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Creative block? Try a glass of beer or wine!

creative block

In a paper called "Creativity on tap? Effects of alcohol intoxication on creative cognition" by Dr. Mathias Benedek the authors examined creativity-measuring tasks in 89 volunteers after drinking beer. The article was published in the Journal of Conscious Cognition in July 2017.

The participants were either given an alcoholic or non-alcohol beer and each participant from the alcoholic-beer group had to reach the level of mild intoxication of 30mg of alcohol in every 100ml of blood (half the English drink driving limit). A total of 70 young adults (54 % female), aged between 19 and 32 years (M = 23.3; SD = 2.8), finally participated and completed all measures.

After becoming intoxicated they then had to complete a word association task, a creative thinking task, having to come up with as many creative uses as they could for common objects. On both these tasks, the alcohol beer group performed better.

The study also found that alcohol reduces ‘cognitive control’, which can be a hurdle in solving creative tasks. When someone has creative block or a so called "fixation effect", alcohol may play a role in reducing it and helps people to "think  out of the box". Dr. Benedek says "In creative problem solving, problems can often only be solved after a restructuring of the problem representation. When initial solution attempts get on the wrong track, this can cause blocks to immediate problem solving, which is known as mental fixation. Alcohol may reduce fixation effects by loosening the focus of attention."

However, while alcohol boosted creativity it decreased ‘executive function’ and so is likely to impede artistic endeavors which require motor skills, such as playing the piano or dancing.

The paper says (in a very technical way):

"Creative cognition is assumed to rely on both controlled, goal-directed and spontaneous, undirected cognitive processes. Pertinent research mostly focused on divergent thinking (viz. creative idea generation) and creative problem solving (i.e., problems that can be solved either analytically or insightfully, which typically implies a restructuring of the problem representation). The relevance of cognitive control for divergent thinking is evidenced by consistent correlations with intelligence, particularly with fluid intelligence and broad retrieval ability. . At the level of executive abilities, divergent thinking has been associated with working memory capacity and cognitive inhibition.  Divergent thinking requires overcoming prepotent, uncreative response tendencies and involves cognitive strategies, which was shown to be facilitated by intelligence. While much of the empirical evidence on creative cognition and cognitive control is based on divergent thinking, similar evidence also exists for creative problem solving. Creative problem solving tasks like Duncker’s candle problem or the Remote Associates Test can be achieved in a strategic way and higher performance again has been related to intelligence and executive control.

Creativity has also been associated with disinhibition and spontaneous insight. Empirical evidence for the relevance of spontaneous, undirected cognitive processes in creative thought mostly comes from research on incubation processes. Creative problem solving sometimes leads to an impasse of thought, also known as mental fixation, were goal-directed solving attempts are no longer fruitful. Incubation research has demonstrated that breaks from deliberate problem solving can benefit creativity by refreshing inadequate mindsets while leaving room for unconscious work. Similarly, while expertise typically supports problem solving by guiding search through problem space, it can also be detrimental when misdirecting search efforts to salient but inadequate concepts. Together, these findings suggest that cognitive control generally supports creative cognition by facilitating the effective implementation of goal-directed processes, but focused attention may sometimes be ineffective and potentially even harm creative problem solving.

The "What the Health" movie and do vegetarians and vegans really live longer?

There's been an awful lot of media coverage in recent weeks about the "dangers" for meat eaters and those consuming eggs and so on. For example, a film "What the Health" (from the makers of another documentary called Cowspiracy) is making waves. The film in its words "exposes the collusion and corruption in government and big business that is costing us trillions of healthcare dollars, and keeping us sick". The movie claims that eating eggs is as bad as smoking and blames a non-vegetarian diet on obesity, diabetes, cancer and premature death!

Really? So a little off topic but since your overall diet, including wine, is key to your health I thought it was about time that FermentedGrape.com delved into this controversy and established the facts from fiction.

Does the clinical evidence out there, as opposed to a bunch of opinions from zealot vegan physicians, support the view that you clear your fridge of meat and dairy?

What the health, human milk vs cow milk

The 2017 film is film directed by  Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn, produced and partly funded by vegans and features many interviews with vegan doctors and advocates. Its executive producer is Hollywood star, Joaquin Phoenix, who happens to be a vegan. 

From the film's website, "Kip Andersen’s awakening as a filmmaker came as a result of An Inconvenient Truth. After seeing the film, he dramatically changed his lifestyle and believed he was doing everything he could to help the planet. But his life took a different direction when he found out animal agriculture is the leading cause of environmental destruction. Together with Keegan Kuhn he co-produced his first film, Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret, which became an overnight viral success and ignited the environmental movement. Following this success, he was invited to speak in front of the European Parliament and a new cut, executive produced by Leonardo DiCaprio, was exclusively released on Netflix in September 2015."

Kip Andersen, Co-Director What the Health

Kip Andersen, Co-Director What the Health

Anti meat campaigners used to focus on highlighting abuses of animal welfare but there is now a new direction of portraying meat and dairy to be as deadly as burning tobacco.

The claims in this film are not supported by the available clinical evidence and instead the producers rely on two vegan promoting organisations "Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM)" and "Nutritionfacts.org".  

The PCRM has been involved in several pieces of research looking at diet, veganism vs meat. For example, the Los Angeles times reported on "Study finds plant-based diets lead to weight loss". This article was based on a paper originally published called, "Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Vegetarian Diets, DianaCullum-Dugan, published Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Volume 115, Issue 8, August 2015, Pages 1347. 

The original paper stated that plant based diets significantly reduced weight better than meat based diets and “There was no significant weight-loss difference between studies using ovo-lacto-vegetarian diets and those using vegan diets” An ovo-lacto vegetarian (or lacto-ovo vegetarian) is a vegetarian who does not eat meat, but does consume some animal products such as eggs and dairy.

“It is the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that appropriately planned vegetarian, including vegan, diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits for the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. These diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, childhood, adolescence, older adulthood, and for athletes. Plant-based diets are more environmentally sustainable than diets rich in animal products because they use fewer natural resources and are associated with much less environmental damage.”

Physicians Committee for responsible medicine Ellen DeGeneres

But there is controversy around this publication! 

Looking at Sciencedirect.com it has the following statement attached to the clinical paper, "This article has been removed at the request of the Academy Positions Committee (APC) of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The APC became aware of inaccuracies and omissions in the position paper that could affect recommendations and conclusions within the paper. After further review, the APC decided it was appropriate to remove this paper for major revision."

Removal notice: Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Vegetarian diets

Do vegans  and vegetarians really live longer?

From this Times newspaper on 5th August 2017,

  • Alice Howarth, a cancer researcher, said: “While it is true that diet plays an important role in diseases including cancer and diabetes, the claims in this film vastly overstate and misrepresent the scientific understanding. "What the Health" overwhelms the viewer with scaremongering ‘facts’ which do not hold up to scientific investigation.”
  • Gunter Kuhnle, associate professor in nutrition and health, University of Reading, said: “Apart from a few very specific dietary components (fibre, fats) for which there is a clear link with health, it appears that the old and boring recommendation of a balanced diet is still the best.

So what's the story from the literature evidence? Is being a vegetarian or vegan better for you?

There is no clear evidence of any difference in overall risk of death (mortality) between vegetarians and non-vegetarians. However a plant based diet (vegan and vegetarian) seems to be associated with a lower risk of some cancers, heart disease and diabetes. 

A rather good review was published in Critical Reviews in Food, Science and Medicine journal, "Vegetarian, vegan diets and multiple health outcomes: A systematic review with meta-analysis of observational studies" in February 2016.

In summary, "With regard to prospective cohort studies, the analysis showed a significant reduced risk of incidence and/or mortality from ischemic heart disease (RR 0.75; 95% CI, 0.68 to 0.82) and incidence of total cancer (RR 0.92; 95% CI 0.87 to 0.98) but not of total cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases, all-cause mortality and mortality from cancer."

In the 2012 study, Cardiovascular disease mortality and cancer incidence in vegetarians: a meta-analysis and systematic review. seven studies with a total of 124,706 participants were included in this analysis. All-cause mortality in vegetarians was 9% lower than in nonvegetarians (RR = 0.91; 95% CI, 0.66-1.16). But the average may be a 9% reduction, but the variability is huge from a 44% reduction, to a 16% increase in mortality for a vegetarian diet. 

Individual studies as opposed to these meta-analyses, show a confusing pattern. 

In the "Mortality in British vegetarians: results from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC-Oxford)" published in 2009 the authors concluded that "The mortality of both the vegetarians and the non-vegetarians in this study is low compared with national rates. Within the study, mortality from circulatory diseases and all causes is not significantly different between vegetarians and meat eaters, but the study is not large enough to exclude small or moderate differences for specific causes of death, and more research on this topic is required."

In the study Vegetarian dietary patterns and mortality in Adventist Health Study 2.  mortality was shown to be up to 15% less in the vegans versus meat eaters. It was shown that "There were 2570 deaths among 73,308 participants during a mean follow-up time of 5.79 years. The mortality rate was 6.05 (95% CI, 5.82-6.29) deaths per 1000 person-years. The adjusted hazard ratio (HR) for all-cause mortality in all vegetarians combined vs nonvegetarians was 0.88 (95% CI, 0.80-0.97). The adjusted HR for all-cause mortality in vegans was 0.85 (95% CI, 0.73-1.01); in lacto-ovo-vegetarians, 0.91 (95% CI, 0.82-1.00); in pesco-vegetarians, 0.81 (95% CI, 0.69-0.94); and in semi-vegetarians, 0.92 (95% CI, 0.75-1.13) compared with nonvegetarians. "

What about nutritional problems with vegetrian and vegan diets?

In the 2003 review, "Nutrition and health--potential health benefits and risks of vegetarianism and limited consumption of meat in the Netherlands"

"Although a high consumption of red meat, which is rich in haeme iron and saturated fat, may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and some types of cancer, this does not apply to white meat and fish. In fact, the most important protective effect would seem to be derived from the consumption of unrefined vegetable products (whole-grain cereals, vegetables, fruits, nuts and legumes) and fish. In other words, a prudent, omnivorous diet with moderate amounts of animal products, in which red meat is partly replaced by white meat and fish (especially fatty fish), together with the consumption of ample amounts of unrefined vegetable products, is thought to be just as protective as a vegetarian diet. On the other hand, the omission of meat and fish from the diet increases the risk of nutritional deficiencies. A vegan diet, in particular, leads to a strongly increased risk of deficiencies of vitamin B12, vitamin B2 and several minerals, such as calcium, iron and zinc."

In a 2006 review, "Health effects of vegetarian and vegan diets" they stated that "Cohort studies of vegetarians have shown a moderate reduction in mortality from IHD but little difference in other major causes of death or all-cause mortality in comparison with health-conscious non-vegetarians from the same population. Studies of cancer have not shown clear differences in cancer rates between vegetarians and non-vegetarians. More data are needed, particularly on the health of vegans and on the possible impacts on health of low intakes of long-chain n-3 fatty acids and vitamin B(12). Overall, the data suggest that the health of Western vegetarians is good and similar to that of comparable non-vegetarian.

In a Swiss study published in 2017, Micronutrient status and intake in omnivores, vegetarians and vegans in Switzerland. the authors state that, "Despite substantial differences in intake and deficiency between groups, our results indicate that by consuming a well-balanced diet including supplements or fortified products, all three types of diet can potentially fulfil requirements for vitamin and mineral consumption."

Claims from What the Health film under scrutiny

Claim: Eating one egg a day is as bad as smoking five cigarettes a day.
One of the scientific papers on which the film bases this claim does not mention eggs. It looks at cholesterol, from which the effect of eggs has been inferred. A second looked at the link between egg yolk and plaque in carotid arteries, not life expectancy. 

Claim: The risk of heart disease is 50 per cent for meat eaters, 45 per cent for vegetarians and 4 per cent for vegans.
Experts agree that vegetarians seem to have a lower risk of heart disease but this claim, made on the documentary’s Facebook page, above, refers to a 1994 study that did not include vegans and does not show any statistically meaningful risk reduction. 

Claim: One serving of processed meat a day increases risk of developing diabetes by 51 per cent.
Fact Of two papers picked out by the film-makers to illustrate this, only one has the figure cited, which refers to relative risk, rather than absolute risk. Alexandra Freeman, of the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication, said: “An ‘increase’ can be made to look huge, but if it’s an increase from a tiny value to another tiny value then that puts a whole different perspective on it.”

Summary - do vegetarians and vegans really live longer?

In summary, there seems to be good evidence that plant based diets which avoid meat mean that your risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity and diabetes is lower. However, the impact on overall mortality is less clear cut, with several large meta-analyses clearly stating that there is no different in risk of death in vegetarians, vegans and carnivores. Also, it seems that with the right level of dietary supplementation there are no serious effects on health from practicing a vegan or vegetarian diet. 

However, as a meat lover myself, I personally advocate a balanced omnivore diet, relating to the Mediterranean diet with a good balance of fresh and good quality, meats, fish, vegetables, pulses and fruit (see also the "French Paradox"). If possible using organic ingredients, quality over quantity.

Also throw in a good dose of exercise, at least 3 times a weak vigorous, no smoking and a couple of glasses of red wine a day and I think you have the perfect balance of a delicious and nutritious diet and health as well as happiness. Lets face it you can't beat a good steak and a glass of red wine even if a salad/vegetable diet may be slightly better for you, you'll probably die at the same age as your vegetarian friend and be less happy on the way if you can cope with all the animal welfare challenges! Lets face it the food industry needs to look after animals better and not treat them like commodities which they are at the moment. Less but better quality meat please!

More information on clinical studies and further reading

Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. February 2016, issue 17:3640-3649,Vegetarian, vegan diets and multiple health outcomes: A systematic review with meta-analysis of observational studies.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Beneficial effects of vegetarian and vegan diets on health outcomes have been supposed in previous studies.

OBJECTIVES:

Aim of this study was to clarify the association between vegetarian, vegan diets, risk factors for chronic diseases, risk of all-cause mortality, incidence, and mortality from cardio-cerebrovascular diseases, total cancer and specific type of cancer (colorectal, breast, prostate and lung), through meta-analysis.

METHODS:

A comprehensive search of Medline, EMBASE, Scopus, The Cochrane Library, and Google Scholar was conducted.

RESULTS:

Eighty-six cross-sectional and 10 cohort prospective studies were included. The overall analysis among cross-sectional studies reported significant reduced levels of body mass index, total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, and glucose levels in vegetarians and vegans versus omnivores. With regard to prospective cohort studies, the analysis showed a significant reduced risk of incidence and/or mortality from ischemic heart disease (RR 0.75; 95% CI, 0.68 to 0.82) and incidence of total cancer (RR 0.92; 95% CI 0.87 to 0.98) but not of total cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases, all-cause mortality and mortality from cancer. No significant association was evidenced when specific types of cancer were analyzed. The analysis conducted among vegans reported significant association with the risk of incidence from total cancer (RR 0.85; 95% CI, 0.75 to 0.95), despite obtained only in a limited number of studies.

CONCLUSIONS:

This comprehensive meta-analysis reports a significant protective effect of a vegetarian diet versus the incidence and/or mortality from ischemic heart disease (-25%) and incidence from total cancer (-8%). Vegan diet conferred a significant reduced risk (-15%) of incidence from total cancer.

Mortality in British vegetarians: results from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC-Oxford).

Key TJ1, Appleby PN, Spencer EA, Travis RC, Roddam AW, Allen NE.

Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 May;89(5):1613S-1619S. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2009.26736L. Epub 2009 Mar 18.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Few prospective studies have examined the mortality of vegetarians.

OBJECTIVE:

We present results on mortality among vegetarians and nonvegetarians in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC-Oxford).

DESIGN:

We used a prospective study of men and women recruited throughout the United Kingdom in the 1990s.

RESULTS:

Among 64,234 participants aged 20-89 y for whom diet group was known, 2965 had died before age 90 by 30 June 2007. The death rates of participants are much lower than average for the United Kingdom. The standardized mortality ratio for all causes of death was 52% (95% CI: 50%, 54%) and was identical in vegetarians and in nonvegetarians. Comparing vegetarians with meat eaters among the 47,254 participants who had no prevalent cardiovascular disease or malignant cancer at recruitment, the death rate ratios adjusted for age, sex, smoking, and alcohol consumption were 0.81 (95% CI: 0.57, 1.16) for ischemic heart disease and 1.03 (95% CI: 0.90, 1.16) for all causes of death.

CONCLUSIONS:

The mortality of both the vegetarians and the nonvegetarians in this study is low compared with national rates. Within the study, mortality from circulatory diseases and all causes is not significantly different between vegetarians and meat eaters, but the study is not large enough to exclude small or moderate differences for specific causes of death, and more research on this topic is required.

Vegetarian dietary patterns and mortality in Adventist Health Study 2. Orlich MJ1, Singh PN, Sabaté J, Jaceldo-Siegl K, Fan J, Knutsen S, Beeson WL, Fraser GE.

JAMA Intern Med. 2013 Jul 8;173(13):1230-8. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.6473.

Author information

Abstract

IMPORTANCE:

Some evidence suggests vegetarian dietary patterns may be associated with reduced mortality, but the relationship is not well established.

OBJECTIVE:

To evaluate the association between vegetarian dietary patterns and mortality.

DESIGN:

Prospective cohort study; mortality analysis by Cox proportional hazards regression, controlling for important demographic and lifestyle confounders.

SETTING:

Adventist Health Study 2 (AHS-2), a large North American cohort.

PARTICIPANTS:

A total of 96,469 Seventh-day Adventist men and women recruited between 2002 and 2007, from which an analytic sample of 73,308 participants remained after exclusions.

EXPOSURES:

Diet was assessed at baseline by a quantitative food frequency questionnaire and categorized into 5 dietary patterns: nonvegetarian, semi-vegetarian, pesco-vegetarian, lacto-ovo-vegetarian, and vegan.

MAIN OUTCOME AND MEASURE:

The relationship between vegetarian dietary patterns and all-cause and cause-specific mortality; deaths through 2009 were identified from the National Death Index.

RESULTS:

There were 2570 deaths among 73,308 participants during a mean follow-up time of 5.79 years. The mortality rate was 6.05 (95% CI, 5.82-6.29) deaths per 1000 person-years. The adjusted hazard ratio (HR) for all-cause mortality in all vegetarians combined vs nonvegetarians was 0.88 (95% CI, 0.80-0.97). The adjusted HR for all-cause mortality in vegans was 0.85 (95% CI, 0.73-1.01); in lacto-ovo-vegetarians, 0.91 (95% CI, 0.82-1.00); in pesco-vegetarians, 0.81 (95% CI, 0.69-0.94); and in semi-vegetarians, 0.92 (95% CI, 0.75-1.13) compared with nonvegetarians. Significant associations with vegetarian diets were detected for cardiovascular mortality, noncardiovascular noncancer mortality, renal mortality, and endocrine mortality. Associations in men were larger and more often significant than were those in women.

CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE:

Vegetarian diets are associated with lower all-cause mortality and with some reductions in cause-specific mortality. Results appeared to be more robust in males. These favorable associations should be considered carefully by those offering dietary guidance.

Cardiovascular disease mortality and cancer incidence in vegetarians: a meta-analysis and systematic review.

Ann Nutr Metab. 2012;60(4):233-40. doi: 10.1159/000337301. Epub 2012 Jun 1.

Huang T1, Yang B, Zheng J, Li G, Wahlqvist ML, Li D.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Prospective cohort studies have examined mortality and overall cancer incidence among vegetarians, but the results have been inconclusive.

AIMS:

The objective of the present meta-analysis was to investigate cardiovascular disease mortality and cancer incidence among vegetarians and nonvegetarians.

METHODS:

Medline, EMBASE and Web Of Science databases were searched for cohort studies published from inception to September 2011. Studies were included if they contained the relative risk (RR) and corresponding 95% CI. Participants were from the UK, Germany, California, USA, the Netherlands and Japan.

RESULTS:

Seven studies with a total of 124,706 participants were included in this analysis. All-cause mortality in vegetarians was 9% lower than in nonvegetarians (RR = 0.91; 95% CI, 0.66-1.16). The mortality from ischemic heart disease was significantly lower in vegetarians than in nonvegetarians (RR = 0.71; 95% CI, 0.56-0.87). We observed a 16% lower mortality from circulatory diseases (RR = 0.84; 95% CI, 0.54-1.14) and a 12% lower mortality from cerebrovascular disease (RR = 0.88; 95% CI, 0.70-1.06) in vegetarians compared with nonvegetarians. Vegetarians had a significantly lower cancer incidence than nonvegetarians (RR = 0.82; 95% CI, 0.67-0.97).

CONCLUSIONS:

Our results suggest that vegetarians have a significantly lower ischemic heart disease mortality (29%) and overall cancer incidence (18%) than nonvegetarians.

[Nutrition and health--potential health benefits and risks of vegetarianism and limited consumption of meat in the Netherlands].

Ned Tijdschr Geneeskd. 2003 Jul 5;147(27):1308-13.

Abstract

In the latest Dutch national food consumption survey (1998) just over 1% of subjects (about 150,000 persons) claimed to be vegetarians; however, a much larger group (6% or approximately 1 million persons) ate meat < or = once a week. Vegetarianism can be subdivided into lacto-vegetarianism (a diet without meat and fish) and veganism (a diet without any animal foods whatsoever, including dairy products and eggs). A recent meta-analysis showed that vegetarians had a lower mortality from ischaemic heart disease than omniovorous subjects; however, cancer mortality and total mortality did not differ. Although a high consumption of red meat, which is rich in haeme iron and saturated fat, may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and some types of cancer, this does not apply to white meat and fish. In fact, the most important protective effect would seem to be derived from the consumption of unrefined vegetable products (whole-grain cereals, vegetables, fruits, nuts and legumes) and fish. In other words, a prudent, omnivorous diet with moderate amounts of animal products, in which red meat is partly replaced by white meat and fish (especially fatty fish), together with the consumption of ample amounts of unrefined vegetable products, is thought to be just as protective as a vegetarian diet. On the other hand, the omission of meat and fish from the dietincreases the risk of nutritional deficiencies. A vegan diet, in particular, leads to a strongly increased risk of deficiencies of vitamin B12, vitamin B2 and several minerals, such as calcium, iron and zinc. However, even a lacto-vegetarian diet produces an increased risk of deficiencies of vitamin B12 and possibly certain minerals, such as iron. Data from the latest Dutch food consumption survey suggest that 5-10% of all inhabitants of the Netherlands (up to 1 million persons) actually have a vitamin B12 intake below recommended daily levels. In medical practice, the possibility of vitamin B12 deficiency in subjects consuming meat or fish < or = once a week deserves serious consideration. In case of doubt, evaluation is indicated using sensitive and specific deficiency markers such as the levels of methylmalonic acid in plasma or urine. Alternative dietary sources of vitamin B12 instead of meat are fish (especially fatty fish is a good source of vitamin B12), or a vitamin-B12-supplement.

Health effects of vegetarian and vegan diets.

Proc Nutr Soc. 2006 Feb;65(1):35-41.

Key TJ1, Appleby PN, Rosell MS.

Abstract

Vegetarian diets do not contain meat, poultry or fish; vegan diets further exclude dairy products and eggs. Vegetarian and vegan diets can vary widely, but the empirical evidence largely relates to the nutritional content and health effects of the average diet of well-educated vegetarians living in Western countries, together with some information on vegetarians in non-Western countries. In general, vegetarian diets provide relatively large amounts of cereals, pulses, nuts, fruits and vegetables. In terms of nutrients, vegetarian diets are usually rich in carbohydrates, n-6 fatty acids, dietary fibre, carotenoids, folic acid, vitamin C, vitamin E and Mg, and relatively low in protein, saturated fat, long-chain n-3 fatty acids, retinol, vitamin B(12) and Zn; vegans may have particularly low intakes of vitamin B(12) and low intakes of Ca. Cross-sectional studies of vegetarians and vegans have shown that on average they have a relatively low BMI and a low plasma cholesterol concentration; recent studies have also shown higher plasma homocysteine concentrations than in non-vegetarians. Cohort studies of vegetarians have shown a moderate reduction in mortality from IHD but little difference in other major causes of death or all-cause mortality in comparison with health-conscious non-vegetarians from the same population. Studies of cancer have not shown clear differences in cancer rates between vegetarians and non-vegetarians. More data are needed, particularly on the health of vegans and on the possible impacts on health of low intakes of long-chain n-3 fatty acids and vitamin B(12). Overall, the data suggest that the health of Western vegetarians is good and similar to that of comparable non-vegetarian.

Micronutrient status and intake in omnivores, vegetarians and vegans in Switzerland.

Eur J Nutr. 2017 Feb;56(1):283-293. doi: 10.1007/s00394-015-1079-7. Epub 2015 Oct 26.

Schüpbach R1, Wegmüller R1,2, Berguerand C3, Bui M3, Herter-Aeberli I4.

Abstract

PURPOSE:

Vegetarian and vegan diets have gained popularity in Switzerland. The nutritional status of individuals who have adopted such diets, however, has not been investigated. The aim of this study was to assess the intake and status of selected vitamins and minerals among vegetarian and vegan adults living in Switzerland.

METHODS:

Healthy adults [omnivores (OVs), n OV = 100; vegetarians (VGs), n VG = 53; vegans (VNs), n VN = 53] aged 18-50 years were recruited, and their weight and height were measured. Plasma concentrations of the vitamins A, C, E, B1, B2, B6, B12, folic acid, pantothenic acid, niacin, biotin and β-carotene and of the minerals Fe, Mg and Zn and urinary iodine concentration were determined. Dietary intake was assessed using a three-day weighed food record, and questionnaires were issued in order to assess the physical activity and lifestyle of the subjects.

RESULTS:

Omnivores had the lowest intake of Mg, vitamin C, vitamin E, niacin and folic acid. Vegans reported low intakes of Ca and a marginal consumption of the vitamins D and B12. The highest prevalence for vitamin and mineral deficiencies in each group was as follows: in the omnivorous group, for folic acid (58 %); in the vegetarian group, for vitamin B6 and niacin (58 and 34 %, respectively); and in the vegan group, for Zn (47 %). Despite negligible dietary vitamin B12 intake in the vegan group, deficiency of this particular vitamin was low in all groups thanks to widespread use of supplements. Prevalence of Fe deficiency was comparable across all diet groups.

CONCLUSIONS:

Despite substantial differences in intake and deficiency between groups, our results indicate that by consuming a well-balanced diet including supplements or fortified products, all three types of diet can potentially fulfill requirements for vitamin and mineral consumption.

Quality of ingredients that you eat in a Mediterranean Diet is key to protecting yourself from heart disease

Mediterranean diet

It seems it's not only what you eat that is important, but the quality of the ingredients you put into your body that is the vital part of the picture. 

A recent study showed that "High adherence to the Mediterranean diet is associated with cardiovascular protection in higher but not in lower socioeconomic groups". The investigators concluded that:

"Mediterranean Diet (MD) is associated with lower Cardiovascular Disease (CVD  = strokes and heart attacks) risk but this relationship is confined to higher socioeconomic groups. In groups sharing similar scores of adherence to MD, diet-related disparities across socioeconomic groups persisted. These nutritional gaps may reasonably explain at least in part the socioeconomic pattern of CVD protection from the MD."

A Mediterranean diet incorporates the traditional healthy living habits of people from countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, including Italy, France, Greece and Spain. For these people it helps overcome many behaviours which are considered unhealthy, particularly high rates of smoking. Most people in these countries consume daily alcohol, normally wine, with their meals and this has been summed up in the "French Paradox" where diet/daily red wine drinking by the French has given unusually long life spans.

What is the Mediterranean Diet?

The traditional Mediterranean diet consists largely of unprocessed plant foods. A daily menu on the Mediterranean diet includes regular combinations of:

  • Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
  • Legumes, nuts, and seeds
  • Olives, olive oil, wine, and spices

The diet allows for occasional servings of seafood, yogurt, cheese, poultry, and eggs, and rare servings of sugar, sweet desserts, salt, and meat.

The Mediterranean diet has been associated with good health, including a healthier heart. Observational studies have shown the link between the diet with reduced cardiovascular disease (CVD) incidence and mortality (death), ,along with lower rates of cancer, neurodegenerative diseases e.g. Parkinson's Disease and all-cause mortality. More recently, evidence on cardiovascular protection from an MD was provided by studies where participants changed their habit from a normal to MD diet showing reduced risk of CVD. The benefits of MD are clear cut

You can make your diet more Mediterranean-style by: eating plenty of starchy foods, such as bread and pasta, eating plenty of fruit and vegetables, eating some fish, eating less meat, choosing products made from vegetable and plant oils, such as olive oil

Conclusions

But...... a diet made up of vegetables, olive oil, fish etc. may indeed be stop you getting heart diseases and improve your life span but one bottle of olive oil may have a different effect to another. Lower economic groups tend to buy cheap oils, eat poorer quality meats and fish. So buy the best you can to protect your heart e.g. organic extra-virgin olive oil from a good producer. Of course, keep up that daily red wine, the higher quality the better, minimising nasties like sulfites and pesticides i.e. biodynamic or organic (with good taste of course).

Further information

Design of the study

The Moli-sani study is a prospective cohort study of 24 325 men and women (aged ≥ 35) randomly recruited from the general population of a Southern Italian region from March 2005 to April 2010.15 For the purpose of this study, individuals with a history of CVD (7.1%), diabetes (10.6%), those reporting implausible energy intakes (<800 kcal/day in men and <500 kcal/day in women or >4000 kcal/day in men and >3500 kcal/day in women; 3.2%), subjects with missing information on educational level (0.2%), unreliable medical or dietary questionnaires (1% and 3.9%, respectively), subjects lost to follow-up (0.2%) or with incomplete personal data (1.7%) were excluded from the analyses. The final sample consisted of 18 991 individuals.

Dietary assessment and indices of diet quality

Food intake was assessed by the validated Italian EPIC food frequency questionnaire.Adherence to the MD was defined according to the Mediterranean Diet Score.

Food antioxidant content (FAC) was appraised by a score determining the content in antioxidant vitamins and phytochemicals of each food group and ranged from −99 to 99, with higher values indicating increased consumption of foods rich in antioxidants. The polyphenol content of diet was measured by a polyphenol antioxidant content (PAC)-score and Total antioxidant capacity of diet (TAC).

Variety of fruit and/or vegetable intake was assessed by four (fruit, vegetables, vegetables subgroups and fruit/vegetable combined) different diet diversity scores. Diversity was the total number of individual vegetable/fruit products eaten at least once in 2 weeks. Data on cooking procedures were collected for vegetables, meat and fish. A score was constructed to discriminate healthy (boiling, stewing) and hazardous (frying, roasting, grilling) cooking methods; the healthier the procedure, the higher the score. Organic food intake was limited to organic vegetables and categorised as yes/no. Whole-grain products consumption was restricted to whole-grain bread intake (yes/no).

High adherence to the Mediterranean diet is associated with cardiovascular protection in higher but not in lower socioeconomic groups: prospective findings from the Moli-sani study 

Marialaura Bonaccio, Augusto Di Castelnuovo, George Pounis et. al

on behalf of the Moli-sani Study Investigators

Int J Epidemiol dyx145. Published: 01 August 2017

Abstract

Background: It is uncertain whether the cardiovascular benefits associated with Mediterranean diet (MD) may differ across socioeconomic groups.

Methods: Prospective analysis on 18,991 men and women aged ≥35 years from the general population of the Moli-sani cohort (Italy). Adherence to MD was appraised by the Mediterranean diet score (MDS). Household income (euros/year) and educational level were used as indicators of socioeconomic status. Hazard ratios (HR) were calculated by multivariable Cox proportional hazard models.

Results: Over 4.3 years of follow-up, 252 cardiovascular disease (CVD) events occurred. Overall, a two-point increase in MDS was associated with 15% reduced CVD risk (95% confidence interval: 1% to 27%). Such association was evident in highly (HR = 0.43; 0.25–0.72) but not in less (HR = 0.94; 0.78–1.14) educated subjects (P for interaction = 0.042). Similarly, CVD advantages associated with the MD were confined to the high household income group (HR = 0.39; 0.23–0.66, and HR = 1.01; 0.79–1.29 for high- and low-income groups, respectively; P for interaction = 0.0098). In a subgroup of individuals of different socioeconomic status but sharing similar MDS, diet-related disparities were found as different intakes of antioxidants and polyphenols, fatty acids, micronutrients, dietary antioxidant capacity, dietary diversity, organic vegetables and whole grain bread consumption.

Conclusions: MD is associated with lower CVD risk but this relationship is confined to higher socioeconomic groups. In groups sharing similar scores of adherence to MD, diet-related disparities across socioeconomic groups persisted. These nutritional gaps may reasonably explain at least in part the socioeconomic pattern of CVD protection from the MD.

 

Couples who drink alcohol together more likely to stay together

Couple drinking wine

Couples who have similar drinking habits tend to be happier and have a higher chance of staying together compared with couples where only one partner drinks alcohol. This conclusion comes from a recent study from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in a sample participating in a long-term Health and Retirement Survey. 

Analysis of data for a nationally representative sample of 4,864 heterosexual and married US participants over the age of 50, found that women in particular were more dissatisfied in their relationship when they, but not their husbands, were drinkers. The couples were married for an average of 33 years and two-thirds were in their first marriage and in more than half of the couples studied, both partners drank alcohol.

Over ten years, all participants had interviews with the study researchers and answered questions about their drinking habits including whether they drank, how many days a week and what quantity each day they drank.

Lead study author, Dr Kira Birditt, said “We’re not suggesting that people should drink more or change the way they drink. We’re not sure why this is happening, but it could be that couples that do more leisure time activities together have better marital quality.” Furthermore, "The study shows that it’s not about how much they’re drinking, it’s about whether they drink at all."

Dr. Kira Birditt

Dr. Kira Birditt

Dr. Birditt is a Research Associate Professor in the Life Course Development Program. Her research focuses on how people react to interpersonal problems and whether those reactions vary across the lifespan. Her research also examined the circumstances under which positive and negative aspects of relationships are associated with physical and psychological well-being. 

So drinking together, particularly in a social setting, means happier marriages and more likely couples will stay together.

Full abstract:

Drinking Patterns Among Older Couples: Longitudinal Associations With Negative Marital Quality

Kira S. Birditt, James A. Cranford, Jasmine A. Manalel, Toni C. Antonucci

J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci gbw073. Published:27 June 2016

Abstract

Objectives:

Research with younger couples indicates that alcohol use has powerful effects on marital quality, but less work has examined the effects of drinking among older couples. This study examined whether dyadic patterns of drinking status among older couples are associated with negative marital quality over time.

Method:

Married participants (N = 4864) from the Health and Retirement Study reported on alcohol consumption (whether they drink alcohol and average amount consumed per week) and negative marital quality (e.g., criticism and demands) across two waves (Wave 1 2006/2008 and Wave 2 2010/2012).

Results:

Concordant drinking couples reported decreased negative marital quality over time, and these links were significantly greater among wives. Wives who reported drinking alcohol reported decreased negative marital quality over time when husbands also reported drinking and increased negative marital quality over time when husbands reported not drinking.

Discussion:

The present findings stress the importance of considering the drinking status rather than the amount of alcohol consumed of both members of the couple when attempting to understand drinking and marital quality among older couples. These findings are particularly salient given the increased drinking among baby boomers and the importance of marital quality for health among older couples.

Burgundy and Beaujolais crop destroyed by July 10th storm with incredible hail and wind

Beaujolais hail storm july 10 2017

On July 10th, winemakers in parts of Burgundy and Beaujolais had a bad, bad day. A storm hit the area with torrential rain, hail and wind. Vineyards in Fleurie, Régnié, Moulin-à-Vent, Morgon, Chiroubles, Chénas had very substantial damage to the grapes for their 2017 vintage. There was even a tornado in in Moulin-à-Vent. The path of the storm was almost identical to that which hit the region in 2016.

Beaujolais had the worst of the storm but the famous Côte d'Or and Côte Chalonnaise also had some damage. From Chambolle-Musigny to the southern part of Gevrey-Chambertin as well as Fixin and Marsannay. The area around Beaune wasn't impacted but the southern part of the Marsannay appelation had around 50 percent crop damage.

As you can see in the video hailstones battered the vines together with high winds stripping leaves and destroying the fragile grapes. The still green young berries which were impacted by the hailstones will eventually fall from the wine and die. Some domaines lost 70 percent of their crop within minutes, particularly Moulin-à-Vent. Fortunately areas where Beaujolais Nouveau grapes come and the vast majority of the crus were not affected. 

The winemakers and domaines that have been affected by the storm are understandably upset and disappointed given the weather so far in 2017 and the potential for the vintage.

Domaine G. Roumier that has vineyards in Chambolle-Musigny and Morey-St.-Denis, said "It is not disaster, but the same grapes that were looking just perfect look different today. The northern part of Chambolle-Musigny, as well as a large area in Morey-St.-Denis seems to have received the worst damages." The Domaine estimates 10 to 20 percent loss of the crop and now there is the risk of mold if the end of August is humid.

A tough year for French winemakers. Low yields in Bordeaux and Burgundy mean more pricey wines for lovers of French wine unfortunately when the vintage is released.