Diet and Aging

“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 traditionally reserved only for infrequent occasions and taken only in small amounts.”
 

Reference: The Blue Zones: 9 Lessons for Living Longer from the people who’ve lived the longest. Dan Buettner, 2012.

CLICK HERE. https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/is-your-diet-aging-you#1

How Diet Affects the Brain

“Poor diets lead to a host of medical issues: obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and certain cancers. But diet also influences the brain and can increase the risk for mental disorders and neurodegenerative diseases. Researchers are uncovering the details of how the foods we consume affect our cravings, our moods, and even our memories.”

We hear so much these days about omega 3-rich fish oils as well as omega-6 rich oils. Today we consume ten to 20 times more omega-6 fats and have dramatically reduced our intake of omega-3 fats. This goes against our hunter-gatherer evolutionary history of a 1:1 ratio. Recent research indicates that people who regularly consumed omega-3-rich oils such as flax seed, olive and walnut oils were 60 percent less likely to develop dementia than those who did not regularly consume such oils. Y. Zhang, et al. “Intakes of Fish and Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids and Milk-to-Severe Cognitive Impairment Risks…. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 71, no.2 (2016):330-40.

CLICK HERE.

Healthy Lifestyles and Longevity

Highlights from Healthy Habits can lengthen life.

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.

Americans don’t live as long as people in most other high-income countries.

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,)

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.

The factors:

1. Maintaining a healthy eating pattern (like the Mediterranean Diet)

Recommended daily amounts of vegetables fruit, nuts, whole grains, polyunsaturated fatty acids, omega-3 fatty acids.  

Limiting red and processed meats, moderately.

Limiting beverages with added sugar, trans fats, and sodium

2. Moderate drinking

3.  Not smoking

4.  Getting at least 3.5 hours of moderate to vigorous physical activity each week 

5. Maintaining a normal weight (18.5 to 24.9) BMI

Each participant’s medical history: heart disease, cancer, diabetes, age at death (when applicable).

Results:

At age 50, women who did not adopt any of the five healthy habits were estimated to live on average until they were 79 years old and men until they were 75.5 years.

 In contrast, women who adopted all five healthy habits lived to 91.1 years and men lived to 87.6 years.

Independently, each healthy lifestyle factor significantly lowered the risk of total death, death from cancer, and death from heart disease.

Note: Epigenetics: With its prefix from the Greek word epi, which means “addition to,” this word relates to factors in addition to DNA base sequence that influence the function of genes.

Please search “Epigenetics” on this blog for more information.

Source:

Tianna Hicklin, PhD. Healthy habits can lengthen life. National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Looking at a Blue Zone: Costa Rica

The Blue Zone diet is based on populations in the world that live the longest. The study was pioneered by Dan Buettner, a National Geographic best-selling author. After many years of interviews with centenarians, he and his team discovered five zones of the world that exhibited the most longevity: Okinawa, Japan, Sardina, Italy, Ikaria, Greece, Loma Linda, California and Nicoya, Costa Rico. They called these areas “Blue Zones” and here is just one of their stories.

CLICK HERE.

What Did We Learn from Covid?

Have we learned anything from Covid-19? I would hope so and that some good will come of it – although it’s hard to believe that it will happen at times as we are still fighting its many battles.

In his latest book, Metabolical, Dr. Robert H. Lustig, MD, MSL, author of the best selling book, ‘Fat Chance, “insists that if we do not change the way we eat, we will continue to court chronic disease, bankrupt our health care, and threaten the planet. But there is hope.” Metabolical: The Lure and Lies of Processed Food, Nutrition, and Modern Medicine. 2021.

The Bottom Line: If (and it’s a big IF), we change our ways even in small steps that reflect a healthier body, we may be able to better withstand the consequences of an infectious disease like COVID. Make sense???

CLICK HERE. https://www.aarp.org/health/healthy-living/info-2020/nutrition-after-age-50.html?intcmp=AE-FOD-DN-BB-ART

How’s Your Immune System?

Nutrition and Your Immune System 

The ability of the immune system to fight disease declines with age. As it does, the incidence of infections, cancers, and autoimmune diseases increase and the effectiveness of immunizations decline. In turn, the presence of infections and chronic disease contributes to malnutrition.

Nutrient deficiencies are common in older adults, including deficiencies of zinc, iron, beta-carotene, folic acid and vitamins B6, B12, C, D, and E. Supplements of some of these individual nutrients have been shown to increase certain aspects of the immune response, but have not been shown to reduce mortality from infections. High doses of some nutrients, including zinc, copper, and iron, depressed immune function, so supplement should not contain more than 100% of the daily value. There is little evidence that “megadoses” (over the Daily Value) of any vitamin or mineral is necessary for optimum health.

CLICK HERE.

Living Longer with Carbohydrates: The Okinawan Way

“The traditional Okinawan diet was about 80% carbohydrate. Before 1940, Okinawans also consumed fish at least three times a week together with seven servings of vegetables and maybe one or two servings of grains a day. They also ate two servings of flavonoid-rich soy, usually in the form of tofu. Dairy and meat represented about 3% of their calories. They didn’t eat much fruit; they enjoyed a few eggs a week” They particularly had/have an affinity for sweet potatoes.

The Okinawan Clues to Longevity

Have a purpose in life – i.e. a reason to get up in the morning .

Rely on a plant-based diet .

Get gardening .

Eat more soy .

Maintain a social network.

Enjoy the sunshine.

Stay active.

Plant a medicinal garden with beneficial herbs.

Enjoy simple pleasures.

Source: Dan Buettner, The Blue Zones Solution, 2015

The following article explains much of the recent research as to why this culture has had so much success in living a relatively speaking healthy lifestyle – it is worth a read. It does not mean we all need to go buy pounds of sweet potatoes; however I think I may have one for dinner. (SJF).

CLICK HERE.

Cancer, Diet and Lifestyle: What We Know

Cancer, Diet and Lifestyle

Cancer develops by complex processes that are not yet fully understood. It is thought that the risk of development begins when the DNA is damaged possibly by reactive oxygen molecules, toxins, viruses and other reactive substances within cells. This is called the initiation phase. Most of the time, DNA is successfully repaired. When that does not occur, the next phase called promotion occurs where cells with damaged DNA divide into localized areas of the body. This process can occur from 10 to 30 years (“lag time.”). If there is still no repair, the next phase called progression can result with uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells (metastasis) to other parts of the body (lung, liver, breast, bone, prostate, e.g.}.

According to Robert H, Lustig, MD, in his new book, Metabolical: The Lure and Lies of Processed Food, Nutrition, and Modern Medicine, epigenetics plays a strong role in gene expression. “Epigenetics refers to changes in the areas around our genes that can cause them to be turned on or off. Think of it this way: epigenetics is the on-off switch attached to the dimmer in your living room chandelier. The gene is the lightbulb, the epigene is the light switch. If the light bulb is defunct or the switch is frozen in the “off” position, the dimmer function is useless.” This may partly explain whether a disease or its risk is turned on or off. (SJF)

The eight leading environmental factors (other than genetic) related to cancer development are:

Obesity

Low vegetable and fruit intake

Physical inactivity

Smoking

Excess alcohol intake

Unsafe sex

Air pollution

Hepatitis B or C viral infection

DIET MODIFICATIONS

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 dense 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. . The increased risk of disease appears to be due to a higher prevalence of metabolic disorders in many obese people. Approximately 70% of obese persons have two or more metabolic abnormalities such as:

Hypertension

Elevated triglycerides, glucose and/or insulin

Low HDL cholesterol (“good cholesterol”)

High C-reactive protein (a key marker of inflammation)

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 “probably 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. is about the size of a deck of cards.

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 hetero cyclic 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

Judith E. Brown, Nutrition Now, 7th Edition, 2013

The Mediterranean Diet: More Good News?

The Mediterranean Diet has been the topic of many research studies in that it performs very well as far as giving us health benefits associated with prevention of many chronic diseases. This time its cognitive ability as well as a reduced risk of the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

The Bottom Line?

  • A study finds that the health benefits of a Mediterranean diet may include a reduced chance of developing dementia and memory loss.
  • Specifically, the diet appears to lower the level of amyloid and tau proteins that are linked with dementia.
  • People following the Mediterranean diet scored better on memory tests than those who were not following the diet.

CLICK HERE.

Can Diet Affect Your Telomeres?

Glossary:

Apoptosis: the death of cells which occurs as a normal and controlled part of an organism’s growth or development. Also called programmed cell death.

Senescence: the state that cells reach when they stop dividing but do not die.

Telomeres: bits of DNA at the end of a chromosome that protects it during the process of cell division.

Telomerase: an enzyme, often referred to as “anti-aging” that maintains telomeres, helping to keep them long.

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

A study published in 2018 looked at fiber intake and telomere length in over 5,000 U.S. adults.

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.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends the intake of 14 g of fiber per 1000 calories.

  • 2000 calories per day = 28 grams of fiber
  • 2500 calories per day = 35 grams of fiber

The best part is some of the most healthy and delicious foods pack the fiber.

It seems a few servings of high fiber foods per day keeps the telomere shortening at bay.

Source: Dietary Fiber and Telomere Length in 5674 U.S. Adults: An NHANES Study of Biological AgingDietary Fiber and Telomere Length in 5674 U.S. Adults: An NHANES Study of Biological Aging