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.

Got Milk?

“Indeed, the already booming nut-milk industry is projected to see continuous growth. Much of this is driven by beliefs about health, with ads claiming “dairy free” as a virtue that resonates for nebulous reasons—many stemming from an earlier scare over saturated fat—among consumers lactose intolerant and tolerant alike.”

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Various fresh dairy products on wooden background

Does Diet Affect our Risk of Chronic Disease?

Chronic inflammation and oxidative stress are conditions that are strongly related to the development of heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer and other diseases leading to disabilities and death in the U.S. today. The following are types of foods that increase inflammation: oxidative stress, or both.

Decreased: Colorful fruits and vegetables, dried beans, whole grain, fish and seafood, red wines, dark chocolate, olive oil, nuts, coffee.

Increased: Processed and high-fat meats, high-fat dairy products, baked products, snack foods with trans fats, soft drinks, other high-sugar beverages.

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Dash For the Dash?

“The prevalence and severity of today’s hypertension crisis cannot be overstated. Too many people over ages 65 and 75 have dangerously elevated systolic blood pressure. On the basis of the available evidence, we can roughly estimate years of life lost attributable to hypertension. From the data we were able to collect and analyze, we estimate that approximately 37,712,740 years of life may have been lost between 1980 and 2014 due to hypertension as an underlying cause in adults aged 45 to 85+ years.”

Source: Add Five More Years with One Therapy, Life Extension, The Science of a Healthier Life”. Executive Summary, 2021

Blood pressure has typically been measured by a doctor visit and if needed, the patient is given at least one (or two) prescriptions for lowering your blood pressure if necessary)(like a diuretic, e.g.) These drugs have served us fairly well in blood pressure control; however, one therapy is hardly mentioned as part of prevention or treatment along with the proper drug therapy, that if followed could enhance this goal.

That would be a diet that has been tested by research and shows up in the popular media as the second most popular diet known as the DASH Diet (Dietary Approach to STOP Hypertension not only for weight control but for blood pressure control also. In the list below, hypertensive disease ranked third as the top underlying medical conditions linked with COVID-19 deaths often associated with a more severe infection.

The following are the top underlying medical conditions linked with COVID-19 deaths.

* Influenza and pneumonia

* Respiratory failure

* Hypertensive disease

*  Diabetes

* Vascular and unspecified dementia

* Cardiac Arrest

* Heart failure

* Renal failure

* Intentional and unintentional injury, poisoning and other adverse events

* Other medical conditions

For more on the DASH CLICK HERE.

Turmeric/Curcumin: The Facts

Turmeric is a spice that has long been recognized for its medicinal properties and has received interest from both the medical/scientific community and as well from culinary enthusiasts as it is the major source of the polyphenol, curcumin (a phytochemical).

It aids in the management of oxidative and inflammatory conditions, metabolic syndrome, arthritis, anxiety, and hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol).

In addition, a relatively low dose can provide health benefits for healthy people. Its drawback is its problem with poor absorption; therefore, it should be used with foods to enhance this issue. Some supplements contain compounds known to increase absorption – one is a component of black pepper.

Turmeric is a staple in India, where most of it originates. It is the spice that gives food its flavor color. It is use in curries and is especially good on scrambled eggs and omelettes. It can be used as a supplement, but it’s best as a food since curcumin is only one of a family of what is called curcuminoids that may also contain beneficial components.

Turmeric is known for alleviating arthritis and joint inflammation. In one study, it was found to be virtually as effective as an anti-inflammatory medicine (without the side effects). Curcumin has been claimed to be a cancer fighter. There are at least 30 published studies that indicate that it has an anti-tumor effect that reduced the number or size of tumors in animal studies. One study in 2006 found that it inhibited the growth of human colon cancer cells (cell culture study, I presume).

Curcumin lowers cholesterol in animals and humans suggesting it may be heart healthy. Other studies have shown antioxidant capabilities. In a rat study, a group of rats treated with curcumin provided significant protection from cataracts (Induced by a powerful oxidizing chemical.)

For more on this fascinating spice,

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Snacking and the Dietary Guidelines

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?

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UNHEALTHY PROCESSED FOOD AND SNACKS CAN LEAD TO OBESITY

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

Cancer, Diet and Lifestyle

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.

DIET MODIFICATIONS

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

Working for an extension of a Healthy Lifespan