Friday, July 29, 2022

Foods as medicine

As you know from reading earlier posts, the effects of different foods on health can be difficult to interpret. Rarely do studies get to compare people who are exactly alike except for their consumption of the substance of interest. Avocados may be good for your heart, or it may simply be that people who eat avocados eat a healthier diet overall. Hence the often contradictory headlines - coffee is good for you/coffee is bad for you – that populate the press.

I have thus been very interested to find several recent studies with robust data behind the health claims.

First bananas. A British group treated almost 1000 people with a hereditary tendency to colon cancer (Lynch syndrome) with a “resistant starch” powder made from bananas or a placebo for 4 years and followed them for at least 10 years. The supplement group had a similar rate of colon cancer but dramatically fewer cancers of the pancreas and upper GI organs: 5 vs. 21.

Another study looked at the value of cocoa-based chocolate compared to white chocolate and placebo in elderly patients with advanced cancer in palliative care. After 4 weeks, the group given dark chocolate had better calorie and protein intake and overall better nutritional status than either the white chocolate or no chocolate groups. They also had improved functional status.

Finally: prunes. Prunes are known to contain large amounts of antioxidant compounds. Researchers at Penn State gave post-menopausal women 55 to 75 either 6 prunes/day, 12 prunes/day or no prunes for 12 months. All 3 groups were given daily calcium and Vitamin D. Not surprisingly, the group assigned to 12 prunes/day had a high (41%) drop-out rate, presumably because of excess bowel movements, but only 10% of the 6-prune group and 15% of the no-prunes group left the study.

After a year, the groups taking prunes had much lower levels of inflammatory markers in their blood. More important to the women in the study, the placebo group had a significant fall in their bone mineral density while the group who took 6 prunes/day had no drop.

So, good data showing that bananas, dark chocolate and prunes have proven health benefits. Enjoy!

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1 comment:

  1. Fascinating. Thank you! Now we need a dish combining bananas, prunes, and dark chocolate.