Sometimes it can be surprising how the most serious of health conditions, such as those affecting heart health, can be mitigated against through optimal diet and nutrition. This week’s Nutrition News looks at three recently published articles and studies that shine a light on some simple nutritional modifications that could enable us to live normal healthy lives.

Salt reduction supports lower blood pressure, regardless of treatment

The importance of maintaining healthy blood pressure levels, typically ranging between 90/60 mm Hg and 120/80 mm Hg, is well recognised due to its impact on overall health and, most specifically, its effects on heart health. Elevated blood pressure over extended periods heightens the risk of cardiovascular disease, kidney issues, eye health, and sexual dysfunction.

Lifestyle changes, including reducing salt intake, are often recommended for individuals with high blood pressure. Recent research, reported by Healthline in the article “Even If You Take Meds to Lower Blood Pressure, Reducing Salt Still Helps”, indicates that cutting down on salt by even just one teaspoon daily can further reduce blood pressure, akin to the effects of a common blood pressure medication, hydrochlorothiazide.

This conclusion stemmed from a study involving middle-aged to older adults in Birmingham and Chicago, where those on a low-sodium diet exhibited notable reductions in systolic blood pressure. The study found a consistent blood pressure-lowering effect, with about 72% of participants experiencing decreased blood pressure by consuming less salt.

Health experts recommend sodium intake of under 2,300 mg per day for the general population and even less for individuals with high blood pressure or heart disease (less than 1,500 mg per day). While a low-sodium diet serves as the primary step in reducing high blood pressure, medications are considered if necessary. Strategies to reduce salt intake include label reading, opting for low-sodium alternatives, using spices and herbs for flavour, focusing on whole foods, cooking at home, and gradually making changes to dietary habits.

Ultimately, the study underscores the potential impact of reducing salt intake on blood pressure, offering insights into effective dietary approaches to manage high blood pressure and support heart health.

Early life broccoli exposure could support IBS sufferers

A study, reported by Science Daily in the article “Early life exposure to broccoli sprouts protects against colitis in inflammatory bowel disease” explored the impact of high-fibre diets, particularly incorporating broccoli sprouts, on alleviating symptoms and enhancing the quality of life in those suffering with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Utilising an interleukin-10-knockout (IL-10-KO) model of Crohn's disease, researchers examined how the consumption of a broccoli sprout diet influenced gut health through the gut microbiota and its role in producing anti-inflammatory compounds. The study involved four groups on either a control diet or a diet mixed with raw broccoli sprouts, initiated at different ages to investigate disease development in early life stages.

Throughout the study, researchers monitored weight changes, collected faecal samples, and assessed gut tissues for signs of inflammation and broccoli metabolites in the blood. The findings revealed that subjects on the broccoli sprout diet exhibited higher levels of an anti-inflammatory compound called sulforaphane in their blood, experiencing milder disease symptoms despite being immunocompromised. Interestingly, younger subjects responded better to the broccoli sprout diet, showing reduced symptoms and a more robust gut microbiota compared to their adolescent counterparts.

The study underscores the promising role of high-fibre diets, including the everyday ingredients of broccoli, in managing IBD symptoms and shaping gut microbial diversity, paving the way for potential dietary interventions for individuals with IBD.

Avocados may support diabetes management

The correlation between avocado intake and diabetes support was investigated in a study, as reported in the Medical News Today article “Could eating avocados help manage blood sugar in diabetes?”, analysing 6,220 adults from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA).

Despite a weak link between avocado consumption and lower fasting insulin, researchers identified a potential "avocado intake biomarker" significantly associated with decreased fasting glucose, insulin, and diabetes risk. This biomarker suggests personalised metabolic profiling could identify foods beneficial for health. Metabolomics, studying metabolites resulting from cellular processes, offers insights into targeted health interventions, aligning with microbiome research.

Data revealed three spectra indicative of avocado intake, amalgamated as the metabolic biomarker. Interestingly, this biomarker showed strong associations with improved glucose and insulin levels regardless of BMI or lifestyle factors. Michelle Routhenstein, a cardiology dietitian, highlighted avocados' benefits due to their fibre and monounsaturated fats, similar to foods like edamame and seeds.

Dr. Jason Ng, not involved in the study, emphasised individual variations in food impacts, stressing the need for personalised dietary approaches. The World Health Organization identifies diabetes as a prominent 21st-century disease, with global incidence soaring and regions including North Africa and the Middle East particularly affected. Unmanaged diabetes can lead to severe complications, but lifestyle modifications, including a healthy diet, can mitigate risks. The study underscores the potential value of avocado consumption within a balanced diet for diabetes management.

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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.