OBESITY AND COVID?

“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.

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Marion Nestle in Let’s Ask Marion: What you need to know about politics of Food, Nutrition and Health. 2020..

Looking for a New Resolution?

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

Whole Grains

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.

Metabolic Syndrome

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% .

Alzheimer’s Disease

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.

Cancer

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.

 Longevity

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.

Diet and Longevity

Can our Lifestyles Slow Down the Clock?

Our bodies are constantly creating new cells through cell division.  Unfortunately, the cells become “old’ and reach a state called senescence where they no longer replicate themselves.

The old cells do not die but linger in the body systems causing damage and inflammation to healthy cells.

But, during cell division, structures called telomeres (stretches of DNA protein) come into play. They are likened to the plastic tips at the end of shoelaces that prevent fraying. The are located at the ends of chromosomes (genes) to protect and keep cells stable. However, every time a cell divides, the telomeres shorten slightly. The length of telomeres and the rate at which they shorten have been linked to aging. An enzyme called telomerase is often referred to as “anti-aging helps maintain the telomeres, helping to keep them long.

Studies at this point have suggested that various nutrients could possibly influence the expression of a particular gene (TERT) that is linked with telomerase activity. These included genistein found in soy and broccoli; EGCG, a polyphenol in green and black tea, sulforophane found in vegetables such as cauliflower, kale, and collard greens. Data from the Nurses Health Study indicated that intake of dietary fiber was linked to longer telomeres in middle-aged and older women. But research is limited at this point and should be further investigated.

An interesting study indicates that telomere length is connected to the amount of soda we consume. Sugar sweetened beverages are thought to be a major contributor of sugar in the U.S. diet.

In 2024, researchers looked at a group of people who regularly consumed 20 ounces or more of soda daily. The study was published in the American Journal of Public Health, reported that the soda drinkers’ telomeres shortened much more quickly than the norm – the equivalent of more than four and a half years in addition to the normal aging that would occur over the course of a year. This is not good news.

The researchers had included only healthy adults with no history of diabetes or cardiovascular disease in their study. The potential connections with metabolic disease are fascinating.

Consider, for instance, that obesity is also associated with reduced telomere length – even for children. The authors of the study of course recommended that further research be done to examine any reasonable associations with dietary factors and telomere length.

  Source: Findlayson, Judith. You Are What Your  Grandparents Ate. Page 228, 2019. 

The New Food Culture? Plant-based Diets

“So many people are confused about food; the eating plan of the moment changes and suddenly there are new rules to follow. But with plant-based eating, there is [more] freedom to eat what you want.” —Cassidy Gundersen, holistic nutritionist.

This article is quite long but worth reading to reflect on what type of food culture may be waiting for the future. Interesting topic!!

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More About Garlic?

I am not a promoter of supplements except in situations when you don’t want to smell like a raw garlic bulb every day.

More Good News for Garlic Lovers

Editors Note: Metabolic syndrome is becoming a marker for good health especially in the older population; however its presence can occur even in younger people. It is diagnosed as having three of the following disorders: high triglycerides, high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar and low levels of HDL cholesterol. These disorders collectively are thought to contribute to a higher risk of developing diabetes and/or heart disease

A randomized clinical trial included 90 men and women with metabolic syndrome were supplemented with tablets containing 1600 mg of garlic powder daily for three months, or a placebo.

Garlic supplementation Improves metabolic syndrome. Phytother Res. 2021, May 11.

In the garlic group, results were as follows:

All parameters were reduced along with appetite, fatty liver index,and waist circumference. Additionally,  beneficial HDL cholesterol was significantly higher than at the beginning of the study compared to the placebo group. 

The Power of Plant-Based Nutrients. Life Extension, October, 2021.

“Then, there is cancer. Compounds in garlic have been shown in many laboratory studies to be chemoprotecive. Epidemiological studies shows a decreased risk in stomach and colon cancer in areas where consumption of garlic is high. An article In the Journal of Nutrition stated that “evidence continues to point to the anticancer properties of fresh garlic extracts, aged garlic, garlic oil.”

Source: Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., CNS. The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth. 2007.

The Effects of Food on our Mind and Body

Does food affect our minds and bodies? According to a new self-imposed study, it sure does. The article is interesting and makes one wonder how different behaviors would be if more people were aware of this and changed their diets to a healthier approach.

In America today, even when food is abundant, fast-paced lifestyle and poor food choices made available through modern technology can contribute to a diet that contains too much of some nutrients and too little of others.

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A Day in the Life of the Standard American Diet (SAD)

Our Health is Declining.

The statistics are alarming. In 1960, one person in a hundred had diabetes, today it’s one in eight. It is now predicted that by 2050, one person in three will suffer from the condition if the trend continues. Even worse, 70 percent of people who get diabetes will develop heart disease.

So much of the time we hear about our Standard American Diet or SAD Diet. And a sad diet it is. I have borrowed a description of a fictional victim of our food culture from an interesting book titled: The End of Alzheimer”s: the First Program to Prevent and Reverse Cognitive Decline by Dale E Bredesen, MD, MSL, Professor and Founding President, Buck Institute, Professor, UCLA. Quotes cited by Dr. Bredesen.

 Our fictional consumer begins early in the morning as “ he grabs a typical America breakfast – a sweet roll or doughnut, a large glass of orange juice, a big slug of low-fat  milk in his coffee.” His high refined carbohydrate diet sets him up immediately toward insulin resistance with an increased stress level brought about by the “stress hormone, cortisol.

Cortisol is a steroid hormone that is produced by the adrenal glands, which sit on top of each kidney. When released into the bloodstream, cortisol can act on many different parts of the body and can help:

  • the body respond to stress or danger
  • increase the body’s metabolism of glucose
  • control blood pressure
  • reduce inflammation

Cortisol is also needed for the fight or flight response, which is a healthy, natural response to perceived threats. The amount of cortisol produced is highly regulated by your body to ensure the balance is correct.

In order to prevent gastric reflux, he takes his daily proton pump supplement after he swallows his statin his doctor prescribes to prevent a rise in his  cholesterol and heart disease risk.

“When his blood sugar crashes around mid-day, he visits the office pantry, where a colleague has left a thoughtful box of chocolate chip muffins.” But he realizes that it’s almost time for lunch, so he proudly skips the muffins, declaring he’s starting to eat “healthy.”

“There’s no time for much of anything except a sandwich from the deli on refined white bread and spongy saline-injected turkey with hormones and full of antibiotics or how about a mercury-laden tuna sandwich. Either way he can wash it all down with a diet soda.”

“Sugar from the candy machine has helped to fuel his  “exercise today ( and every day) – who has time to get up and move around frequently? Finally, it’s time to hit the freeway, so he grabs a bag of Doritos to snack on to get him home. “He is soon heading home while screaming at the idiot riding his brakes in front of us, keeping his blood pressure up and making his blood-brain barrier as porous as the colander we plan to use for tonight’s gluten -filled pasta dinner.” Bredesen, M.D 2017.

“On second thought, he thinks he prefers something from the drive-thru. Start with large fries loaded with trans fats, oxidized reheated oils with little vitamin E .” Add the burger from corn and not grass-fed beef, high in omega-6 fats and low in omega-3s, slathered in high-fructose corn syrup ketchup, on a bun packed with gluten.” Now he has had a perfect inflammatory day. No wonder so many of the conditions that increase our risk of chronic disease (cardio, brain health, diabetes, and obesity) are becoming so prevalent even at younger ages). Are they the result of what we eat and exercise.” Research is beginning to say “yes”. Bredesen, 2017.

Dr. Robert H. Lustig MD writes in his current book, Metabolical: The Lure and the Lies of Processed Food, Nutrition, and Modern Medicine, “Are Americans healthier? Do we enjoy better healthcare? Do we live longer? The answer is an unequivocal and emphatic no. Americans have the worst health outcomes of any country in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD); the thirty – seven richest countries.  Americans have the worst rating of the developed countries of the world: #1 in diabetes, #2 in Alzheimer’s disease, #5 in cancer, and #6 in cardiovascular disease (CVD)”

“No doubt, of all the OECD countries, the U.S. is the sickest along with expensive drugs and expensive doctors. Lustig says: “America spends the most but gets the least.”

“The holy grail of Modern Medicine is you can’t fix healthcare until you fix health; and you can’t fix health until you fix the food. Everyone is talking about healthcare, few people are talking about health, and nobody is talking about food.” Lustig, Metabolical, 2021., p 25.   

Isn’t that a novel idea?  “What can you do today? You have the vote in the form of not only a ballot box but with your fork.”

The next wave of the food revolution is long overdue. We have to make food a voting issue” Robert H. Lustig, MD 2021, page 375. Food, Facts and Fads agrees. (SJF)

THE STANDARD AMERICAN DIET (SAD)