Quick Studies: A snapshot of the latest research on diet, exercise, and more

Plant vs. Animal Meats

veggie burger

Plant-based meats are processed foods, but they may still protect your heart.

Researchers had 36 adults eat at least two servings a day of ordinary meats (like ground beef and sausage) for eight weeks and similar plant-based versions (supplied by Beyond Meat, which funded the study) for eight weeks.

LDL (“bad”) cholesterol was about 11 points lower, weight was 2 pounds lower, and TMAO (trimethylamine N-oxide) levels were about 40 percent lower when the participants ate the plant meats. TMAO, which is made by gut bacteria that dine on the carnitine in red meat, has been linked to a higher risk of heart disease.

What to do: Swap meats for plant-based meats that have less saturated fat (like the study did) to help your heart and cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 2020. doi:10.1093/ajcn/nqaa203.

Do the Kegel


One out of three women aged 60 or older experience urinary leakage.

Researchers randomly assigned 319 women to 12 weeks of either individual or group pelvic floor muscle training. After a year, weekly episodes of leakage fell by 70 percent among those who got individual training and by 74 percent in those attending group sessions.

What to do: Do Kegel exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor. Go to pelvicfloorfirst.org.au to learn more.

JAMA Intern. Med. 2020. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2020.2993.

Vitamin D & Vertigo

woman with vertigo

Vitamin D may help prevent benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), which occurs when tiny crystals in the inner ear get dislodged.

Researchers randomly assigned 1,050 people who had been treated for BPPV—with a simple maneuver that moves the crystals back into place—to either an intervention or an observation group.

Of the 500 people in the intervention group, 348 had insufficient vitamin D levels (under 20 ng/mL) when they entered the study. Only they were given vitamin D (400 IU) and calcium carbonate (500 mg) twice a day.

After a year, the full intervention group had 24 percent fewer episodes of vertigo than the observation group. The researchers calculated that four people with insufficient vitamin D would need to take vitamin D and calcium for a year to prevent one case of BPPV.

What to do: If you’ve had BPPV, get your vitamin D tested to see if you need more.

Neurology 2020. doi:10.1212/WNL.0000000000010343.

Peppers & Parkinson’s?

New Africa/stock.adobe.com.

Smokers have lower rates of Parkinson’s disease. That led researchers to wonder if the nicotine that occurs naturally in peppers could lower Parkinson’s risk, even though peppers have far less nicotine than tobacco.

The scientists tracked roughly 51,000 adults—none of whom had ever smoked—for 26 years.

Women who ate peppers (any kind) at least five times a week had roughly half the risk of Parkinson’s compared to women who ate them three times a month or less. The scientists saw no link between dietary nicotine and Parkinson’s in men.

What to do: It’s far too early to know if peppers can protect the brain. In the meantime, enjoy them.
Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 2020. doi:10.1093/ajcn/nqaa186.