Calorie Restriction and Immune Response

Can food restriction affect immune health?

 A new study says yes. Research reported in the journal Science investigated the relationship of eating fewer calories, immune response, and inflammation.

Some undifferentiated cells from the bone marrow, proceed to the thymus gland to become T cells (T stands for thymus). The thymus is large at birth and increases until puberty, when it begins to shrink. Mature T cells become immunocompetent  (educated) meaning they colonize in the lymph nodes, spleen, and tonsils where potential interactions can occur with pathogens and other immune system cells.

With aging, the thymus gland accumulates fat that interferes with thymus function.  Fewer T cells are produced; thus immune function decreases.  

Study participants restricted their caloric intake about 14% for two years. Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) less thymus fat accumulated compared to a control group with no caloric restriction. Although no changes of gene expression were detected in the T cells DNA; changes in the fat tissue showed that expression that encodes a protein involved with inflammation was inhibited by the calorie restriction.

Editor’s Note: “Moderately decreased food intake that does not cause malnutrition has beneficial effects on healthspan and lifespan in model organisms.” The authors stated.

Science. 2002 Feb 11;375(6581):671-677.

Drinking for Longevity

From the Blue Zones: 9 Lessons for Living Longer from the people who’ve lived the longest by Dan Buettner, page xxii. “Scientific studies suggest that only about 25% of how long we live is dictated by genes, according to famous studies of Danish twins. The other 75% is determined by our lifestyles and the everyday choices we make.” What we drink is only one of them.

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Olive Oil and Longevity?

Adding more olive oil to your diet may help prevent an early death.

A recent study from the researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health was published online Jan. 10, 2022 by the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Data from 90,000 men and women, free of cardiovascular disease and cancer were asked to complete a dietary questionnaire every four years. At the end of the data collecting, 36,856 of the participants had died.

From the diet questionnaires, it was found that those who routinely consumed the most olive oil – averaging more than one half a tablespoon a day – had the lowest risk of dying during the 28 – year old follow-up period compared with people who rarely or never consumed olive oil.

Olive oil consumers had :

A 19% lower overall risk of death

A 19% lower risk of cardiovascular disease

A 17% lower risk of cancer-related disease

A 29% lower risk of death related to a neurodegenerative condition

A  18% lower risk of death related to a respiratory disease

This may explain why olive oil as a major component of the Mediterranean diet has consistently shown health benefits in numerous studies. The results also suggest that when used as a substitute for products containing animal fat such as butter, we see the same healthy benefits. Bon appetit!!

Is Folate (Folic Acid) Safe?

Folate is a water-soluble vitamin (not stored in the body) and primary food sources include: Fortified, refined grain products (cereals, bread, and pasta), dark green vegetables like collards and romaine, dried beans.

Folate plays key roles during pregnancy in the synthesis of proteins needed for the normal development of fetal tissues including the spinal cord and brain. It also promotes the normal formation of red blood cells. Folate is the form found in foods whereas folic acid is used in vitamin supplements and fortified foods.

The consequences of a deficiency include megaloblastic anemia (abnormally large red blood cells with reduced oxygen capability,) increased rise of neural tube defects, preterm delivery, and elevated levels of homocysteine (associated with heart and brain health). It may mask signs of vitamin B12 deficiency (pernicious anemia).

Until the late 1990’s, neural tube defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly affected approximately 3900 pregnancies in the U. S. each year.Today, public health policies mandate the fortification of certain food with folic acid, the synthetic form of folate, preventing birth defects in thousands of babies.

Research had previously shown that high doses of folate (folic acid) was associated with certain types of cancer.

“The success of the fortification of folic acid program can be seen in the decline in the estimated number of neural tube affected pregnancies that has occurred since the fortification of grains and grain products. In 1994, there were 1.6 cases per 1000 births; in 2001, about 0.9 cases per 1000. Americans were consuming more folate, in the form of folic acid, through food and supplements, causing concern among scientists about possible increased cancer rates, especially for colorectal cancer.” However, is folate safe? Current research says “yes”. Read on:

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