In The NEWS

Aging, Activity and Telomeres

Researchers analyzed data from nearly 1500 women, ages from 64 to 95. Results reported that elderly women with less than 40 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per day, and who remain sedentary for more than 10 hours a day, have shorter telomeres – tiny caps on the ends of chromosomes of DNA strands.

Telomeres protect chromosomes from deterioration and progressively shorten with age. As a cell ages, its telomeres naturally shorter and fray, but unhealthy lifestyles such as obesity and smoking may accelerate this process. Shortened telomeres are associated with heart disease, diabetes and major cancers. This study was funded, in part, by the National Institute on Aging and conducted at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine.

Tea May Protect Against Coronary Artery Disease

A review of randomized trials published in the journal Clinical Nutrition ESPEN, concluded that regular intake of green tea may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Regular tea consumption was associated with lower blood pressure and enhanced bioavailability of nitric oxide, which indicate a beneficial effect for tea on endothelial function. In some studies, tea was associated lower markers of oxidative stress and inflammation (C-reactive protein and oxidized low -density lipoprotein (LDL).

NOTE: ENDOTHELIAL= the tissue which forms a single layer of cells lining various organs and cavities of the body, especially the blood vessels, heart, and lymphatic vessels.

Clin Nutr ESPEN. 2021 Feb;41:77-87.

More Good News for Garlic Lover

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

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

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.

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. 

“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.

Healthy Lifestyles and Longevity

Highlights from Healthy Habits can lengthen life.

Researchers found that people who maintained five healthy lifestyle factors lived more than a decade longer than those who didn’t maintain any of the five.

Americans don’t live as long as people in most other high-income countries.

Study led by Frank Hu at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health analyzed data from more than 78,000 women and 44,000 men who participated in two nationwide surveys (Nurses Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up Study,)

Study was funded by NIH National Heart Lung and Blood Institute and National Cancer Institute and published in Circulation on April 30, 2018.

Data identified five different low-risk lifestyle factors and compared health outcomes for those who adopted all five with those who didn’t adopt any.

The factors:

1. Maintaining a healthy eating pattern (like the Mediterranean Diet)

Recommended daily amounts of vegetables fruit, nuts, whole grains, polyunsaturated fatty acids, omega-3 fatty acids.  

Limiting red and processed meats, moderately.

Limiting beverages with added sugar, trans fats, and sodium

2. Moderate drinking

3.  Not smoking

4.  Getting at least 3.5 hours of moderate to vigorous physical activity each week 

5. Maintaining a normal weight (18.5 to 24.9) BMI

Each participant’s medical history: heart disease, cancer, diabetes, age at death (when applicable).

Results:

At age 50, women who did not adopt any of the five healthy habits were estimated to live on average until they were 79 years old and men until they were 75.5 years.

 In contrast, women who adopted all five healthy habits lived to 91.1 years and men lived to 87.6 years.

Independently, each healthy lifestyle factor significantly lowered the risk of total death, death from cancer, and death from heart disease.

Note: Epigenetics: With its prefix from the Greek word epi, which means “addition to,” this word relates to factors in addition to DNA base sequence that influence the function of genes.

Please search “Epigenetics” on this blog for more information.

Source:

Tianna Hicklin, PhD. Healthy habits can lengthen life. National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Diet and Inflammation

By Sally J. Feltner, MS, PhD

A lot of recent attention has been paid to the role of lifestyle in many chronic diseases (lately referred to as underlying causes of mortality in the Covid-19 viral pandemic).  Deaths due to this virus have been strongly associated with age, obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes to name a few. Many people with the viral infection have reported to have had at least one or two of these chronic conditions. Obesity alone has been known to be associated with low-grade inflammation.  

Recently, we have changed our ideas about diet and heart disease.  Many doctors still think the high fat, high cholesterol diet of the last decade was to blame.  However, this is a simplified view that dismisses the research that now supports the possibility that heart disease is mediated by other biological events other than cholesterol, including oxidative stress (free radicals), insulin sensitivity, endothelial dysfunction and blood clotting mechanisms and most importantly low-grade inflammation.

(FYI – endothelium is the tissue which forms a single layer of cells lining various organs and cavities of the body, especially the blood vessels, heart, and lymphatic vessels.)

We should be aware that inflammation is a double-edged sword. Inflammation in the body is necessary to protect us from infections and cancer and when appropriate from diseases. In its acute state as when you cut your finger, its reactions are self-limiting and resolve rapidly; the process is meant to heal and repair tissue damage.  However, when inflammation is inappropriate it can get out of hand and contribute to disease especially chronic diseases. That is when inflammation can become your enemy.  We call this low-grade inflammation. In this type, the inflammatory response needs be controlled or managed or at least short lived. Should it continue, persisting cytokines of the immune system can produce excessive damage, leading to a number of diseases.

(FYI cytokines are small protein chemical messengers used by immune defensive cells that affect other cells and the immune response to an infectious agent.

It is thought that accumulating degrees of oxidative stress, and low-grade inflammation can result in what is now commonly called the “cytokine storm.” Septic shock can result from a cytokine abundance, leading to death.

Recently, it is thought that positive dietary choices you can make can help to reduce low grade inflammation and prevent this process. Your inflammatory biomarker status can be measured by a simple blood test. The most used is one called high sensitivity C-Reactive protein (hsCRP).

The goal of this blog post is to guide us to the right anti-inflammatory foods to reduce our risk of illness. Consistently, pick the wrong ones, and you could accelerate the inflammatory disease process.

Foods that allegedly promote inflammation – try to limit these foods as much as possible:

Refined carbohydrates such as white bread and pastries; choose whole grains instead.

French fries and other fried foods

Soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages

Red meat (burgers, steaks) and processed meat (hog dogs, sausage)

Margarine, shortening, lard (high levels of trans fatty acids)

Foods that allegedly reduce inflammation –   include in the diet as much as possible

Tomatoes rich in lycopene and carotenoids – healthy phytochemicals

Olive oil – rich in monounsaturated fat and phytochemicals

Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, collard and other greens – a randomized German study showed that 8 servings of fruits and vegetables for 4 weeks in men had lower levels of hsCRP.

Nuts like almonds and walnuts – high in monounsaturated fats

Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines – Diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids reduced inflammation.

Fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and oranges

Fiber consumption was associated with less inflammation in seven studies, using hsCRP as a biomarker.

Bottom Line:

No one food can be the “magic bullet” for good health. A Mediterranean diet is a good example of a diet that reduces low-grade inflammation and at the same time appears to reduce the risk of heart disease. It is a diet pattern that has been studied extensively and without a doubt scores high in the healthy column.

Staying Healthy the French Way

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’s) French writer and moralist

“In a study of four countries, food psychologist Paul Rozin at the University of Pennsylvania found the following:

The French are the most food-pleasure oriented and the least health-oriented. In contrast, Americans had the worst of both worlds: They had the greatest worry over their health and had greater dissatisfaction with what they ate. Americans scored the highest on worrying about the fattening effects of food.

Interestingly, Rozin concluded that the negative impact of worry and stress over healthy eating may have a more profound effect on health than the actual food consumed. Indeed, it is widely accepted that stress triggers a biological chemical assault in our bodies, which is harmful to our health.”

“More information about the French reveals that the US currently has twice the incidence of overweight people compared to France for both adults and children. The French have a longer life expectancy, take less medication, and have a markedly lower rate of heart disease. Yet the French eat a diet that appears to be less healthy this is popularly known as the French paradox. Notably, France has the highest per capita dairy fat consumption up of any industrial nation (think cream, butter and cheese.)

Just as important, the French have fewer eating disorders and don’t engage in dieting as much as Americans. It has been speculated that wine consumption and eating smaller portions of food may explain the French paradox, we believe it could be the relationship that the French have with food the French have a more positive attitude toward eating dash it is viewed as one of life’s pleasures not his poison. Food is something to be revered.

 Even when the French eat fast food, they take more time to eat compared to the eating pace of Americans.

“According to the calorie control council, 43% of dieters in the United states say that they that snacking too much is the reason they haven’t sustained their desired weight. Unlike north Americans who typically consume as many as three snacks a day, the French don’t usually partake in this between meal ritual this non habit may contribute to the comparatively higher proportion of slimmer figures found in France.

“French children may have an after-school snack which can be a croissant with a hidden dollop of dark chocolate to tide them over until dinner, but regular snacking just isn’t part of the adult French culture. Their substantial lunch often usurps the need for an afternoon snack. Snacks are a novelty in France where in America snacks appear to be a necessity.”

Sources: Steven Jonas, M.D., Sandra Gordon. 30 Secrets of the World’s Healthiest Cuisines, 2000.

Evelyn Tribole, M.S.,R.D.and ElseResch, M.S.,R.D.,F.A.D.A., C.E.D. R.D.

Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works, 2012.

NOTE: Although this data may seem a bit dated, the numbers reflect how the French ate a few decades ago. Unfortunately, many of the younger French population has been influenced by a more current French Diet that has incorporated many characteristics of the Standard American Diet leading to a loss of some of original health benefits. For example:

  • Obesity rates in France are among the lowest in the OECD , but have been increasing steadily. About 1 in 10 people is obese in France, and almost 40% are overweight (including obese). OECD projections indicate that overweight rates will increase by a further 10% within ten years.

Reference:

Obesity and the Economics of Prevention: Fit not Fat – France

Health Indicators in France Versus the United States. Tribole and ElseResch

 IndicatorUnited StatesFrance
Obesity and Overweight (adults)62%32%
Life Expectancy78  years81 years
Medication costs per capita$897$607
Heart Disease death rates per 100,000 -Women7921
Heart Disease death rates – Men14554
Incidence of Dieting26%16%
Use of snacks and beverages76%48%
Use of low-fat products68%39%
Duration of minutes eating at McDonald’s14 minutes22 minutes

Source: OECD Health Data, 2009-2010; Calorie Control Council National Surveys 1992. Rozin, 2003.

New Research: Diet may affect risk of severity of COVID-19

Date: September 8, 2021

Source: Massachusetts General Hospital

Summary: A healthy-plant-based diet was linked to a lower risk of getting COVID-19, and among people with COVID-19 , a lower risk of experiencing severe symptoms.

“….our study suggests that individuals can also potentially reduce their risk of getting COVID-19 or having poor outcomes by paying attention to their diet” says co-senior author Andrew Chan, MD, MPH, a gastroenterologist and chief of the Clinical and Translational Epidemiology Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital.

CLICK HERE. 

What Did We Learn from Covid?

Have we learned anything from Covid-19? I would hope so and that some good will come of it – although it’s hard to believe that it will happen at times as we are still fighting its many battles.

In his latest book, Metabolical, Dr. Robert H. Lustig, MD, MSL, author of the best selling book, ‘Fat Chance, “insists that if we do not change the way we eat, we will continue to court chronic disease, bankrupt our health care, and threaten the planet. But there is hope.” Metabolical: The Lure and Lies of Processed Food, Nutrition, and Modern Medicine. 2021.

The Bottom Line: If (and it’s a big IF), we change our ways even in small steps that reflect a healthier body, we may be able to better withstand the consequences of an infectious disease like COVID. Make sense???

CLICK HERE. https://www.aarp.org/health/healthy-living/info-2020/nutrition-after-age-50.html?intcmp=AE-FOD-DN-BB-ART

The Mediterranean Diet and Memory Loss

In the News

A Mediterranean-style diet could protect against memory loss and dementia, according to a study published in the journal, Neurology.

The 512 participants, with an average age of 70, completed food frequency questionnaires and then given brain scans to determine brain volume, and neurological tests to examine their cognitive abilities and biomarkers for beta amyloid and tau  proteins that are thought to characterize Alzheimer’s disease.

People who ate an unhealthy diet (not identified in abstract) had higher markers of amyloid beta and tau proteins in their cerebrospinal fluid, compared to those who followed a Mediterranean diet.

The unhealthy –diet eaters also performed worse on memory tests than those who ate healthy foods.

Editor’s Note:

Participants who did not eat a healthy, Med-style diet were also found to have a smaller hippocampus volume (the area of brain responsible for thinking and memory) than those who did. The hippocampus is known to atrophy (shrink) in those with Alzheimer’s disease.

Source:

Life Extension, September, 2021

Neurology. 2021; 96(24):e2920 – e32.

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.

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