Roundup: Plant-Friendly, Low-Sugar Diets Score High in New Ranking; Parental Obesity Could Delay Child's Early Development

Nutrition and medical experts have placed diets that focus on fruits, vegetables and prepared foods low in sugar and salt at the top of a new ranking of the best diets.

U.S. News and World Report has released its annual list of the best diets, as chosen by a panel of nutritionists, dietary consultants, physicians and other experts. The publisher releases its list every year in early January, which is usually when many Americans start to fulfill a New Year’s resolution to lose weight.

Of the 38 diet plans, the DASH diet came out on top, marking the seventh time it’s been rated as No. 1 overall by U.S. News and World Report. Launched by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute as a diet to help reduce blood pressure, DASH focuses on foods most everyone knows are healthy, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy. DASH also restricts calorie- and fat-laden sweets and red meat.

The Mediterranean Diet came in second on the list. It also recommends meals low in red meat, sugar and saturated fat, while promoting the “good” fats from olive oil or fish. This diet also recommends lots of vegetables.

A hybrid of the top-rated DASH and Mediterranean diets, the so-called MIND Diet, ranked third. The MIND Diet focuses on “10 brain-healthy food groups: green leafy vegetables in particular, all other vegetables, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, fish, poultry, olive oil and wine,” according to U.S. News and World Report.

In 2015, a separate panel of health and nutrition experts reviewed recent medical studies to come up with updated national dietary guidelines for the U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS). These guidelines also focused on more plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, and less consumption of processed foods with “added sugars.”

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Parental Obesity Could Delay Child’s Early Development

Previous studies have found that a mother’s obesity could put her child at risk for early developmental issues. A new study examined the role that a father’s obesity could have on a child.

The new study from the National Institutes of Health, published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, concluded that both an obese mother and obese father can contribute to their child’s developmental problems — including struggles with fine motor skills, problem-solving abilities, communication and personal-social interactions.

About 1 in 5 pregnant women in the United States enter into pregnancy with a BMI greater than “30” — a category which constitutes obesity. Individuals who are overweight and obese are at increased risk for many diseases, including high blood pressure, diabetes and coronary heart disease.

As part of the study, a team of scientists reviewed data from a previous study of more than 5,000 mothers that tracked the developmental progress of their 4-month-old children at regular intervals until they were 3 years old. At each follow-up review, the children were screened using the Ages and Stages Questionnaire ― a common test for finding potential developmental problems ― in the five areas of fine motor skills, gross motor skills, communication, personal-social functioning and problem-solving ability.

The research found that children of obese mothers were almost 70 percent more likely than children of normal and underweight mothers to fail the test measuring fine motor skills, which includes dexterity and hand-eye coordination. Children of obese fathers were 75 percent more likely than children of normal-weight fathers to fail the test of personal-social function, which examines the ability to interact with others or relate to others.

“Findings suggest that maternal and paternal obesity are each associated with specific delays in early childhood development, emphasizing the importance of family information when screening child development,” the study’s authors concluded.

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Iron Deficiency Anemia Linked to Hearing Loss

Hearing loss in adult Americans has been linked to poor self-reported health, hypertension, diabetes, and tobacco use. New research finds that hearing loss in adults could be associated with iron deficiency anemia (IDA), a combination of insufficient red blood cells and iron in the human body.

The study, published in the journal JAMA Otolaryngology — Head & Neck Surgery, found that people suffering from IDA are twice as likely to suffer from hearing loss than people that are not diagnosed with the blood disorder. Researchers looked at data from the medical records of 300,000 Americans aged between 21 and 90 years to pinpoint the connection.

In 2014, about 15 percent of adults reported difficulty with hearing. Hearing loss increases with each decade of life, affecting 40 percent to 66 percent of adults older than 65 years and 80 percent of those older than 85 years. The type of hearing loss linked to IDA is “sensorineural hearing loss” (SNHL), which occurs when there is damage to the inner ear, or to the nerve pathways from the inner ear to the brain. Most of the time, SNHL cannot be medically or surgically corrected. This is the most common type of permanent hearing loss.

However, “because iron deficiency anemia (IDA) is a common and easily correctable condition, further understanding of the association between IDA and all types of hearing loss in a population of U.S. adults may help to open new possibilities for early identification and appropriate treatment,” the researchers said. Iron deficiency anemia is easily treated with several months of oral iron supplementation.

“Further research is needed to better understand the potential links between IDA and hearing loss and whether screening and treatment of IDA in adults could have clinical implications in patients with hearing loss,” researchers concluded.

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