“Most of us have more control over how long we live than we think. In fact, experts say that if we adopted the right lifestyle, we could add a good 10 years and suffer a fraction of the diseases that kill us prematurely.”
In his book, the Blue Zones, 9 Lessons for Living Longer, Dan Buettner and his team from the National Institute of Health set out to visit 5 regions on our globe that had a long record of longevity. From those lessons, a balanced diet became paramount in life extension. Here is what Robert Kane, MD, director of the Center on Aging at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis said:
“One of the goals to a healthy lifestyle is moderation in all things. The best diet is basically one of moderation. You hear about all these people that live on legumes and plant foods and that’s probably okay, but I don’t think it’s necessary… as far as meat, it’s a question of eating meat a couple of times a week or are you eating it every day for two meals a day (typical of the Standard American Diet). Are you eating processed meats that are filled with fat? Or are you eating good cuts of fairly lean meat?”
In Okinawa (one of the Blue Zones) “while centenarian Okinawans do eat some pork, it is traditional to only eat it in small amounts and for special occasions.
Reference: The Blue Zones: 9 Lessons for Living Longer from the people who’ve lived the longest. Dan Buettner, 2012.
The obesity epidemic rages on with no end in sight. Unfortunately, as we focus more on weight control and body size, more people are affected by being the victims of fat shaming. Even health professionals are often guilty by not addressing the weight problem with their patients – patients become ashamed due to the lack of help they experience from their physicians or the professionals themselves may be victims of the epidemic. They may be crying out for help for weight loss advice and interpret the silence as a shameful topic. This can result in more cases of body dissatisfaction, more dieting attempts like yo-yo dieting and/or avoidance of reporting eating disorder symptoms such as bulimia.
“The lack of education about good nutrition, health-positive behaviors and attitudes, and human physiology; lack of exercise; and lack of a sense of responsibility and forethought about health all contribute to the epidemic.” (Susan Yager. The Hundred Year Diet: America’s voracious appetite for losing weight.)
There is an alternative approach – Health at Every Size (HAES). This concept focuses more on healthy weights rather than how much a person weighs. A study in 2011 called the Succeed Foundation conducted a Body Image Survey that aimed to improve body image and prevent eating disorders. The survey revealed the following:
“30 percent of women say would trade at least one year of their life to achieve their ideal weight and shape.
46% of the women say have been ridiculed or bullied because of their appearance.”
In contrast let’s look at the French attitude on dieting and eating in general. There is no fat shaming there (from what I hear).
Savor the flavor. The French sit down to three leisurely meals each day. Even their fast-food meals are lengthy compared to the typical American’s. A study in Psychological Science found that Parisians who dined at McDonald’s spent an average of 22 minutes eating, while Philadelphian McDonald’s-goers were in and out in just 14 minutes. Our culture reinforces speed-eating, just as it encourages rushing through everything else. The problem is that faster eating leads to eating more. It takes an average of 15 minutes for your brain to get the message that your stomach is full, which means that eating slowly makes it more likely you’ll stop at a point where you’re “satisfied” as opposed to “stuffed.” are lengthy compared to the typical American’s. A study in Psychological Science found that Parisians who dined at McDonald’s spent an average of 22 minutes eating, while Philadelphian McDonald’s-goers were in and out in just 14 minutes. Our culture reinforces speed-eating, just as it encourages rushing through everything else. The problem is that faster eating leads to eating more. It takes an average of 15 minutes for your brain to get the message that your stomach is full, which means that eating slowly makes it more likely you’ll stop at a point where you’re “satisfied” as opposed to “stuffed.”
“ HAES approach briefly states:
Accepting and respecting the natural diversity of body sizes and shapes.
Eating in a flexible manner that values pleasure and honors internal cues of hunger and satiety.
Finding the joy in moving one’s body and becoming more physically active.
“It was the 1980’s. The average weight of Americans increased by fifteen to 20 pounds between 1980 and 2000. Clothing sizes grew bigger to accommodate bigger people: waistbands became elastic. How did this happen? The following article discusses the health implications of the “other epidemic” – that resulted by the time COVID struck an obese population in 2020.
A healthy new YEAR’S RESOLUTION is simple; TRY THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET – a diet pattern that offers variety as well as many health benefits and a great way to begin the year.
Highlights of the Mediterranean diet – source Life Extension, Dec. 2021 Michael Ozner, MD
There is no one Mediterranean diet. In thousands of studies, the Med diet has been reported to be one of the best lifestyle strategies for extending longevity and avoiding the common disorders of aging, including heart disease and cancer.
In 1990s, the first Mediterranean Pyramid was created by a non-profit group called the Oldways Preservation Trust, in cooperation with the Harvard School of Public Health and the World Health Organization. It was based on food patterns seen in the Mediterranean areas of the olive-growing countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, Spain and southern France in the 1960’s.
A clinical trial showed that those who adhered most closely to a traditional Med diet appeared less likely to suffer sudden cardiac death than those who at least had a better chance of healthy aging, defined as living to 70 years or older with no major physical or mental impairments. For diet details, search this blog as Mediterranean Diet.
Components of the Med Diet to show proven health benefits:
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Omega-3 Fatty acids
Vegetables and fruits
Clinical trials and observational studies have found particularly strong evidence that the Med Diet protects the heart and lowers the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and cardiovascular death.
However, this diet pattern is beginning to show that the diet can reduce the risk for other chronic diseases associated with aging.
A meta analysis of 50 studies including nearly 535 people found that following the Med Diet was associated with a reduced risk of metabolic syndrome. The metabolic syndrome is a cluster of symptoms associated with heart disease that include:
Decreased HDL (“good cholesterol”)
Increased waist circumference
Increased blood pressure
High glucose levels
Increased triglyceride levels
Diabetes type 2
Another study of subjects with a high cardiovascular risk showed that a Med Diet compared to a low fat diet reduced the risk of developing diabetes type 2 by 52% .
In a study lasting four years, in patients showing no signs of dementia at baseline, greater adherence to the Med Diet was associated with a significant reduction in risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
In a meta-analysis of 83 studies that included 2, 130, 753 subjects, the highest adherence to a Med diet was associated with the lowest rates of many cancers, including colon, breast, stomach, liver, and prostate and a lowest risk of cancer mortality. The diet’s benefits were attributed to a higher intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, i.e. a plant based diet.
Several studies have specifically shown that the Med Diet increases longevity.
One study analyzed the diets of 10,670 women in mid-life with a median age of 59 years. Greater adherence to the Med Diet was related to 46% greater odds of surviving to 70 years or older with no major impairments in physical function or mental health.
Another study of adults 65 and over also found that closer adherence to the Med Diet was associated with prolonged survival. Many components of the Med Diet including omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil and polyphenols from fruits and vegetables have been shown to reduce chronic inflammation. Be sure and search Food, Facts, and Fads for diet and disease as well as the Mediterranean diet for more details about this powerful message.