New Evidence that a Mediterranean Diet May Lead to a Longer Life

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital January 8, 2015

Researchers have found that sticking to a Mediterranean diet may lead to a longer life.

Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) have found that sticking to a Mediterranean diet may lead to a longer life.

The findings are based on the study of telomeres, the repetitive DNA sequences at the ends of chromosomes. These chromosome tips get shorter every time a cell divides, and their length is a reliable biomarker (biological indicator) of aging in humans. Shorter telomeres have been associated with an increased risk of aging-related diseases (particularly cardiovascular diseases) and a decrease in life expectancy, while longer telomeres, correspondingly, have been linked with longevity.

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Is a Vegetarian or Vegan Diet for You?

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital June 5, 2014

There are various health advantages associated with a vegetarian diet .

If you’re thinking about abandoning red meat and poultry in favor of a predominantly plant-based diet, it’s important to know what the nutritional benefits are of vegetarian and vegan diets.

“There’s certainly some research on the benefits of the vegetarian diet,” says Kathy McManus, Director of the Department of Nutrition at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. She ticks off the various advantages associated with this way of eating – lower body mass index and blood pressure, and reduced risks for heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

If you’re thinking about going vegetarian or vegan, but are worried about making a big change in how you eat, know that there are many different layers to this way of eating. The most common approaches are these:

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Mediterranean Diet May Lead to Longer, Healthier Lives for Women

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital May 15, 2014

Middle-aged women who follow a heart-healthy Mediterranean diet may live a healthier, longer life.

A few months ago, Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) researchers released a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine that indicates middle-aged women who follow a heart-healthy Mediterranean diet may live a healthier, longer life.

“Women with healthier dietary patterns at midlife were 40 percent more likely to survive to age 70 or over,” says lead researcher Cecilia Samieri, a postdoctoral fellow who conducted the study while at BWH. She is now a researcher at INSERM and Universite de Bordeaux, in France – the French equivalent of the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

The women who ate healthier not only lived longer, but they also thrived. They were less likely to have any major chronic diseases and more likely to have no impairment in physical functioning, mental health, or thinking skills. The research did not, however, prove a cause-and-effect link between better eating and longer life.

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Does Pre-Surgery Diet Affect Post-Surgery Recovery?

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital May 16, 2013

Dr. C. Keith Ozaki (center) and his research team suggest that your pre-surgery diet can affect your post-surgery recovery.

Dr. C. Keith Ozaki (center) and his team suggest that a patient's pre-surgery diet can affect their post-surgery recovery.

Does it matter what a patient eats before surgery?

According to a new study led by Brigham and Women’s Hospital researchers, the type of food that patients eat in the days leading up to surgery, as well as their long-term dietary habits, may have a significant impact on their recovery. Partners from the Center for Cancer Computational Biology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and from the Department of Genetics and Complex Diseases at the Harvard School of Public Health also contributed to the findings.

Specifically, the research team found that consuming a high-fat diet, as compared to a low-fat diet, leads to higher levels of post-surgical inflammation in the fatty tissue traumatized during major surgery. This inflammation, in turn, may drive complications such as heart attacks and wound problems.

The pre-clinical study suggests that patients who habitually follow a low-fat diet may fare best in minimizing post-surgical fat inflammation. Importantly, the researchers also observed that short-term behavior modification can reap benefits. Their findings revealed that in the setting of a high-fat diet, patients might significantly lower their levels of post-surgical inflammation simply by shifting to a low-fat diet for a short time frame before surgery.

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Watching the Clock: An Effective Dieting Tool?

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital February 19, 2013

Should you be concerned about when you eat?

A well-known saying suggests that timing is everything when it comes to success in life’s pursuits.  The results of a study by researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), in collaboration with the University of Murcia (Spain) and Tufts University, suggests that’s also the case when it comes to losing weight. They found that it’s not simply what you eat, but also when you eat, that may help you successfully lose or manage your weight.

To study the role of food timing on weight loss, the researchers studied 420 overweight subjects in Spain during a 20-week weight-loss treatment program. The study subjects were divided into two groups: early eaters and late eaters, according to the timing of their main meal. (In Spain, the main meal is usually lunch, when people may consume as much as 40 percent of total daily calories.) Early eaters ate lunch anytime before 3 p.m. and late eaters, after 3 p.m. The researchers found that late eaters lost significantly less weight than early eaters and experienced a much slower rate of weight loss.

“This is the first large-scale prospective study to demonstrate that the timing of meals predicts weight-loss effectiveness,” said Dr. Frank Scheer, director of the Medical Chronobiology Program and associate neuroscientist at BWH and senior author of this study. “Our results indicate that late eaters displayed a slower weight-loss rate and lost significantly less weight than early eaters, suggesting that the timing of large meals could be an important factor in a weight loss program.”

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How to Enjoy Holiday Foods without Derailing Your Diet

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital November 20, 2012

Don't eat like every day is a holiday.

Thanksgiving signals the start of the holiday season. While the holidays are supposed to be a time for celebration, they are also dreaded by those of us trying to maintain or achieve a healthy weight.  However, eating more on Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, or other holidays doesn’t mean you’ll fall short of your health and fitness goals.

Eating a piece or two of pie during Thanksgiving week isn’t going to add extra weight all by itself. It takes 3500 extra calories to add a pound of fat to your body. That’s equal to about an entire nine-inch, high-fat pumpkin pie and three cups of full-fat eggnog. And that’s just for one pound! So eating more on a few days during the holiday season won’t negate your usual healthy dietary habits; however, eating like it’s a holiday for days at a time due to parties and leftovers – creating a “holi-week” – can.

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Eating for Health: Changing Your Diet with the Seasons

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital September 27, 2012

Colorful fall foods like pumpkin and squash are rich in phytonutrients, natural compounds that might help prevent cancer.

Phytonutrients are natural compounds that give plant-based foods their rich color, as well as their distinctive taste and smell. You can find phytonutrients in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, spices, and tea. Phytonutrients are important to maintaining good health. When we eat foods with phytonutrients, they help rid our bodies of dangerous substances called toxins.  Research also is being conducted to determine the role of phytonutrients in preventing cancer and improving cardiovascular and digestive health.

In the summer months, when fresh produce is abundant, people tend to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables than when the cold weather sets in and the supply dwindles. But fall offers its own variety of fruits and vegetables rich in phytonutrients – squash, pumpkin, sweet potato, broccoli, Swiss chard, kale, carrots, apples, parsnip, turnip, cranberries, and beets.

Pumpkin is rich in carotenoids, a particular type of phytonutrient. Research has shown that diets high in carotenoids may help prevent colon, prostate, breast, and lung cancers. Pumpkin is delicious when used to make soup, ravioli, bread or muffins. Also try toasted pumpkin seeds!

Baked butternut or acorn squash seasoned with cinnamon or nutmeg is a great side dish, as is a medley of roasted root vegetables. Squash also works well in pasta dishes. Baked sweet potato fries are a great treat.

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DASH Diet: A Healthy Way to Lose Weight

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital August 2, 2012

The DASH diet's focus on fruits and vegetables helps lower blood pressure.

Would you be interested in an effective weight-loss plan that’s also an effective health-gain plan?

According to a panel of 22 experts selected by US News & World Report, the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet plan is the best choice for people who are concerned about both losing weight and staying healthy. The expert panel ranked 20 popular diets according to an extensive set of criteria, including: short-term weight loss (losing significant weight during the first year), long-term weight loss (maintaining significant weight loss for two years or more), easiness to follow, nutritional completeness, and its ability to manage certain chronic ailments, such as diabetes and heart disease.

Although DASH is highly touted, it’s not highly recognized. That’s because the DASH diet was designed to be a freely available diet plan, not a commercial weight-loss plan. Thus, you won’t see any television ads with chiseled celebrities hawking DASH frozen meals, DVDs, or books.

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A New Year – A Healthier You!

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital December 21, 2016

A New Year’s resolution to increase exercise can go a long way for your bones, joints, and many other aspects of your health. Starting a plan by setting small achievable goals every six-to-eight weeks is a great way to track your progress throughout the year. You should never increase your mileage or minutes spent exercising more than 10 percent per week.

Authors: Dr. Elizabeth Matzkin, Surgical Director of the Women’s Sports Medicine Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Team Physician for Stonehill College Athletics, and Emily Brook, a research assistant in the Women’s Sports Medicine Program.

With a new year right around the corner, many of us are thinking about a New Year’s resolution. One of the most common New Year’s resolutions is to lose weight, exercise more and be healthy! Bones and joints appreciate weight loss, because for every pound you lose, pressure is taken off of your hip, knee, and ankle joints. However, losing weight and transitioning to a healthy lifestyle takes time, and many people who do too much, too soon, wind up with an overuse injury in the first 8-12 weeks of the year.

If you are thinking about weight loss or increasing your exercise as a New Year’s resolution, follow these simple tips to start your year off right and be on your way to an injury-free healthier lifestyle. Read More »

Of a Certain Age? Time for a Colonoscopy

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital December 16, 2016

The American Cancer Society recommends that both men and women undergo a colonoscopy every 10 years, beginning at age 50.

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in both men and women in the United States. The gold standard screening procedure for colon cancer is a colonoscopy, a test that allows your doctor to examine the inner lining of the large intestine (rectum and colon) for polyps, ulcerations, diverticulosis and early signs of cancer.

“Unlike other screening tests, a colonoscopy actually prevents cancer by allowing us to find and remove lesions before they become problematic,” said Dr. Jessica R. Allegretti, a gastroenterologist in the Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Endoscopy at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH).

In fact, due to increased awareness about screenings, the death rate from colorectal cancer has been dropping for more than 20 years. Read More »