Snacking has become a popular habit among children and teenagers At the same time, overweight and obesity have reached huge proportions, affecting young individuals. Snacking has been considered one of the main contributors to overweight because of the increased consumption of energy-dense, high-sugar, high-fat foods.
Snacking is promoted by food ads to children and adolescents and one look at our supermarket foods completes the picture. When I taught nutrition courses at the college level, most of my students would come to class with their favorite bag of snacks in hand. Ironically, the class objectives were hopefully to learn about healthy diets. It was hard to compete against the influences of the “big food” industry ubiquitous in our food environment.
No wonder we have an obesity problem. Don’t count on the latest Dietary Guidelines 2020 for help. Enough said?
Telomeres shorten with age and progressive telomere shortening leads to senescence and/or apoptosis. Older people with shorter telomeres have three to eight times increased risk to die from heart disease and infectious diseases, respectively. Rate of telomere shortening is therefore critical to an individual’s health and pace of aging. Smoking, exposure to pollution, lack of physical activity, obesity, stress, and an unhealthy diet increase oxidative burden and rate of telomere shortening. To preserve telomeres and reduce cancer risk and pace of aging, we may consider to eat less; include antioxidants, fiber, soy protein, and healthy fats (derived from avocados, fish, and nuts) in our diet; and stay lean, active, healthy, and stress-free from regular exercise and meditation.
Healthy foods such as tuna, salmon, herring, mackerel, halibut, anchovies, catfish, grouper, flounder flax seeds, chia seeds, sesame seeds, kiwi, black raspberries, lingonberries, green tea, broccoli, red grapes, tomatoes, olives area excellent choices. These combined with a Mediterranean type of diet containing whole grains would help protect telomeres.
Source: Telomeres, lifestyle, cancer, and aging
Current Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2011 Janurary; 14(1):28-34
Researchers found there was a significant linear relationship between fiber consumption and telomere length. The more fiber subjects consumed, the longer their telomeres tended to be.
Here’s what the authors found:
“A difference of 4.8 to 6.0 years in cell aging was found between those in the lowest compared with the highest quartiles of fiber intake. Overall, the present study highlights the risk of accelerated aging among U.S. women and men who do not consume adequate amounts of dietary fiber.”
The study reported subjects were eating an average of 13.6 grams of fiber per day before starting the study, which is less than 50% of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
Lifestyles can interact with the epigenome, defined as the network of compounds around our genes that are capable of altering gene expression in response to environmental influences. The ultimate action can result in cancer prevention.
The general risk factors of cancer include obesity, physical inactivity, alcohol consumption and/or poor nutrition. These factors have the potential to determine if a cancer will result or in the opposite case, be suppressed.
Consume a nutrient dense, whole-foods diet that predominantly includes plant foods. As Michael Pollan puts it, “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” Plant foods are rich in nutrients and phytochemicals that work synergistically to prevent many chronic diseases, primarily heart disease and cancer. Evidence exists that up to 45% of colon cancer cases could be avoided through diet and lifestyle changes alone.
Limit your consumption of high-calorie foods, primarily in the form of ultra-processed foods that are major contributors to weight gain leading to type 2 diabetes, or insulin resistance.
Cancers of the liver, pancreas, endometrium, colon, rectum, breast, and bladder are at higher risks for developing in obesity. Being overweight also raises the risk of developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, multiple myeloma and gallbladder, liver, cervical, ovarian, and aggressive prostate cancers.
Be as lean as possible without becoming underweight. It may be helpful to be able to calculate your own weight status by using the Body Mass Index (BMI).
You simply divide your weight in pounds by your height in inches squared X 703.
For example: BMI =140 pounds divided by 64 inches squared (4096) X 703 = 24.0. A healthy BMI is 20 – 24. Being underweight is considered a BMI of less than 19.0.
Limit your consumption of red meat (including beef, pork and lamb). There are several reasons:
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies red meat as a “probable carcinogen. You don’t need to give up meat; however, an intake of up to 18 ounces a week can be safely consumed without too much concern.” BTW, 4 oz. of meat is about the size of a deck of cards. (Finlayson, 2019)
Another factor that raises cancer risk is the overcooking of red meat that produces charred areas of the meat – goodbye grill marks?). These create carcinogenic heterocyclic amines (HCAs) that have been linked to pancreatic and colon cancers.
Another carcinogenic compound comes from burning the fat from meat when grilling that produce polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), linked to stomach cancer.
Hint: Both compounds can be lessened by using a marinade on the meat.
Highly processed meats such as bacon, hot dogs, and lunch meats are known for their nitrite and nitrate content used as preservatives. Smoking meats can lead to the formation of N-nitroso compounds which are considered carcinogenic.
Avoid deep-fried foods. When cooked in this manner, foods are exposed to a chemical called acrylamide that increases the risk of prostate cancer.
There are other lifestyle factors that can influence epigenetically the risk of any chronic disease. Alcohol intake, for example is important due to the carcinogenic effects of alcohol itself.
“Chronic inflammation which is strongly associated with being overweight, can increase the risk of developing cancer. Excess belly fat produces hormones that can raise levels of insulin, estrogen and leptin, all of which have been linked to cancer development.” (Finlayson, 2019).
The interconnected factors that trigger chronic diseases are vast and subject to manipulation by the body as well as our microbial environment. It would be wise to attempt to take the best care of your body as you possibly can and begin at an early age. Aging as you know itself becomes a central factor in the development of any chronic disease. In 1980, Dr. James Fries, Professor of Medicine, Stanford University introduced the compression of morbidity theory. This theory states that “most illness was chronic and occurred in later life and postulated that the lifetime burden of illness could be reduced if the onset of chronic illness could be postponed and if this postponement could be greater than increases in life expectancy.”). That theory tells it all. (Unknown source). SJF
Source: Judith Finlayson. You Are What Your Grandparents Ate: What You Need to Know About Nutrition, Experience, Epigenetics & the Origins of Chronic Disease, 2019
Greater Cruciferous Vegetable Intake Associated with less Aortic Calcification
“Aortic calcification, also known as aortic valve calcification (or sclerosis) is a condition where large calcium deposits get accumulated in the aorta of the heart. These calcium deposits can cause the opening of the aortic valve to become narrow and reduce the flow of blood to the heart resulting in chest pain and heart attack.”
“Aorta – the main artery of the body, supplying oxygenated blood to the circulatory system. In humans. “
A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition showed an association between an increased intake of Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and other cruciferous vegetables and less extensive abdominal aortic calcification (AAC defined above) in older women. The study population included 684 women with a mean age of 75 who previously had enrolled in the Calcium Intake Fracture Outcome Study (1998) conducted at the University of Western Australia. Diet intake questionnaires were given to participants and calcification detected as extensive or not extensive was determined by imaging techniques.
A correlation was observed between greater cruciferous vegetable intake and a reduction of AAC. Women whose intake of the vegetables was more than 44.6 grams a day (equivalent of 1/4 cup of steamed broccoli or 1/2 cup of raw cabbage had a 46% lowered adjusted risk of extensive AAC, compared to those whose intake was less than 15 grams a day. Total vegetable intake, including other types of vegetables, was not related with risk.
Interestingly, cruciferous vegetables have had positive results with lessening disease risk not only in heart calcification but in cancer prevention. Vegetables in this family not only include broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower, but bok choy, kale, kolrabi, and Swiss chard. These vegetables are excellent sources of a family of anticancer phytochemicals called isothocynates that fight cancer by neutralizing carcinogens.
Broccoli also contains high levels of a phytochemical called sulforaphane. Sulforaphane increases the activation of enzymes known as phase-2 enzymes, which help fight carcinogens. According to the Department of Urology at Stanford University published in Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention, sulforaphane is the most potent inducer of phase-2 enzymes of any phytochemical known to date.
SOURCE: Life Extension, February, 2021
Bowden, Jonny, Ph.D., C.N.S. The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth, 2007
“People with higher than normal blood sugar called prediabetes, are more likely to experience cognitive decline and vascular dementia according to a study published in Diabetes, Metabolism, and Obesity.
Researchers analyzed UK biobank data from almost 450,000 people averaging 58 years old who underwent an HB A1C test, which determines average blood sugar levels over the past two to three months.
Based on these results, they were divided into one of five groups: low normal blood sugar, normal blood sugar, pre diabetes, undiagnosed diabetes, and diabetes. Pre diabetes was classified as having a hemoglobin A1C blood test reading of 6.0% – 6.5% %. Ideal A1C levels are under 5.5%
Results show that people with above normal sugar levels were:
42% more likely to experience cognitive decline over four years and 54% were more likely to develop vascular dementia over eight years. Vascular dementia is caused by reduced blood flow to the brain.
People with prediabetes and diabetes had similar rates of cognitive decline 42% and 39% respectively.
MRI brain scans revealed that pre diabetes was associated with a smaller hippocampus in the brain and more strongly associated with having lesions on the brain, both of which are associated with age related cognitive impairment.”
Editor’s note: ‘Previous research has found a link between poor cognitive outcomes and diabetes, but our study is the first to investigate how having blood sugar levels that are relatively high but do not yet constitute diabetes – may affect our brain health”
“Artificial preservatives used in many processed foods could increase the risk of inflammatory bowel diseases and metabolic disorders, according to research published on 25 February in Nature1. In a study done in mice, chemicals known as emulsifiers were found to alter the make-up of bacteria in the colon — the first time that these additives have been shown to affect health directly.”
The search continues for what factors in the Standard American diet (SAD) can be implicated beyond the amount alone that people consume, that are causative of the current obesity/diabesity epidemic.
Researchers continue to look at the lengthy ingredient lists on ultra-processed foods. As Western-type diet are utilized more and more globally, their obesity rates continue to rise. Is there a connection?
Americans don’t live as long as people in most other high-income countries. We hear so much about how healthy habits are the recommendations of the medical community, but often they come across as vague and not specific enough. How many times has your doctor said, “watch your diet” as you leave his/her office. Here are the highlights of a study that actually investigated the adherence of these habits and how they related to longevity rates.
Researchers found that people who maintained five healthy lifestyle factors lived more than a decade longer than those who didn’t maintain any of the five.
A Study led by Frank Hu at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health analyzed data from more than 78,000 women and 44,000 men who participated in two nationwide surveys (Nurses Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up Study.)
The study was funded by NIH National Heart Lung and Blood Institute and National Cancer Institute and published in Circulation on April 30, 2018.
Data identified five different low-risk lifestyle factors and compared health outcomes for those who adopted all five with those who didn’t adopt any.
1. Maintaining a healthy eating pattern (like the Mediterranean Diet) The DASH Diet or the MIND Diet are also healthy choices. You can find details on Amazon Books.
Can Vitamin D Prevent or Ameliorate Covid-19 Infections?
Previous research has reported that vitamin D can increase the incidence and severity of infectious diseases like influenza or the common cold. The question remains as to whether this applies to Covid-19 infections. During these times, people are searching for a new way out to combat this virus as more reports of vaccine dangers (legitimate or not) become the major news of the day. The purpose of this post is to educate on the facts about about vitamin D as an alternative.
The primary role of vitamin D is to aid the absorption of calcium and phosphorus for bone formation and muscle function. A deficiency can also increase the risk of chronic inflammation, a common cause of several major chronic diseases.
Vitamin D is produced to its most active form from cholesterol in skin cells upon exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun.
Inadequate vitamin D status is common. It is reported that vitamin D deficiency can be common in the elderly, homebound or darker skinned individuals. Obesity is another risk factor for severe COVID-19 and low levels of vitamin D are commonly found in these patients.
Another primary function of Vitamin D is known to reduce inflammation and can stimulate the release of anti-microbial proteins that kill viruses and bacteria. A study at Northwestern University suggests that vitamin D could suppress what is known as the “cytokine storm” that has been reported to be fatal in some coronavirus patients.
People are scrambling to the supplement stores for vitamin D, but there are certain caveats to supplementation at high doses of any supplement on the market, including vitamin D. Here is what you should know about its efficacy and/or safety.
It can become very easy to be deficient in vitamin D since it is found in very few foods like fatty fish, egg yolks and fortified milk (not commonly found in the highly processed Standard American Diet).
It is recommended that people ask their doctors for a blood test to determine their vitamin D status. Deficiency is defined as a blood level below 10 nanograms per milliliter. Blood levels of 20-50 nanograms per milliliter are generally considered normal.
The Institute of Medicine recommend that most adults get 600 International Units (IU) of vitamin D from food and supplements daily or 800 IU if they are 70 years or older. Most experts agree that D is safe at doses up to 2000 IU and that 4000 IU a day is established as the Tolerable Upper Intake. The dose you take should be established by your physician and your blood levels.Toxicity is possible with long-term use of 10,000 IU daily.
The consequences of overdose include:
Mental retardation in young children
Abnormal bone growth and formation.
Nausea, diarrhea, irritability, weight loss.
Deposition of calcium and organs such as the kidneys, liver and heart.
What the Research Shows
A recent study at the University of Chicago reviewed the medical records of about 4300 patients who had been tested for COVID-19 early last spring. After controlling for factors like age, race, and chronic medical illness, they found that people with a vitamin D deficiency (defined as less than 20 nanograms/millilter of blood) before the pandemic began were 77% more likely to test positive for COVID-19 compared to people who had normal levels of vitamin D.
Other studies have mixed results, however, there is enough compelling evidence to suggest that a randomized trial is needed to specially test to see whether assigning people to take vitamin D every day will reduce the severity of their illness, if infected. However, it is important to know the facts of overdosing any dietary supplement on the market since none have been under any scrutiny as to safety and efficacy. Consult with your primary physician.
Judith E. Brown, Nutrition Now. 7th Edition
Anahad O’Connor, Exploring the Links Between Coronovirus and Vitamin D. The New York Times, June 10, 2020.
The last I checked, the U.S. is still facing an epidemic other than Covid -19 – one that has been in some degree affecting a large percentage of the population (40%) for quite some time – obesity. Obesity has even been named as a risk factor for the Covid pandemic. About 70% of us are overweight with about 40% classified as obese. One in 10 have diabetes type 2. Type 2 diabetes most often develops in people over age 45, but more and more children, teens, and young adults are also developing it.
Prediabetes is a serious health condition where blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough yet to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. Approximately 88 million American adults—more than 1 in 3—have prediabetes. Of those with prediabetes, more than 84% don’t know they have it.
A feature of this month’s issue of Nutrition Action Health Letter titled Why We Overeat by Bonnie Liebman should be important for all of us who eat food found in the Standard American Diet (SAD). It will ultimately affect all of us with increased health care costs.
As a researcher at the National Institutes of Health, Kevin Hall explains: “We’re trying to understand the properties of our food environment that regulate appetite and cause people to overeat and gain body fat”. Based on several well designed studies, his group found “only one diet led people to gain weight and gain body fat, Hall says, and that diet is the ultra-processed-food diet.”. Examples of ultra-processed foods include breakfast cereals, pizza, soda, chips and other salty/sweet/savory snacks, packaged baked goods, microwaveable frozen meals, instant soups and sauces.
“Companies are all about maximizing the allure of their products” says Michael Moss, a prize winning former New York Times reporter whose recent book is titled: Hooked,Food, Free Will, and How the Food Giants Exploit Our Addictions. It all begins with three major ingredients: Salt, Sugar, and Fat, also by Moss.
“The industry came up with the term “bliss point” to describe the perfect amount of sugar in a drink or food that would please most Americans. Not too little, not too much”
“In snack foods like potato chips, 50% of the calories typically come from fat which gives them that melt in your mouth phenomenon, which so much ultra processed food has. You hardly even have to chew it.”
“Salt is the flavor burst because it’s often on the surface of the food and the first thing that touches the tongue”.
But wait! There are other factors.
“Fat plus carb foods with high concentrations of both fat and refined carbohydrates like chocolate, ice cream French fries, pizza, cookies and chips are the foods that most people find most irresistible”, says Ashley Gearhardt, associate professor of psychology at the University of Michigan.
Other factors that aid in making the consumer choose ultra-processed foods can include:
Variety, speed (unprocessed food often takes more chewing), advertising (especially TV ads),
Cost. The food industry goal is to make their products as inexpensive as possible for the consumer.
Snacking: “The food industry has developed more and more products that can act as the fourth meal of the day.” Just look at the abundance in the snack aisles.
What To Do
One way is to concentrate more on nutrient dense foods then on calorie dense foods — of course this increase requires adding fruits and vegetables.
Another good source on how to curb your ultra processed food intake is presented by Barbara Rolls, director of the Laboratory for the Study of Human Ingestive Behavior at Penn State, who wrote the Ultimate Volumetrics Diet.
A study in 2017 by Rolls randomly assigned women with obesity to either eat less fat or eat less fat and eat more fruits and vegetables for a year. After a year, the fruit and vegetable eaters had lost more weight (17 pounds) than the other group (14 pounds), and they reported being less hungry.
“We eat with our eyes and our brain, If we see a big portion, that sets us up to feel more satisfied. If a plate looks half empty, that sets us up to feel hungry”, says Rolls.
All in all, be aware and mindful of what you eat. Mindless eating can be habit forming as usually we pay little attention to what and how much food we are eating. Studies show that we eat more macaroni and cheese while watching TV than while listening to music.
Lays potato chips dares us with the challenge: “bet you
can’t eat just one”.
“Stay away from the gigantic calorie counts in most restaurant food, whether it’s sit down or fast food. Cook your own food whenever possible. Stick with water, coffee, tea, or other calorie free drinks.”
“Don’t let multinational corporations dictate your diet and your health.” It’s up to you to make those choices.
Bonnie Liebman. Nutrition Action Healthletter, Center for Science in the Public Interest, April, 2021.
Michael Moss. Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us. Random House, 2014.
“There’s good news and bad news. Although Americans are suffering fewer heart attacks as a whole, the rate of heart attacks for people under 40 is increasing.
For the last several decades, aging has been established as one of the biggest risk factors for heart attacks, typically affecting men 50+ and women 65+. Now, people in their 20s, 30s and 40s are more often falling victim to these cardiovascular attacks.” Healthessentials; Cleveland Clinic, April 26, 2019
Prevention is so important – and a healthy lifestyle is the key.