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6 Shocking Nutrition Discoveries Scientists Made This Year

This year was full of unexpected discoveries related to nutrition and health.

The end of 2022 is here, which means many of us are reflecting on the last year. Maybe this means journaling about your adventures, looking through photos on your phone, or setting intentions for the year to come. We've experienced a lot of shocking surprises throughout 2022, from Russia's invasion of Ukraine and a rapid uptick in inflation to  the heated trial between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard and Elton John's last live show. Heck, we even got an unexpected  "Bennifer" reboot as Ben Affleck and JLo officially tied the knot. In the realm of health and wellness, there was plenty of shocking news and surprising nutrition discoveries, too.

In fact, 2022 was full of so many scientific discoveries directly impacting how we approach food and nutrition, that we thought we might help your retroactive trip down 2022's memory lane with a roundup of the findings we found most shocking. Read on to learn about five of the most significant nutrition discoveries for your health—then, be sure to also check out the 6 Foods That Will Completely Turn Your Health Around in 2023.

Beta-carotene was linked to an increased risk of deadly heart disease

beta carotene

Beta-carotene, the bright orange pigment found in foods like squash, cantaloupe, and carrots—has been commonly used as a supplement for eye health, immune health, and skin health. However, recent research published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found a shocking truth about this pigment.

This study looked into the effects of common supplements like omega-3s, magnesium, and beta carotene. Unfortunately, what they found was that supplements made with beta-carotene were actually linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease mortality and all-cause mortality. Even though the reasoning behind this discovery is still largely unknown, experts still suggest steering clear of this one.

Omega-3 supplements were linked to a 49% decrease in Alzheimer's risk

Omega-3 fatty acids have widely been known to help with cognitive health, especially when it comes to reducing the risk of Alzheimer's disease or dementia. Although omega-3s are commonly consumed in foods like fatty fish or various nuts and seeds, they can also be taken in supplement form.

Even though many people are aware that omega-3s can help with cognitive health, some may not have realized just how much this fatty acid can help—until new research was released this past year. The study, which was published in Nutrients in May 2022, found that people who had higher amounts of omega-3s were a whopping 49% less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease. This is certainly a convincing argument for going out and purchasing an omega-3 supplement.

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Plant-based meat products are some of the lowest-quality proteins you can eat

cooking meat substitute

Those who eat a plant-based diet may be shocked to learn that many plant-based meat replacements are considered to be some of the lowest-quality proteins available.

This past year, researchers compared regular chicken with a plant-based chicken made of soy. They found that even though the fake chicken was made up of 24% protein, human cells didn't absorb the protein as well as they did with the regular chicken. These findings are significant for those who don't eat meat, because it means that they may need to make more of an effort to get high-quality protein in their diet than those who do eat meat.

Eating an unhealthy diet can increase risk of fatal disease—even if you exercise

It's easy to assume that if you're not eating a healthy diet, you can compensate by getting plenty of exercise. However, this past year, researchers found that eating an unhealthy diet can increase your risk of fatality from cardiovascular disease or cancer, even if you regularly exercise.

The study, which was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, concluded that maintaining both a healthy diet and regular exercise were equally important to lowering the risk of fatality. This is significant for people who have assumed they needed to focus on just one aspect of their health.

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Drinking 2–3 cups of coffee a day can help you live longer

woman pouring herself coffee

The conversation of whether or not coffee is "healthy" is an ongoing one with much debate. Drinking moderate amounts of coffee has been found to help improve cognitive health and even reduce risk of dementia and Alzheimer's, as well as potentially help improve the gut microbiome. But coffee has also been known to disrupt sleep, induce panic attacks, and even lead to heart issues for those with existing blood pressure issues.

Because of the mixed information on coffee and its impact on health, it was rather shocking to learn that drinking two to three cups of coffee daily may actually reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and increase longevity. The European Journal of Clinical Nutrition published these findings in September of this year, and not only was it shocking to think coffee may actually help you live longer, but also that an amount as high as two or three cups is what can help.

The Mediterranean diet may not actually reduce the risk of dementia

The Mediterranean diet has long been touted as a way to help improve cognitive health and brain functioning because of its high content of healthy fats and high-fiber whole foods, and has also been commonly discussed as a recommendation for reducing the risk of Alzheimer's and dementia.

However, in October of this past year, researchers studied the effects of this diet on adults, and they couldn't find a connection between following a Mediterranean diet and lowering the risk of dementia. These findings are just based off of one study, so it's not enough to completely discredit the possible benefits of the Mediterranean diet. But this conclusion was certainly shocking for those who have had high levels of faith in this eating pattern.

Samantha Boesch
Samantha was born and raised in Orlando, Florida and now works as a writer in Brooklyn, NY. Read more about Samantha