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.
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
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.
Consuming fewer calories has a protective effect against developing hepatocellular carcinoma ( primary liver cancer) associated with hepatitis C virus infection, and non alcoholic fatty liver disease, according to a rodent study published in the Journal liver cancer.
Editor’s Note: Recently, worldwide increases in obesity and metabolic syndrome have raised the prevalence of primary liver cancer derived from non alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and non alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), Indicating a close relationship between overnutrition and liver tumorigenesis, the authors stated.
The study used mice with the liver cancer core gene that spontaneously developed fatty liver and tumors. For 15 months, the animals were given either a control diet that allowed them to eat as much as they liked, or a diet that contains 30% fewer calories than the controls.
At the end of 15 months, animals that received calorie restricted diets had fewer and smaller liver tumors, less liver oxidative stress, lower inflammation, downregulation of pro- cancer mediators, increased autophagy(cell self degradation), as well as other improvements, compared to the control group.
In the News: Lower Alzheimers’ Risk with Flavonols
What are Phytochemicals?
Phyto chemicals are biologically active substances in plants that have positive effects on health They are also called phyto- nutrients. They perform a variety of functions including these roles:
Inhibitors of inflammation
Preventers of infectious disease
Flavonols act as antioxidants in the body and the good news about flavanols has made chocolate a health food. Cocoa, the main ingredient in chocolate is a rich source of flavonols.. Regular intake of flavonols such as a daily consumption of a cup of hot chocolate made with cocoa powder is related to improved blood flow, reduced blood pressure, and decreased risk of heart disease and stroke. Flavonols are also found in good amounts in foods such as berries, wine, and tea.
An article in the Journal Neurology reported an association between consuming more compounds known as flavanols, and a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Flavanols are found in many fruits and vegetables as well as in tea and chocolate.
The study included 921 participants with an average age of 81. The subjects the subjects did not have Alzheimer’s disease at the beginning of the study. Questionnaires that were completed at enrollment and then annually during a six year average follow-up period, provided data on dietary intake that was analyzed for flavonol content. Participants were also evaluated yearly for the presence of Alzheimer’s disease. Over the course of follow up , 220 individuals developed the disease. Participants were then divided into five groups, according to their level of flavonol intake. Among those whose intake was highest, at an average of 15.3 milligrams per day, 15% developed Alzheimer’s disease , compared to 30% whose intake was lowest, at approximately 5.3 milligram per day.
The authors stated that “eating more fruits and vegetables and drinking more tea could be a fairly inexpensive and easy way for people to help stave off Alzheimer’s dementia.”
There is no real Mediterranean Diet – you know, the ones you read in diet books that offer set meal plans and do’s and don’ts with endless lists of breakfasts, lunches, dinners and of course, let’s not forget the snacks. (or maybe we should). The more recent habit of the American Diet is the increased eating opportunities fueled by the fact that we can eat just about anywhere and that mainly was the desire of big food companies (for more profits). But more about that in a future post.
“Over the span of more than eight decades, clinical research has continued to confirm that eating the Mediterranean way is a sound strategy for lifelong health. At its heart, The Mediterranean diet is precisely the way nutrition experts have been urging us to eat. It’s built on a foundation of whole, mostly unprocessed foods like whole grains, beans, and nuts. It embraces fruits and vegetables with abandon while being stingier with red meat and sweet treats. It includes moderate amounts of fish, eggs and dairy products though vegan and vegetarian versions are doable. It’s sprinkled with heart healthy vegetable oils , mostly olive oil, rather than saturated fat rich butter or lard and it can even include, if desired, a little alcohol traditionally red wine, enjoyed in moderation as part of a meal.”
“People who follow a Mediterranean diet also tend to live longer and perhaps age more gracefully. A recent meta analysis of four studies involving elderly patients found that those who adhered most closely to a Mediterranean style eating pattern had significantly less risk of becoming frail, an important measure of quality of life for older adults.”
The components of the diet are generally plant-based that give us ample vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory compounds, fiber, and good fats and carbohydrates. Long-term studies have shown lower rates of heart disease, diabetes, and a reduced risk of some cancers (breast, prostate, and colorectal).
“Encouraging research suggests that a Mediterranean pattern of eating may also have benefits for the brain. Several studies have linked the eating patterns to lower rates of depression, others notice a small but significantly lower risk of developing mild cognitive impairment and of progressing to Alzheimer’s disease.”
Source: Joyce Hendley. Mediterranean Diet: A delicious path to lifelong health. Eating Well Magazine.
According to David Sinclair, PhD in his recent book, Lifespan:Why We Age and Why We Don’t Have To, “Aging is a disease and that disease is treatable.” What if you could have some control over how many years you can live and live that life with reasonable health?
There is now a fascinating new surge in aging research and a lot of attention paid to the contribution of healthy lifestyles. According to Dr. Sinclair, professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School, the key is “activating newly discovered genes, the descendants of an ancient survival circuit that is both the cause of aging and the key to reversing it.” Sounds a little mystical? It makes a lot of sense (after reading the book). New ideas can change the way we think about aging and what we can do about it. Anyone who ages must read about these new concepts.
Spoiler Alert: From the article and study: Researchers estimated participants who didn’t follow any of the habits had a life expectancy at age 50 of 29 years for women and 25.5 years for men. Yet for those who did adopt these guidelines, after age 50 women could expect to live another 43.1 years, compared to 37.6 years on average for men. Ben Renner, Harvard Study: Adopting These 5 Healthy Habits can Add Decade To Your Life. Study Finds, June 16, 2018,
Intermittent fasting is also known as time-restricted eating, helps regulate the expression and activity of proteins and other cellular functions known to influence health and aging. In other words, it’s not so much of what you eat, but when you eat. The simple act of limiting food intake increases lifespan and reduces age-associated disorders such as diabetes and heart disease. This action may also boost our resistance to other diseases and ultimately help extend lifespan.
Rafel de Cabo, PhD and Mark P. Mattson, PhD. Effects of Intermittent Fasting on Health, Aging, and Disease. The New England Journal of Medicine, December 26, 2019.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting. Life Extension, February 2021
Diana Licalzi, MS, RD. How Intermittent Fasting Impacts Longevity: A Summary of the Research. October 23, 2020