Want to get your health off to the best possible start this year? Read about the most recently published articles in this week’s Nutrition News, including a roundup of the best diets for 2024.

The best diet trends of 2024

In the realm of diets, the Mediterranean, DASH, and MIND diets have claimed the title as the best overall, according to a recent U.S. News & World Report poll. The Mediterranean diet has reigned supreme for seven consecutive years, with multiple studies attributing it to better cognitive health and heart health, among other health support benefits.

The poll, which was reported in the article “Best diets 2024: Mediterranean, DASH, and MIND diets best for overall health”, takes into account views from a panel of leading medical and nutrition experts.

Dr. Cheng-Han Chen, a board-certified interventional cardiologist, sheds light on the Mediterranean diet's heart-healthy principles, emphasising plant-based foods, whole grains, nuts, healthy monounsaturated fats, and a reduction in saturated fats and sugars. This flexible dietary pattern has demonstrated a number of potential health benefits, from slowing age-related cognitive decline to reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes in its weight management role and supporting mood.

On the podium as the second-best diet for this year is the DASH diet, which is tailored to combat high blood pressure with its focus on fruits, vegetables, and strict sodium control. Catalina Ruz Gatica, a registered dietitian nutritionist, praises the DASH diet's efficacy, highlighting its promotion of fibre, potassium, magnesium, and healthy fats critical for cardiovascular health.

The MIND diet, securing the third spot, blends Mediterranean and DASH elements with a specific focus on brain health. Enriched with leafy greens, berries, fatty fish, and nuts, this diet has shown promise in reducing Alzheimer's risk by up to 53%, presenting a practical solution for cognitive well-being.

There are many different diet types and their popularity varies around the world; the Mediterranean diet suits those seeking balance and anti-inflammatory properties. The DASH diet caters to individuals combating high blood pressure, while the MIND diet specialises in safeguarding cognitive health.

These diets, with subtle variations, share a common goal: promoting overall health and well-being but, in essence, they all centre on the consumption of a balanced mix of nutrients.

Research suggests that dietary restrictions could delay ageing

The mystery of how dietary restriction enhances health and lifespan, particularly in protecting the brain, is slowly unravelling, thanks to a breakthrough by Buck Institute for Research on Ageing scientists. Their study, reported in the Science Daily article “Scientists identify how dietary restriction slows brain aging and increases lifespan” sheds light on the role of the OXR1 gene in dietary restriction-induced lifespan extension and its crucial role in healthy brain ageing.

The study, conducted on fruit flies and human cells, provides a detailed cellular mechanism explaining how dietary restriction can delay ageing and mitigate the progression of neurodegenerative diseases. The research also identifies potential therapeutic targets that could slow ageing and age-related neurodegenerative conditions.

Kenneth Wilson, Ph.D., a Buck postdoc and the study's first author, highlighted the unexpected impact of dietary restriction on the brain. The OXR1 gene, found to be crucial in the brain, became the focus of their investigation. The team uncovered a neuron-specific response that mediates the neuroprotection provided by dietary restriction.

OXR1, a gene protecting cells from oxidative damage, plays a pivotal role in maintaining the retromer complex, responsible for recycling cellular proteins and lipids. Dysfunctional retromer has been linked to age-related neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

The study emphasises the link between OXR1, brain ageing, neurodegeneration, and the lifespan extension observed with dietary restriction. Wilson highlighted the significance of diet in influencing gene expression: "By eating less, you are actually enhancing this mechanism of proteins being sorted properly in your cells, because your cells are enhancing the expression of OXR1."

Moving forward, the researchers aim to identify specific compounds that can increase OXR1 levels during ageing to delay brain ageing. The study reinforces the importance of a healthy diet, emphasising that dietary choices impact various bodily processes.

The link between vitamin D and fatigue

Vitamin D, long associated with bone health, is now emerging as a key component in various physiological processes according to recent research discussed in the article “Association between vitamin D supplementation and fatigue”.

The review delves into the fatigue-mitigating effects of vitamin D, drawing insights from databases such as Web of Science, Scopus, and PubMed. Vitamin D, it appears, regulates fatigue and contributes to energy support by managing inflammation and neurotransmitters, impacting a spectrum of biochemical variables linked to oxidative stressors and inflammatory cytokines.

The vitamin engages in redox reactions, suppressing oxidative stress by reducing levels of certain enzymes, and enhances skeletal muscle mitochondrial functions, particularly during cellular stress. The modulation of key axes like Nrf2/PGC-1-SIRT-3 showcases vitamin D's potential in promoting antioxidant activity.

Vitamin D's impact extends to neurotransmitters, growth factors, and epigenetic modifications, indicating a multifaceted role in fatigue modulation.

Optimal bone health, according to the article, requires daily intakes of 600–800 IU, while maintaining levels above 30 ng/mL necessitates 1,000–2,000 IU.

While preclinical research indicates vitamin D's influence on neurotransmitter transport, its impact on fatigue in human cohort studies is mixed. While elderly populations and multiple sclerosis patients show definite links between fatigue and vitamin D, evidence is limited for conditions such as fibromyalgia, rheumatological disorders, myasthenia gravis, and cancer.

In conclusion, the review calls for further research, including randomised controlled clinical trials, to establish the causal effects of vitamin D supplementation on fatigue reduction.

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Alison Astill-Smith author Alison is Director and Founder of Metabolics who writes about Metabolics updates, events and natural healthcare. Her experience and passion for natural supplements and healthcare comes from her years of experience as a practising osteopath, having founded Metabolics in her search for high quality, natural products in her own work. Alison has been a qualified and practising Osteopath since 1981 and regularly gives seminars on a range of healthcare subjects to the wider practitioner community helping share her knowledge and experience.