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Studies confirm benefits of varied diets


April 19 — Two new studies have confirm the benefits of a varied, wholesome diet and call into question the wisdom of long-term low-carb and other fad diets that limit what kinds of foods people can eat.

One study found that men and women who ate three or more daily servings of whole grain foods were the least likely to be overweight or obese.

In a second report, university-based researchers found that people who ate a variety of foods were more likely to get the recommended levels of vitamins and other nutrients than people who stuck to a few favorite or diet-restricted foods.

Both studies were presented by the American Association of Nutritional Sciences at a joint conference in Washington called Experimental Biology 2004.

In the first study, women who consumed three or more servings of whole grain foods a day (white flour products excluded) had a significantly lower body mass index (BMI) — calculated by comparing height to weight — than those who ate less than one serving a day, the researchers said. The trend was similar in men, but less markedly so.

In the second study a team at the University of Hawaii calculated the nutrients in the food reported eaten by 10,000 men and women. The more variety, the more likely they were to reach recommended levels of vitamins and minerals, researchers said. People who ate the same foods over and over were less likely to meet the requirements, they found — even if some of the individual foods were themselves high in vitamins.

Dr. Suzanne Murphy and colleagues at Hawaii also used the USDA Continuing Survey of Food Intakes. Murphy stressed that adding variety does not mean eating more food in total. It means, for example, eating one banana and one orange instead of two bananas, she said.

People who meet nutritional guidelines — mostly by eating plenty of natural, real foods — have lower rates of cancer and heart disease.

 

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