this type of diet can include some lean meat and low-fat dairy.

On average, those who improved their diets the most ate four or more servings of vegetables daily, two servings of fruit, 1 1/2 servings of nuts or seeds, nearly two servings of whole grains, less than one serving of processed meat and about one serving of red meat, Choi said.

Choi and her advisor and co-author, David Jacobs, think the diverse nutrients found in plant foods help to prevent diabetes.

‘B’ gets an A for health

The second study looked at dietary data from about 200,000 American adults over 15 years.

People who had the most vitamin B2 and B6 had a roughly 10% reduction in their diabetes risk.

B2 is found in eggs, lean meat, green vegetables and fortified grain products such as cereals and bread, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. B6 is found in fish, lean meat, fruits (other than citrus) and potatoes and other non-starchy veggies.

Though total vitamin B12 intake wasn’t linked to a higher risk of Type 2 diabetes, the odds rose 11% when researchers looked solely at B12 from food sources.

They found no similar increase in diabetes risk from B12 in diet supplements. They said this may be because B12 in foods often comes from animal products.

The third study found that the order in which you eat can affect your blood sugar levels.

Researchers asked 16 Chinese adults, mostly men, to eat five experimental meals in a set order. The meals contained a vegetable, meat and rice. Portion sizes stayed the same.

Overall, the smallest spike in blood sugar levels resulted when vegetables or meat were eaten first.

The meal with vegetables, meat and rice eaten separately, in that order, led to a lower increase in blood sugar and a favorable response in appetite hormones.

“The way we eat and present food to our mouth may have significant physiological effects,” said study author Christiani Henry, director of the Clinical Nutrition Research Center at Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences.

Henry said fiber and other nutrients in vegetables appear to slow the transit time of food, which may also slow the rise in blood sugar levels after eating.

Eating vegetables first is “a simple, practical way to reduce blood glucose rise when eating rice,” he said. Henry added that more research is necessary to see if similar changes would help control blood sugar spikes for foods eaten in places like the United States.

The three studies were scheduled to be presented at the American Society for Nutrition meeting in Baltimore. Research presented at meetings is typically seen as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

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