The list of benefits from a healthy diet is already long. Not only can good nutrition prevent disease and illness ranging from skin conditions to cardiovascular disease, but it can also bring vitality, energy, and a positive outlook by many accounts. Whether you think of the benefits in terms of prevention or contributing to a good quality of life, eating well brings benefits to you in both body and mind.
A recent study has added another item to the long list of contributions to your health: preventing hearing loss. Although the connection between a healthy diet and other factors might seem obvious to researchers, this newly found relationship warrants further exploration. How exactly does a healthy diet promote better hearing? Before turning to that crucial question, let’s investigate the study itself.
Using a colossal data set of 80,000 women over 26 years, Dr. Sharon Curhan at the Channing Division of Network Medicine at Brigham and Women’s. Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston led a team of researchers to understand how these women’s hearing changed over time.
Their study was published in The Journal of Nutrition to communicate not only to hearing health professionals but also to nutritionists and dieticians about the newfound potential benefits of good eating habits. The women in the study were between the ages of 25 and 42 when the study began in 1989, and the Nurses’ Health Study was able to keep up with a remarkable number of these enrolled participants as they changed over time. This information has informed countless studies, but the information on diet and hearing is particularly useful due to the long-term effects of healthy eating.
Three healthy diets were under investigation: Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH), the Alternate Mediterranean Diet (AMED), and Alternative Healthy Eating Index (AHEI). All three diets emphasized whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, and legumes. These dietary plans instruct their adherents to limit intake of red meats, sugars, and saturated fats. In addition to these general guidelines, DASH instructs its adherents to keep sodium intake low and fiber intake high. On the other hand, AMED emphasizes plenty of fish, olive oil, and even permits a glass of red wine.
Each of these diets had a strong relationship with lower rates of hearing loss for some subgroups within the study. However, for the entire study group, those whose diets most strictly adhered to AMED showed a 30 percent lower risk of moderate-to-severe hearing loss, and DASH had a 29 percent lower risk.
How do the study’s authors theorize this relationship? One of the benefits of big data is the ability to see patterns within entire populations of people, and when a study deems this relationship to be “statistically significant,” it means that the result is not due to some other error or confounding factor. However, big data is less effective at predicting outcomes for any individual, nor can it explain how two things are connected. In the case of healthy eating and hearing loss, more research is necessary.
Some of the theories by top scholars suggest that the relationship might have to do with more oxygen flowing to the ears, giving the tiny hairlike organelles of the cochlea, or stereocilia, the resources they need to survive and to thrive. Others postulate that the relationship has to do with inflammation and the regenerative role of antioxidants.
While these experts continue to devise studies that can explain how a healthy diet is connected to lower risk of hearing loss, it doesn’t hurt to take steps in the direction of better nutrition. Not only can the AMED, DASH, and AHEI dietary plans help you lower that risk, but they can also prevent a wide range of other diseases and illnesses. The parameters of these diets allow a cornucopia of delicious foods, so you don’t need to worry about depriving yourself of the gastronomic pleasures!
When you are eating a variety of foods that fall within the guidelines of these diets, you might find new dishes that you enjoy, and your cravings for some of the unhealthy foods on the list might wane.
Why not take the opportunity of the new year to pursue a healthy diet? And, if hearing health is at the top of your list of resolutions, contact us today to schedule an appointment for a hearing test.