Adding more olive oil to your diet may help prevent an early death.
A recent study from the researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health was published online Jan. 10, 2022 by the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Data from 90,000 men and women, free of cardiovascular disease and cancer were asked to complete a dietary questionnaire every four years. At the end of the data collecting, 36,856 of the participants had died.
From the diet questionnaires, it was found that those who routinely consumed the most olive oil – averaging more than one half a tablespoon a day – had the lowest risk of dying during the 28 – year old follow-up period compared with people who rarely or never consumed olive oil.
Olive oil consumers had :
A 19% lower overall risk of death
A 19% lower risk of cardiovascular disease
A 17% lower risk of cancer-related disease
A 29% lower risk of death related to a neurodegenerative condition
A 18% lower risk of death related to a respiratory disease
This may explain why olive oil as a major component of the Mediterranean diet has consistently shown health benefits in numerous studies. The results also suggest that when used as a substitute for products containing animal fat such as butter, we see the same healthy benefits. Bon appetit!!
“The DASH Diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) has generally come in right near the top in U.S. News and World Report’s annual best diet rankings.” Mark Bittman, David L.Katz, M.D. How to Eat: All Your Food and Diet Questions Answered. 2020.
Probiotics and or prebiotics seem to be the hot new nutrition topic. Every supplement company and the yogurt industry is offering their own proprietary probiotic guaranteed to “fix “your microbiome. We don’t know why we have “sick” microbes, but we often do. Processed foods can be suspect – antibiotics, artificial sweeteners, emulsifiers, hormones, preservatives for long shelf lives are not ideal environments for keeping them healthy and happy. Just read an ingredient label and you will find a plethora of other candidates.
Species of bacteria found in Culturelle: Lactobacillus rhamnosus plus inulin (a prebiotic – not an bacteria)
Species of bacteria found in Align: Bifidobacterium longum
Also can find species on most yogurt products.
Warning; These products are quite expensive and as all dietary supplements have not met any regulation standards from the FDA. Please consult your physician before taking any probiotic or any other dietary supplement. Often, they are not what they claim.
Michael Pollan started it – “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants”. In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto and The Omnivore’s Dilemma.
Many people are taking more of an interest in plant-based diets. People are switching for various reasons – weight control, sustainability, the environment in general, health reasons, media hype. Food companies load their products fortified with grams and grams of protein in order to “make up” for an alleged protein deficit – however, there are plenty of non-meat sources of protein found in plant foods. Most Americans get enough protein. “Protein is not the key for weight loss and animal protein is not the healthiest food we can eat. Carbs are not the enemy – they are a source of energy, and are staples in the diets of the longest-living people in the world.” Garth Davis, M.D. Proteinaholic: How Our Obsession with Meat is Killing Us and What We Can Do About It. 2015
High amounts of protein are not needed by most consumers unless there is a medical reason. The adult RDA or Daily Value is about 50 grams for most adults. That amount can be found in only 3-4 ounces of most meats – or a portion about the size of a deck of cards.
People have tried a number of diets – Paleo and Keto are of the low carb genre resulting in high protein and high fat diets. Since then, weight gain has taken over with an obesity rate higher than ever along with its companion- diabetes type 2.
Michael Pollan refers to the American diet as ‘the “American paradox” – the more we worry about nutrition, the less healthy we seem to become”.
Fat is a key nutrient in our diet and is often the first thing you may note on a food label. Most foods contain a mixture of many different types of fat: the commonest are saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and trans fats. Polyunsaturated fats are divided into two major families: omega-6 and omega-3’s. Are some good and some bad.? This conundrum is often debated among nutritionists and still a definitive answer remains elusive.
What exactly are the omega-6 and omega 3 fats?
We have to begin with the polyunsaturated essential fatty acids, linoleic (omega-6) (LA) and alpha linolenic acids (omega-three) (ALA). They are called essential because they cannot be made in the body and must be acquired from the diet.
Linoleic acid (LA) is required for growth, healthy skin and normal functioning of the reproductive system and is a structural part of cell membranes. Foods high in omega 6 fats include unhealthy foods like processed snacks, fast foods, cakes, fatty meats, and cured meats. Other omega 6 foods are healthy including tofu, walnuts, and peanut butter. They are also prevalent in vegetable oils, like corn oil, safflower, sunflower and soybean oils. Linoleic acid is converted in the body to another fatty acid called arachidonic acid (AA). Food sources of AA include meat, poultry, and eggs. The adequate daily intake (AI) for omega 6 foods is 17000 mg per day.
Alpha linolenic acid (ALA) is also a structural compound of cell membranes and found in high amounts in the brain. Alpha linolenic acid is found in walnuts, dark, leafy green vegetables, flaxseed and chia seeds, canola and soybean oils.
ALA is converted in the body to two more fatty acids called eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosapentaenoic acid (DHA) which is what you find on fish oil supplement labels. This conversion rate of ALA to EPA can be slow and may depend on many factors, one being the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids.
EPA and DHA are found in fish, krill, and algae oil capsules as well as in fatty fish like salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel, herring and trout. The AI for omega-3 fatty acids is 1.6 grams (men) and 1.1 g (women).
Arachidonic acid and EPAare necessary for making hormone-like compounds called eicosanoids, hormone-like compounds that participate in regulation of blood pressure, blood clotting, inflammation, and a host of other important body functions.
So, the major players so far are: LA, ALA, AA, EPA, and DHA.
What is the omega-6/omega-3 ratio?
It is not enough to consume adequate levels of omega-3 fats but to avoid over-consumption of omega-6 fatty acids. Most modern diets contain excessive amounts of omega-6s and insufficient amounts of omega-3s. Americans regularly eat vegetable oils but eat fish infrequently, so we end up in the SAD with many more omega-6s and fewer omega-3s. i
The optimal 6 to 3 ratio approaches 4:1 that may be difficult for some people in our current food environment to achieve, so we try for 4:1 in hopes of realistically attaining less than 10:1. On average in the U.S., the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is a disastrous 16:1. Soybean oil, an omega-6 is so ubiquitous in the food supply that an astounding percent of calories from fat in the American diet (especially processed foods) are estimated to come from this single omega-6 source.
How Do Eicosanoids Affect Health?
Omega-6 fatty acids produce eicosanoids that tend to favor higher blood pressure, more blood clotting, and inflammatory compounds in the body. They are often referred to as “bad” eicosanoids.
Omega-3 fatty acids produce eicosanoids with opposing healthier effects, i.e., lower blood pressure, less blood clotting, and anti-inflammatory effects. They are often referred to a “good” eicosanoids.
Eicosanoids from omega-3 EPA can diminish the effects of the “bad” eicosanoids by producing opposing compounds that will help tip the ratio back to a more favorable eicosanoid environment in the cell.
Another way to improve the fatty acid ratio is to help block excess arachidonic acid formation. By making sure your body has an adequate amount of EPA that acts as an inhibitor of the enzyme that can produces the “bad” eicosanoids. The higher the EPA in the diet, the more the enzyme is inhibited, and the less “bad” eicosanoids are produced.
The problem with vegetable oils
“Vegetable oils that turn rancid easily have been used since lard was designated as having a high saturated fat content when the low-fat craze to prevent heart disease was in full swing. The troubled history of these oils has never been resolved. In a series of workshops in the 1980’s, it was observed that using diets high in soybean oil showed subjects dying of cancer at very high rates. Gallstones were also associated with diets high in vegetable oils. Subsequent research demonstrated that these oils that are high in omega-6, compete with the healthier omega-3’s found in fish virtually at important spots in every cell membrane throughout the body, including those in the brain.” (Nina Teicholz, The Big Fat Surprise).
The vast amount of omega-6 that has entered our food supply via vegetable oils appear to have literally swamped the omega-3’s (the supply of which has remained relatively constant over the past century. (Teicholz, page 275-6). Conversely, the American Heart Association encourages Americans to eat more vegetable oils due to their ability to lower LDL-cholesterol (the bad cholesterol.)
Nonetheless, excessive intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids, including omega-3 and omega-6, has several risks. The double bonds in the fatty acid molecules are very reactive. They tend to react with oxygen, forming chain reactions of free radicals. These free radicals can cause cell damage, which is one of the mechanisms behind aging and the onset of cancer.
If you want to improve your ratio of omega-6 to omega-3, it’s probably a bad idea to eat a lot of omega-3 to compensate. Having a relatively low, balanced amount of each is best. Using olive oil in salad dressings and coconut oil for cooking is recommended. Olive oil contains monounsaturated fat and coconut oil is more stable since it has more saturated fat content. Neither are part of the omega-6 or omega-3 families.
What to Take Away from all this:
Linoleic acid (LA), an omega-6 fatty acid, and α-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid, are considered essential fatty acids because they cannot be made in the body by humans.
Both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are important structural components of cell membranes, serve as precursors to eicosanoids and provide a source of energy. Long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in particular exert anti-inflammatory effects; it is recommended to increase their presence in the diet.
The long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), can be synthesized from ALA, but due to low conversion efficiency, it is recommended to consume foods rich in EPA and DHA or consume fewer omega-6 foods.
Some but not all observational studies using supplements have found fish intake to be associated with lower risks of cognitive deterioration and Alzheimer’s disease, but it is not yet clear whether supplementation with marine-derived omega-3 PUFA can help prevent cognitive decline. There is a great need for intervention studies, especially with DHA to determine if improvements in brain health will occur. The Rancho Bernardo Study of Healthy Aging found a protective effect of DHA from diet on various aspects of cognitive decline and/or dementia.
Best to cut down on omega-6 foods (processed and junk foods), add a couple of fish meals a week, use olive oil for salads, coconut oil for cooking.
Top 10 Foods with the Highest Omega 3 to Omega 6 Ratio
Ratio of Three to Six
Snow crab (3 oz)
Atlantic cod (6 oz)
Tuna (6 oz)
Mussels (3 oz)
Broccoli Rabe (1 cup)
Spinach (1 cup)
Flax seeds (1 oz)
Mangos (1 cup)
Lettuce (1 cup)
Kidney beans (1 cup)
Judith E. Brown. Nutrition Now Seventh Edition, 2013.
“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!!
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.
“Most people try to do the best they can, given their circumstances,” Nestle adds, but there are lots of factors that shape our eating habits: “Education is an issue, but so is relentless food marketing.”
“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.