The Blue Zones: A Short Course

Dan Beuttner has gathered some of the top scientists in the world to study these remarkable places called the Blue Zones  where many people live to 100 years or more. They not only live long, healthy lives, but serve as teachers to the rest of us on a series of “food rituals’ ‘ that along with other healthy lifestyle factors contribute to this scenario. 

In our evolutionary history, we as hunter-gatherers lived at a time where we sought calorie-loaded foods in order to simply survive. Needless, to say, many of us don’t have this added stress to simply feed our families. On the other hand, many of us in the world today are living in a time when obesity is now called a pandemic and we are faced with the possibility of dying from abundance and not scarcity. We refer to our food choices as part of a conglomerate of industries referred to as big Ag, big Food the Standard American Diet or more realistically as the SAD diet. 

What Can We Learn and How? 

Centenarians in the Blue Zones follow daily rituals around food and meals that help them stay on course – practicing them in your own lives are the keys to longevity. Here is a brief guideline. 

 MAKE BREAKFAST THE LARGEST MEAL OF THE DAY. 

“Include complex carbohydrates, healthy fats and plant or animal protein. 

Expand your choices beyond cereal or eggs. In certain Blue Zone countries, some include beans, tortillas, miso soup.”

COOK YOUR MEALS AT HOME. 

Plan and prep ingredients for dinner in the morning. Use your slow cooker often, so dinner cooks all day and is ready for you late afternoon. 

HARI HACHI BU 

Plan to stop eating when you’re close to 80% full, based on a 2500 year old Confucian adage and practiced by the Okinawans. “ Try saying it before a meal by simply pausing for a moment of silence or saying thanks is a way to recognize the appreciation of your food. 

FAST FASTS 

“Recent evidence shows that fasting, even for a day, can recalibrate insulin release, temporarily lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol. Research has suggested that calorie restriction may slow aging. 

Try eating only two meals a day; a big late-morning brunch and a second meal around 5 p.m.” 

  EAT WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS 

“Most people in the Blue Zones often have three-hour dinner affairs with a succession of many small courses.  They never eat standing up or while driving. Avoid reading, watching TV or using your phone.”

Celebrate and Enjoy Food 

“We eat about 1100 meals a year. If we celebrate a couple of times a week and enjoy what we love to eat, that still leaves almost 1,000 meals a year to eat the Blue Zones way.”

 Pick one day of the week and make it your celebratory day to splurge on a meal with your favorite foods.” 

 Diets that use restrictions, limitations or deprivations never work.  

 Source: 

Dan Buettner. The Blue Zones Solution: Eating and Living Like the World’s Healthiest People, 2015,  

The Gut-Brain Connection: A New Concept?

CLICK HERE.

In the Mind-Gut Connection, Dr. Emeran Mayer, executive director of the Oppenheimer Center for Neurobiology of Stress and Resilience at UCLA, offers the cutting edge into this developing science, showing the full impact and complexity of how the brain, gut, and microbiome that lives inside the digestive tract communicate with one another. As he explains, the connection between the mind and the gut is bidirectional: the gut talks to the brain and the brain talks to the gut. When this communication is out of whack, major health problems can crop up in both the mind and the body, including food sensitivities and allergies, digestive disorders, obesity, depression, anxiety, and fatigue.”

Source: Emeran Mayer, MD. The Mind-Gut Connection: How the Hidden Conversation Within Our Bodies impacts our Mood, Our Choices, and our Overall Health, 2016.

 

Pre Diabetes and Cognitive Decline

In the News

Pre diabetes linked to cognitive decline

“People with higher than normal blood sugar called prediabetes, are more likely to experience cognitive decline and vascular dementia according to a study published in Diabetes, Metabolism, and Obesity.  

Researchers analyzed UK biobank data from almost 450,000 people averaging 58 years old who underwent an HB A1C test, which determines average blood sugar levels over the past two to three months.

Based on these results, they were divided into one of five groups:  low normal blood sugar, normal blood sugar, pre diabetes, undiagnosed diabetes, and diabetes. Pre diabetes was classified as having a hemoglobin A1C blood test reading of 6.0% – 6.5% %. Ideal A1C levels are under 5.5%

Results show that people with above normal sugar levels were:

42% more likely to experience cognitive decline over four years and 54% were more likely to develop vascular dementia over eight years. Vascular dementia is caused by reduced blood flow to the brain.

People with prediabetes and diabetes had similar rates of cognitive decline, 42% and 39% respectively.

MRI brain scans revealed that pre diabetes was associated with a smaller hippocampus and more strongly associated with having lesions on the brain, both of which are associated with age related cognitive impairment.”

Diabetes is thought to be prevented by making some easy lifestyle adjustments in diet and exercise, in other words a diet that restricts refined carbohydrates, sweetened drinks (including fruit juice) and keeping your weight at a reasonable level with more emphasis on the lower carbohydrate side (less than 40 percent of total calories.) Please consult with your physician before you begin any calorie restricted diet, however.

Source: Diabetes Obes Metab. 2021; 1-10.

Life Extension, May 2021

Diet and Lifestyle in Diabetes Control

Notes: Sally Feltner, M.S., Ph.D.

Diabetes blood sugar control is getting worse for U.S. adults. By Bobbie Berman, June 14, 2021 .

The study was published in The New England Journal of Medicine, Fang, Michael, Ph.D., et al. Trends in Diabetes Treatment and Control in U.S. Adults. 2021; 384; 2219-2228, 

After scanning the original article in NEJM for any mention of the role of diet in the control of glycemic parameters, I found none.

In the article above by Mr. Berman, there is only a mention of diet in the following manner:

“A person with diabetes can still eat the foods that they enjoy, just less frequently or in smaller portions.

Follow the advice of a doctor or dietitian, eat a varied meal plan that includes foods from all groups, and stick to the recommended amounts.

Some people with diabetes should eat at the same time each day, while others have a little more flexibility when it comes to the timings of meals. Portion size is also very important in people with diabetes. Speak to a dietitian about the best way to manage this.”

Finally, someone gave it at least an after thought. I had a close relative with diabetes type 2 who when asked if he had ever seen a certified diabetic educator (CDE, often a dietitian,) or spoken about diet with his physician. He always said “No”. 

Perhaps if doctors were more educated about the effects of diet on diabetes control, patients would be more compliant with these recommendations. I am not a certified diabetic educator, but am retired as a registered dietitian. I strongly recommend that if you are diabetic, consult with your primary care physician and try to see someone with the proper credentials about diabetes care. (Sally Feltner)

Take a look at the following article on a study done to compare lifestyle factors vs. metformin ( a common compound taken by diabetic patients for glucose control) Spoiler Alert: LIFESTYLE FACTORS WIN OUT OVER METFORMIN and prevention is the key.

CLICK HERE.

Big Food?

“Robert Goldstein, a hedge fund manager in New York, was getting huge cravings for sweets when he came across a tropical plant called Gymnema sylvestre that works a little like methadone for heroin addicts.” What does that have to do with “big food”? Too much, I’m afraid.

CLICK HERE.

UNHEALTHY PROCESSED FOOD AND SNACKS CAN LEAD TO OBESITY

The Mind-Gut Connection

A new developing science states: The connection between the mind and gut is bidirectional; the gut talks to the brain and the brain talks to the gut. Major health problems can appear when this system is disturbed; One way to minimize this is to keep your microbial “self” happy and working properly. The connection can affect mood and overall health.

HOW TO FEED YOUR GUT MICROBES

Try to maintain a variety of diverse gut microbes by maximizing your consumption of naturally fermented food, probiotics and prebiotics(these foods “feed” your own intestinal microbes.)

For reduction of gut inflammation, try these:

Cut down on animal fat in your diet.

Avoid when possible, mass-produced ultra-processed foods.

Reduce stress and practice mindfulness of what you’re eating.

Avoid eating when you are stressed, angry or sad.

Enjoy foods and eat with family and friends.

Listen to your gut feelings and signals.

CLICK HERE.

Source:

The Mind-Gut Connection: How the Hidden Conversation Within Our Bodies Impacts Our Mood. Emeran Mayer, M.D. 2016

The Japanese Diet: Deconstructed

The Japanese diet is one of the world’s lowest in fat. Other attributes include fish as a mainstay and soy foods. The Japanese also care about appearance and think of food as an art – resulting in more appetizing and satisfying foods. Do these characteristics contribute to the Japanese record of low rates of major chronic diseases and the fact that they boast the world’s highest life expectancy – age 76 for men and 82 for women?

In contrast, in 1980, 30 percent of U .S. adult population were affected by at least one chronic condition. Today it’s 60 percent. The percentage of those affected by two or more chronic diseases has grown from 16 percent to 42 percent. What and how do the Japanese eat? Often, it is Interesting to study lifestyles, in particular what and how other cultures eat to gain some insights as to what exactly is a healthy diet. No one expects the typical American to start munching on seaweed but the study indicates that what and how we eat can affect our overall health and longevity.

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,

CLICK HERE.

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