Who Lives Longer? Why?

A flag concept of a dinner plate with the flag of France on it.

More lessons are to be learned from the French culture. They just keep giving and we (the U.S) just keep ignoring their clues reflected by their lower disease rates (some of the lowest on the globe).

For example, the cardiovascular disease rate: 86.89 deaths in U.S per 100,000 population; 43.25 in France. The obesity rates are much higher in the U.S. than in France. However the lower rates are climbing in France due to less adherence to their traditional diets and their higher intake of Westernized fast and processed foods.

The dietary lessons are relatively simple suggestions(in my opinion). The  French generally do not diet or snack. They enjoy food and eat sensibly when it comes to portions. There may be others that are more complex. Please check out the table and graph in the article.

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Blue Zones Cities USA

Dan Buettner’s groundbreaking ambitious Blue Zone project is beginning to transform American cities into Blue Zone cities  and has so far helped thousands of people lose weight, reverse disease, and increase life satisfaction by changing in part the way they eat, live, and connect.

The original Blue Zones areas helped shape these transformations. Practically speaking, Americans cannot be expected to eat the same foods as the Blue Zone inhabitants did. That would be impossible in the U.S. food environment. However, lots of lessons can be learned from their way of life that led them to longevity and health in their older years than anyone could have imagined. Get a brief glimpse of how one city (Ft. Worth, TX) transformed themselves into better health outcomes. Small changes can make a difference over time.

 

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Eating for Longevity and Good Health

THE BLUE ZONES

Source: The Blue Zones Solution: Eating and Living Like the World’s Healthiest People, Dan Buettner

What factors have led us to the Standard American Diet (SAD)?  What changed in the American food culture that led us to the current obesity/diabetes epidemics?

As we evolved, we as a species needed calories for survival purposes and our bodies developed many life-saving mechanisms to keep us from starvation. That worked very well for eons until our food environment changed dramatically. “Relatively recently in human history, refined starchy foods took the place of tubers and herbaceous plants in our diets. Sugar crept in. The quality and quantity of foods available changed drastically in the last few decades, with results at once triumphant and disastrous.” Page 153.

Primarily since the mid-20th century, “food science and government policy conspired to favor wheat, soybeans, sugar, and corn over other crops. The food processing industry devised ways to use them to create cheaper food products that could be replicated in factories around the world. According to the USDA, from 1970 to 2000, the number of calories the average American consumed jumped by about 530 calories a day, a 24.5 percent increase.” At the same time, we have managed to have engineered physical activity out of our daily lives. “Page 154.

Our lifestyles need to change to counteract these facts. A study of five “hot spots” on the globe of good health and longevity has shown us the way to become the most long-lived cultures and examples of good health in the later years. These include: Ikaria, Greece, Okinawa, Japan, Ogliastra region in Sardinia, Loma Linda, California, and Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rico, collectively called the Blue Zones. How do they live and more specifically what and how do they eat?

These are the “six powerful food practices” of the Blue Zone populations that are associated with longer, fuller lives.

Make breakfast or lunch the biggest meal of the day with a light, early dinner and most food is consumed before noon.   Most do not regularly make a habit of snacking and when they do, a piece of fruit or a handful of nuts is sufficient. An Israeli study found that dieting women who ate half of their daily calories at breakfast,  third at lunch and a seventh at dinner lost an average of 19 pounds in 12 weeks along with a drop in triglycerides, glucose, insulin and hormones that trigger hunger.

Cook at home. Always try to eat breakfast at home. Pack a lunch the night before. Prep ingredients for dinner in the morning and using a slow cooker can make dinner easy. Use Sundays to cook meals for the week and freeze for later use in the week.

Hari Hachi Bu. This saying is a 2500-year-old Confucian adage that reminds Okinawans to stop eating when they feel their stomach is 80% full.  Many people in Blue Zone American cities use the method of wearing a blue bracelet to remind them to use this tool. Wear the bracelet (does not have to be blue)  for six weeks as a reminder to be mindful of this practice that listens to inner signals innately found to detect hunger. After six weeks, it should be part of your eating patterns.

Fast Fasts. You can experience intermittent fasting every 24 hours by scheduling the time you eat to only 8 hours of the day. As best you can, try eating only two meals a day; a big late-morning brunch and second meal around 5 p.m. It is important to consult your doctor before any kind of fasting.  Avoid starvation diets as they may lead to binge-eating. When fasting, eat foods that are nutrient dense and provide plant or animal protein at each meal.

Eat with family and friends. A 2011 study found that children and adolescents who share family meals three or more times a week are more likely to be at a normal weight range than those who share fewer family meals together. Don’t eat alone, standing up, when driving. If you eat alone, avoid reading, watching TV or using your phone – all leads to mindless eating.

Celebrate and enjoy food.  From Buettner: “pick one day of the week and make it your day to splurge on a meal with your favorite foods. The Blue Zone centenarians primarily eat a plant-based diet, but they don’t give up that slice of birthday cake.”  Some are vegetarians; others are not.  Deprivation and restriction can lead to binge-eating.

A new cookbook is now available that is beautifully illustrated with the people and food of the Blue Zones.  Find it at Amazon or Barnes and Noble – The Blue Zones Kitchen: 100 Recipes to Live to 100, Dan Buettner, 2019.

 

Eat Like the French?

Eat Like the French?

To safeguard one’s health at the cost of too strict a diet is a tiresome illness indeed.

Francois Duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680)

French writer and moralist

To say the French know their food is an understatement. Even their children are aware of the gourmand cuisine – they have two-hour multi course lunches in schools and the presentation and preparation of the food becomes a normal part of their education.

A lot of attention was paid to the French way of eating due to what became known as the “French Paradox”.  Consider these facts:

The French diet is high in saturated fat compared to the American diet. The good cholesterol (HDL) and high blood pressure rates are about the same as they are in North America; however, the total serum cholesterol levels are higher in the French population. Their smoking rates are relatively high which is a risk factor for heart disease.

So, all things considered, the French should have a lot more heart attacks than the U.S. population with our obsession with cholesterol and smoking cessation efforts. But quite the opposite is true. Compared with North Americans, the French are far less likely to die of heart disease with reports of death rates that are among the lowest in the world – second only to Japan. Also their rates of colon and prostate cancers are roughly 30 and 60 percent lower, respectively, than those in the U.S.  That’s the paradox!!

Another part of the puzzle is that the French are leaner.  In 2010, their obesity rate was 17% whereas in America in 2015 it is close to 39.8% and counting. The French are reported to live longer on average – French men by about a year and French women by two and one-half years. Is it genetics? Probably not much  – when the French move to Montreal and begin to consume a more Western diet, they get “fatter” and their heart disease rates begin to resemble that of North America.

The Traditional French Diet At A Glance: Surprisingly Simple in Form with no tricks or gimmicks

  • Moderate drinking – one to two drink a day defined.
  • Lots of fruits and vegetables (35 to 38 percent of total calories) or on average four or more servings of vegetables a day.
  • No snacking or dieting – this is astounding! Compare to the typical American with our vast snack aisles in the supermarket and our obsession with diets (fad and otherwise).

Source:  30 Secrets of the World’s Healthiest Cuisines, Steven Jonas, MD and Sandra Gordon

How do they stay so slender?

Their food is nutrient dense. They emphasize quality over quantity.

Eating is mindful at each meal. They pay close attention to the type of foods they eat.

They don’t eat in a hurry or when stressed or in front of the TV.

They see food as a ritual with accompanying wine, family or friends, laughter and reverence of the food quality.

 They enjoy market trips and understand where their food comes from. They favor seasonal, local foods.

“Sinfully delicious” is a ridiculous oxymoron in French culture. They eat without guilt.

They adhere to traditional dietary guidelines and eat a wide variety of foods. The children eat what is given them. Most French parents would never give their children the option of a hot dog instead of eating “grownup foods.”

The French don’t count pounds or calories or step on the scale each morning. Instead they are mindful of how their clothes fit – using the “zipper syndrome” or a tape measure. When clothes feel tight – they will simply cut back on high caloric dense foods or have a lighter dinner.

They are aware that yo-yo and crash dieting ruins their metabolism since the body senses a period of starvation and then burns calories more slowly to conserve energy.

They don’t eat “fake” foods – they stick to butter instead of using canola oil sprays, e.g.

They appreciate the art of cooking (remember Julia Child?)

We think we know a lot about nutrition science, but we may sadly be kidding ourselves. We can learn a lot from other cultures and their traditional ways as exemplified by the French experience and the following known the Roseto Effect.

“A remarkable discovery by physician Stewart Wolf found a strikingly low incidence of heart disease and deaths from heart attacks, spanning three generations, in a small Italian immigrant community in Roseto, Pennsylvania and was reported in the early 1990s.

It was a astonishing discovery that it wasn’t their diet that was protecting their heart health. To the contrary, Rosetons embraced westernized foods and cooking, at the expense of their Italian-Mediterranean culinary roots. For example, they:

  • Shunned olive oil, and used lard instead, as the main fat for cooking.
  • Dipped their bread in a lard-based gravy, rather than olive oil.
  • Ate an Italian ham, including its one-inch rim of fat.
  • The average Roseton diet was high in fat, containing 41% of calories from fat.

The distinguishing protector of their heart health and longevity was found to be social cohesion and social support.

—once again as with the French, effect of positive emotional experiences can have a greater impact on health than which foods people actually eat.”

Source: Evelyn Tribole, M.S., R.D. and Elyse Resch, M.S., R.D., F.A.D.A., C.E.D.R.D. Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works. Page 201.

My opinion: We find this same phenomenon in the study of the Blue Zones cultures where lifestyle patterns appear to affect the longevity and health of these populations. We need to rethink how we diet and learn to maintain our weight losses.  From my experiences, it may be prudent to begin to seriously investigate the role that mindfulness and intuitive eating has on our food intake and body weight maintenance.

How Did We Get From There to Here?

 

 

 

 

A DIET HISTORY TIMELINE

1825 A French lawyer named Brillant-Savarin said in a publication entitled The Physiology of Taste: “More or less rigid abstinence from everything that is starchy or floury” is a cure for obesity.

1830 Sugar consumption, mainly as molasses) had increased in the U.S. to 15 pounds per capita.

1863 William Banting lost 65 pounds on a high fat, carbohydrate restricted diet and subsequently published, Letter on Corpulence, Addressed to the Public. He based his success on the advice of his physician, Dr. William Harvey.

1900 Lillian Russell, a stage actress and singer born in 1861. was repeatedly mentioned known as one of the most beautiful women on the American stage.” At the peak of her fame, Russel weighed approximately 200 pounds and was celebrated for her curvaceous figure. She was described ” a particularly robust and healthy creature, who takes good care to remain so.” By today’s standards, her weight would be classified as “obese”.

1911 Proctor and Gamble introduced Crisco – a highly hydrogenated vegetable fat and cheap alternative to lard – the primary cooking fat at the time. The advantage to the manufacturer and the cook was a longer shelf life but provided a multitude of hundreds of pounds of unhealthy trans fatty acids. Now trans fats are banned.

1913 The twenty-seventh President of the United States, William Howard Taft reportedly was stuck in the White House bathtub due to his massive girth.

1918 Lulu Hunt Peters, an American doctor wrote the first known diet book, Diet and Health with a Key to the Calories. It was a best seller with over 2 million copies sold. She was the first to mention that cutting calories was an effective weight-watching tool. Her success was more than likely prompted by the new body image of women as being slender, or “thin was in”.

1920 Sugar consumption reaches 100 pounds per capita in the U.S.1930 Margarine consumption reaches 2.6 pounds per capita.

1934 A blood test for cholesterol was developed.

1937 – The Debate Begins (aka What’s going on here?) Columbia University biochemists David Rittenberg & Rudolph Schoenheimer demonstrated that dietary cholesterol had little or no influence on blood cholesterol. This scientific fact has never been refuted.

“Cholesterol in food has no affect on cholesterol in blood and we’ve known that all along.”  These are the words of Professor Ancel Keys, American Heart Association board member and author of The Seven Countries Study who, in retirement, recanted the idea that dietary cholesterol raises blood levels. His recant has been greeted with silence. Keys studied 22 countries, but chose data from only seven.  He also excluded France with high fat and low rates of heart disease. Due to this, his observational study was considered to be flawed.

1950 – 1955 Dietary emphasis on fats and cholesterol in the diet became a hot topic based on  Ancel Key’s flawed study.

1955 – President  Dwight Eisenhower had a heart attack.  His twice-daily press conferences focused on his cholesterol levels and he was put on a low fat diet by his physician, Dr. Paul Dudley White.  Dietary fat also became the villain for weight gain.

1957 Margarine outsold butter for the first time – more trans fat and an increase in omega-6 fats shown to be inflammatory to the body tissues.

1961 Let the Diet Books Begin. Calories Don’t Count was published by Dr. Herman Taller.  The low-calorie diet is a humbug, he declared. He was also a dieter whose weight ballooned up to 265 lb. on a 5-ft. 10-in. frame. Taller recommended a high-fat diet supplemented by polyunsaturated safflower oil capsules high in omega-6 linoleic acid.  Back in the 1960’s vegetable fats were new and everyone wanted them to be a new health food.  This has not been supported in the last 50 years of research. The American Heart Association adopted the well-known low-fat diet that began an era of fat maligning and the glorification of low fat foods.  Dieters began to count fat grams daily.  However, during our national experiment with a low-fat diet, people continued to pile on the pounds every decade.

1978 High fructose corn syrup enters the sweetener market. By 1985, 50 percent of the this sweetener was consumed in America.

1980 -1990 Obesity levels had remained between 12-14 percent from 1960 to 1980. After 1980 and then again in 1990, obesity grew dramatically until today when every state has obesity rates over 25 percent.  Type 2 diabetes is now reported to have a 1 in 3 lifetime risk.

1992 The Food Guide Pyramid was introduced, recommending 6-11 servings of breads, cereals, rice, or pasta a day without mentioning whole grain options.

2000 Soybean oil has 70 percent of the edible fat market in the U.S.  Lard consumption is less than 1 pound.  Sugar cons0umption in the U.S. 150 pounds per capita. Butter consumption is less than 4 pounds per capita

2004 After 50 years of Egg-beaters, low fat cheese, margarine, skinless chicken breasts, and highly processed soy and canola oils, two Food Guide Pyramids and 11 releases of the USDA Dietary Guidelines,  one third of Americans are obese; 25 percent are diabetic or pre-diabetic.

2008 Sugar consumption is now 160 pounds per capita. Compare that to the 15 pounds per capita in 1830.

2011 No More Pyramids A simplified MyPlate is introduced as the latest attempt at Food Guides. My Plate recommended 30% of the plate as grains, 30% vegetables, 20% fruit and 20% protein. A small circle represents dairy.

2015-16   The 2015 Dietary Guidelines were presented with little changes based on the latest research. Here is what they said and what they should have said.This is a big change  For the first time, our national health authorities are urging Americans to limit sugar to no more than 10% of daily calories. In a 2,000-calorie diet, 10% is 200 calories—the equivalent of about 12½ teaspoons of sugar. Yet we average 20 teaspoons a day. Based on scientific evidence that’s been accumulating for decades, dietary cholesterol (as opposed to blood cholesterol) just isn’t any concern anymore. For the first time, there is no limit on total fat. However, the advice to limit saturated fat is still in there—even though the evidence that saturated fat leads to heart disease has turned out to be pretty weak. An original report associated with the new guidelines called for cutting back on red meat, especially processed meat, but the final official guidelines due to the lobbying of the meat industry wanted its message weakened.

2010-2020 The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a landmark report that has turned current fat recommendations upside down. The verdict from the study is that “there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk for heart disease. ’Over the same period, the use of drugs to treat high blood pressure and high cholesterol increased quite a bit. Meat consumption has been declining for the past few decades..

In the last decade the prevalence of Type 2 diabetes has increased by almost a percentage point. Over the same period, obesity has increased by three percentage points. If that trend continues, heart disease rates may again rise. Unless we have been infected by a yet to be discovered obesity virus, we have a national eating disorder that needs to be fixed.

MY OPINION

Big food has made quite a mess of our food supply. Is saturated fat the culprit it was made out to be?  Can excess refined vegetable oils, sugar or fructose be  blamed?

Will our food culture ever be able to return to a diet of whole, real foods to replace the refined, processed, chemical-laden foods forced upon us by the food industry? The debate continues and we will see what trends are coming with the advent of the new Dietary Guidelines due in 2020. We should also hope that these guidelines are not encumbered by the influences of the food industry – but don’t count on it.

 

 

Living in Our Diet Culture

 

Lately I have begun to read the  experiences of primarily women who have lived the diet culture. Most of  their accounts are heart-breaking and present to other young women a glimpse into the world of weight loss. Many never recover and their dieting habits continue throughout life.

This particular account caught my attention since she is only 22 years old and already understands and seems to have realized the dieting activities all too well. I thank her for her input.

Just in case you’re a little rusty in metrics, In the article, she states at age 13 her weight and height as 70 kg (154 lbs) and her height in cm. as 1.67 cm (around 5’5″). This weight/height results in a Body Mass Index of 25.6 (just at the cutoff for the normal weight category but hardly overweight (in the article she states a few pounds overweight)

The article makes some excellent points:

Women have a tough time meeting the standards of body image in our society and often find it nearly impossible- we are always about 5 pounds overweight or 5 pounds underweight, never perfect and either judged by others or ourselves.

Many dieters self-report binge-eating which is common among people who attempt to follow a restrictive diet and also may suggest incidences of a sort of food addiction syndrome. There is an established binge-eating disorder  characterized by the following:

  • Rapid consumption of extremely large amounts of food (several thousand calories) in a short period of time.
  • Two or more such episodes of binge-eating per week over a period of six months.
  • Eating in secret.
  • Lack of control over eating or an inability to stop eating during a binge.
  • Post-binge-eating feelings of self-hatred, guilt, depression or disgust.
  • Eating until uncomfortably full.

It is estimated that 10-15% of people enrolled in commercial weight-loss programs suffer from this disorder.

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