Vitamin D: An Update At A Glance

Several posts have explained the role of vitamin D in immunity and and thus the Covid virus – (can search on this blog under Infectious Disease). This post is simply an update about the expanded role of vitamin D status.

WHAT You Need to Know Vitamin’s Immune Benefits

More than 70% of Americans have insufficient blood levels of vitamin D.

Vitamin D supports the immune system’s response to illnesses of all kinds which may include COVID-19.

Past studies show that low levels of vitamin D are associated with increased rates and severity of viral infections.

Clinical trials have shown that vitamin D has a protective effect against respiratory tract infections.

Vitamin D and Viral Illness

Vital respiratory tract infections, such as flu, are more common during winter. One of the reasons for this may be seasonal variations in our vitamin D levels. During winter, we get less sun, leading to lower vitamin D production. That puts us at increased risk for viral infection. Low vitamin D is also a risk for more severe lung disease called acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). This condition can lead to what is called a cytokine storm with hyper- production of inflammatory factors that can lead to death.

Vitamin D’s Protective Action

Vitamin D contributes to many functions that help shield the body from infections and lessen their severity. Maintaing adequate levels of vitamin D:

Interferes with the ability of viruses to replicate and produce more viral particles.

Helps support and repair heathly cellular linings in the body, including the airways of the lungs.

Increases production of proteins that shield against bacteria and viruses, enhancing the ability of cells to protect themselves from infection.

Improves the ability of immune cells to mount an effective attack against specific viruses.

Helps prevent the immune system from going overboard and producing excessive pro-inflammatory compounds in the lungs.

Summary:

Unfortunately, vitamin D is found naturally in few foods in the diet. These are fish and seafood, fortified breakfast cereals, orange juice, regular milk, rice milk, soy milk, yogurt, and margarine Therefore, an oral supplement may be necessary. If you think you may not get enough D in your diet, please see your physician to discuss the benefits and side effects of vitamin D supplementation. There is a common blood test that he/she may suggest to indicate your blood level of this fat-soluble vitamin.

The Upper Limit is 100 mcg or 4,000 UL if you choose to take a supplement. Consequences of overdose may include: mental retardation in young children, abnormal bone growth and formation, nausea, diarrhea, irritability, weight loss, calcium deposition in organs such as kidneys, liver, and heart, toxicity is possible with long-term use of 10,000 daily.

Nutrition Now, Judith E. Brown, 7th Edition, 2013

Life Extension November, 2020

Food Additives and the Metabolic Syndrome

 

What is the metabolic syndrome?

The metabolic syndrome is cluster of conditions that increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

Metabolic syndrome includes high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol levels. The syndrome increases a person’s risk for heart attack and stroke. Weight loss, exercise, a healthy diet, and smoking cessation can help. Medications may also be prescribed.

In the current study presented, the results support the emerging concept that perturbed host–microbiome interactions resulting in low-grade inflammation can promote obesity and its associated metabolic effects. Moreover, they suggest that the broad use of emulsifying agents might be contributing to an increased societal incidence of obesity/metabolic syndrome and other chronic inflammatory diseases.

Emulsifiers as a food additive act as detergents to  reduce stickiness, control crystallization and prevent separation. They are commonly used in many processed foods such as mayonnaise, ice cream, peanut butter, chocolate, salad dressings to create a smooth texture, prevent separation and extend shelf life.

Commonly used emulsifiers in modern food production include mustard, soy and egg lecithin, mono-and diglycerides, polysorbates, carrageenan, guar gum and canola oil. Lecithin in egg yolks is one of the most powerful and oldest forms of an animal-derived emulsifier used to stabilize oil in water. These ingredients are required by law to be included on a food’s ingredient label. Emulsifiers can disrupt the tight seal called tight junctions formed by the intestinal tract lining, enabling gut bacteria to cross and gain access to nearby immune cells, promoting metabolic toxemia.

Even though these ingredients are on the Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) list , many have not been thoroughly tested. Testing can occur if an ingredient is found to causes a health problem.

Conclusions:
The mice study presented below was concluded by the co-author, Andrew Gewirtz, PhD, as saying, “We suspect some emulsifiers act like detergents, upsetting the friendly bacteria in the microbiota, which triggers low-grade inflammation and causes excess  eating and weight gain”. A follow-up study suggested the changes in gut bacteria from emulsifiers could trigger bowel cancer;  however, more recent findings confirmed that emulsifiers remained safe at the estimated exposure levels. However, based on the study, the use of these emulsifiers may need some revision.

Bottom Line:  The current use of emulsifiers in the food production system may affect the health of the microbiome and parameters of the metabolic syndrome. This in turn can contribute to a higher risk of several chronic diseases, namely obesity and/or diabetes type 2. Consumers are encouraged to read labels and consume less highly processed foods and substitute more minimally processed foods to prevent these occurrences.

UPDATE: Source: Medical News Today, August, 2020

A new study has found that people with metabolic syndrome, which refers to a cluster of conditions that increase a person’s risk of cardiovascular issues, are more likely to have worse COVID-19 outcomes — including requiring ventilation and death.

The research, which appears in the journal Diabetes Care, August, 2020, provides further information on the underlying risk factors that affect the severity of COVID-19.

CLICK HERE.

Getting your protein from plants: A recipe for longevity?

Question: Does plant or animal protein affect mortality and/or longevity?

A study found that for every 3% of a persons daily energy intake coming from plant protein instead of animal protein reduces a person’s risk of premature death by 10%.

For this study the researchers analyzed dietary data from more than 237, 000 men and 179, 000 women gathered between 1995 and 2011 as part of a long-term study on eating patterns and health. During 16 years of follow-up, a pattern emerged where plant protein intake appeared to reduce risk of early death. Every 10 grams of plant for animal protein swapping per 1000 calories resulted in a 12% lower risk of death for men and 14% for women, the finding showed.

Bottom Line: The findings provide evidence that dietary modification in choice of protein sources may influence cardiovascular health and longevity.

Taking red meat out of your diet can be beneficial, but only if you swap for a healthy substitute, said a lead researcher from the US National Cancer Institute. For example, replacement of 3% energy from egg protein or red made protein with plant protein such as whole grains or cereals resulted in a protective Association for overall mortality, the researcher said on the other hand replacement of 3% energy from egg protein or red meat protein with other foods such as sugar sweetened beverages may or may not result in a reduction in mortality.

There are many reasons why choosing plant protein over animal protein could help extend your life; meat protein tends to come with higher levels of saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium and other nutrients that aren’t very good for your health. For example, one ounce of red meat mixed with whole wheat pasta and veggies would provide much less saturated fat than a 9 ounce steak

On the other hand, plant proteins come with loads of fiber , antioxidants, and other compounds like vitamins and minerals that add to the nutrient density along with lesser calories as fat than in some meat products (processed meat in particular).

The researchers also added that there might be something specific about the products formed from the breakdown of animal-based protein that could cause arteries to grow harder or inflammation to occur. In 2011, researchers from the Cleveland Clinic demonstrated that meat eaters produced a metabolite that promotes heart disease called Trimethylamine-N-Oxide or TMAO. Of great interest, TMAO was not elevated in vegans who were asked to meet eat a meat meal for the purposes of the study. .

Huang, Jiaqu, et al. JAMA Intern Med. Published online July 13, 2020.

 

Is DNA Your Destiny?

Thinking of getting one of those DNA testing kits?  Aside from the Ancestry tests, the tests for your future health risks may be questionable and at this point you may want to save your money. Here is why.

A new outlook on genetics is called epigenetics  and involves the concept of environmental factors (including diet) affecting how genes are expressed or inhibited. Thanks to this relatively new science, we now know that experiences of previous generations may show up in your health and well-being. Many of the risks for chronic diseases – including obesity, diabetes type 2, high blood pressure, heart disease and dementia can be traced back to your biological roots and the experiences your parent and even grandpaents had. Similarly, the food you eat may affect your children and grandchildren.

Is Your DNA Your Destiny?

Gene Expression: the process by which a cell converts the genetic code into RNA and protein

Epigenetics: the study of heritable changes in gene function that occur without a change in the DNA sequence itself

DNA Methylation: A chemical reaction that occurs in a cell when a methyl group attaches to DNA, changing the expression of the gene to which it is attached.

Methyl Group: A type of molecular structure that occurs in many compounds, CH3, for example.

Methyl Donor: Nutrients, like folate and vitamin B12 that when metabolized can donate methyl groups during the process.

To fully illustrate the epigenetic process, one must tell the story of the agouti gene.

The Result of Methylation

Methylation Effects in the DNA

Both these mice have the gene called the agouti gene that tends to produce fat, yellow pups, so we want to silence the expression of the gene if possible. There is a way.  The mom of the brown mouse was fed B vitamins which silenced the gene. This produced brown pups with normal appetites resulting in a thin, healthy mouse.

Without altering the genomic structure, agouti moms were then able to produce healthy brown pups of normal weight and less prone to diseases.

How did this occur?  Some nutrients silence genes by providing methylation (adding a methyl group (CH3); others activate genes by inhibiting methylation. It’s like throwing a wrench into the DNA to stop the expression of a gene or removing the wrench to allow the expression of the gene. The B vitamins acted as methyl donors that caused methyl groups to attach more frequently to the agouti gene in utero, inhibiting its expression.  Silence or inhibiting depends on what the gene does: e.g., silencing a gene that stimulates cancer growth is beneficial; silencing a gene that suppresses cancer growth would be harmful.

In any case, your lifestyle choices may play a role in your future health status.

It must be remembered that with any new concept, doubts and skepticism will occur. Time for more research to examine this interesting hypothesis. The   implications are enormous in that we may be able to improve our health status by choosing healthy habits and lifestyles such as diet, exercise, stopping smoking, for example.

 

 

 

 

 

Nutrition News: No Nonsense

Are those eggs OK to eat? 

Too many of us end up throwing out food that is still perfectly safe to eat. Eggs are often on the top of the list of things people think go bad quickly. But eggs are safe to eat up to five weeks after the sell by date. If you’re curious about when those eggs were packed just look at the number under the sell by date, the three-digit number in the middle.

The problem with potassium.

Many people load up on bananas and potatoes because they are high in potassium, which can help lower blood pressure. But more isn’t always better. Too much potassium can cause irregular heartbeat and other side effects. While the National Institutes of Health has not released an upper limit for potassium, the supplements in the US do not contain more than 99 milligrams. Taking more potent forms can have serious adverse side effects including confusion, temporal paralysis, low blood pressure, weakness, and coma.

Reduce Your Risk of Stroke

What is the biggest benefit of getting enough protein? If you said building muscles, you’d be close, but it might not be the biggest benefit. Recent studies show people who ate the most protein had higher levels of HDL ( good cholesterol) and those who eat the most protein (not including red meat ) were 20% less likely to suffer a stroke than those with the lowest intake. What’s more, people who ate more protein and fewer carbohydrates had better numbers for blood pressure, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides.

Bacon as Bad as Smoking?

Is that slice (or two or three) of bacon on your BLT as dangerous as smoking a cigarette? Processed meats like bacon and cold cuts are listed as a Group One carcinogen, the same as smoking or asbestos. But that doesn’t mean they’re equally as dangerous. The classification reflects the strength of evidence linking processed meats – think: bacon, sausages, hot dogs, jerky, and cold cuts to cancer risk. Basically, any meat that’s been tweaked to enhance the flavor or improved preservation by salting, curing, fermentation or smoking is considered processed. Just one 0.75 ounces of bacon (about two slices a day) is linked to an 18% greater risk of colorectal cancer. That’s the equivalent of 1 hot dog or a couple slices of cold cuts. While it isn’t a good idea to load up on these foods, they’re often high in saturated fat and salt too, let’s put the risk in perspective. The lifetime risk of an average American of developing colorectal cancer is 5%. An 18% increase raises that number to about 6%, so an occasional ballpark dog or B LT should be fine.  Important note: simply choosing nitrate-free meats may not reduce your risk of cancer. High temperature cooking methods like pan frying and grilling may produce more carcinogens in meat. Choosing lower temperature cooking methods like braising or roasting may reduce your risk. Ever tried cooking bacon in the oven? Works well!

Zinc can help boost your immunity as you age.

A new study showed that 30% of nursing home residents have low blood levels of zinc, and those with low levels were at significantly higher risk of pneumonia. Ensuring adequate zinc consumption could reduce chances of deadly infections. Zinc helps to improve the function of T-cells, a special type of white blood cell that targets and destroys invading bacteria and viruses. Zinc supplementation not only increased the number of T- cells, but it improved effectiveness, too. Get more zinc in your diet with shellfish, pork, cashews, peanuts, and chickpeas.

SOURCE:

19 Health and Nutrition Secrets that Can Change Your Life: Tufts University Health and Nutrition Letter

Ancel Keys – Big Fat Confusion ?

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An early picture of Ancel Keys, This image is ...

An early picture of Ancel Keys, (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Time Magazine 1961. Ancel Keys appears on the cover to claim that saturated fat in the diet clogged arteries and caused heart disease.

Time Magazine, 2014. Eat Butter. Scientists were wrong about saturated fat. They don’t cause heart disease.

How did the low saturated fat message begin?  How, when and why did this confusion begin?

Ancel Benjamin Keys was born in 1904 in Colorado Springs, Colorado to teenage parents. In his younger years he had various jobs including a clerk in a Woolworth store. He finished college in 3 years with Honors at Berkeley and earned a MS in Biology followed by a PhD from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography. In 1930 he traveled to Copenhagen to work with Nobel laureate, August Krogh where he studied the ability of eels to survive in both fresh and salt-water environments. He then went to Cambridge and obtained a second PhD in animal physiology from King’s College.

What made Keys famous was his Seven Countries Study, a study that remains controversial to this day. He initially observed that heart disease rates dropped in countries forced to alter their high fat diets because of the war rationing and reversed to higher rates when these diets returned.

He suspected dietary factors, particularly saturated fat, that might play a key role in atherosclerosis. After conducting some well-designed studies to support his theory, “he formulated an equation that simply showed a 2.7% mg/dl rise in cholesterol for every 1% of calories derived from saturated fat. The equation also suggested that polyunsaturated fat lowered serum cholesterol and dietary cholesterol raised serum cholesterol but to a lesser extent than saturated fat. “ Journal of Clinical Lipidology, page 435

Keys had based his theory on when he had previously visited Italy and Spain. He observed in Naples, Italy that only heart disease patients in hospitals were wealthy men. In Madrid, Spain he took blood samples from some men in one of the poorer districts where heart disease was rare and compared them to samples of more well-off patients with heart disease. What he found were differences in their serum cholesterol values with the higher levels in the wealthy and lower values in the poorer population. The diets of the two groups also differed with the poorer diets lower in fat than those of the wealthy. These observations were central to his theory that saturated fat or animal fat and dietary cholesterol contributed to heart disease.  Levenstein, Harvey, Junk Science Week: Lipophobia and the Bad Science Diet, Financial Post, June 11,2012.

The theory gained some steam when in 1955, President Dwight David Eisenhower had a heart attack at age 64, “ Over the next six weeks, twice-daily press conferences were held on his condition. After his attack, he dieted religiously with a low-fat diet and had his cholesterol measured ten times a year (it had been 165 mg initially)”. Taubes, Gary. Good Calories, Bad Calories, page 1-4.   The low-fat diet had little effect and his cholesterol continued to rise as well as his weight.

Between 1955 and 1958, Keys began to study the male population aged 40 to 59 in rural areas in certain countries. He used electrocardiograph data to detect heart abnormalities and cardiovascular disease. The countries included Yugoslavia, Italy, Greece, Finland, the Netherlands, the U.S. and Japan. The countries he had chosen represented varied intakes of saturated or animal fat; lower levels were found in some populations in Yugoslavia, Italy, Greece, and Japan. Finland, the Netherlands, and the U.S. represented higher levels of animal fat in their diets. Five and ten years later, the researchers returned to identify those who had experienced heart attacks. The lowest rates were found in Crete and Japan with the lowest levels of animal fat; the highest was found in East Finland and the U. S. with the highest levels of animal fat. All in all, Keys studied nearly 13,000 men.  From this study, he concluded that “saturated fats as a percentage of calories was the most powerful lifestyle predictor of heart disease. “Blood cholesterol was the important physiological variable. “ Journal of Clinical Lipidology, page 437.

In 1961 Keys appeared on the cover of Time magaine with the Seven Countries Study’s alleged link between fat, cholesterol and heart disease that fueled the fear of dietary fat in America. Two weeks later the American Heart Association (AHA) endorsed the theory.  With this announcement, the vegetable oil producers could not get their advertisements out fast enough. Wesson Oil said: “polyunsaturated Wesson is unsurpassed by any leading oil in its ability to reduce blood cholesterol.” Nutrition scientists jumped on the bandwagon. For example, Harvard nutritionist, Frederick Stare advised swallowing three tablespoons of polyunsaturated oil each day. Lipophobia had begun in earnest. Levenstein, Harvey, Lipophobia and the bad science.

Consumption of margarine doubled from 1950 to 1972 and that of vegetable oil rose by over 50% in the 10 years from 1966 to 1976. Ironically, based on the thesis of Keys that saturated fat was the culprit, the AHA and other agencies had urged food processors to use trans fats to replace the alleged deadly saturated fat. Ironically, the most common source of trans fats turned out to be the very margarine they had promoted as heart healthy. From 1956 to 1976, per-capita butter consumption fell by over half.

Key’s hypothesis strengthened in 1977 with Senator George McGovern’s publication of the First Dietary Goals for the U.S., which was the first time that any government group had told Americans to eat less fat and cholesterol to improve health. The document became gospel and had a tremendous impact on consumers and the food industry. In 1980, Hegsted and McGinnis produced the USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans that concurred with “avoiding too much fat and cholesterol and eating more foods with adequate starch and fiber.”

However, three major studies failed in their support for Key’s hypothesis and without going into the details, each one raised doubts about the  hypothesis.

The Key’s Seven Countries Study, so pivotal in lipophobia has been debunked by many, particularly those who favor the idea of eating meat.. On the other hand, vegans favor the thesis. Here is what the critics of the study say: First, Keys did not randomly choose countries but is accused of picking those countries most likely to support his theory. He excluded France whose diet has been notoriously rich in saturated fat along with a low heart disease rate (The French Paradox). He also excluded Switzerland, Sweden, and West Germany with the similar higher saturated fat intakes but with lower rates of heart disease. He originally gathered data from 22 countries.   However, some point out that even when all 22 countries are analyzed, the trend that fat intake is associated with heart disease still weakly exists.

Ancel Keys died in November of 2004 at the age of 100 years old.

Key’s thesis is still hotly debated to this day because of its limitations and lack of  conclusive support from the research community. There are still adherents of the efficacy of the low fat diet, particularly in its effects on atherosclerosis regression or prevention.  The debate has now switched to which diet is heart healthy – a low-fat or a low-carbohydrate diet. However, that is another story.

I truly don’t know if Keys was right or wrong. The purpose of this post is to point out that his legacy remains as one of the leading food crusaders that changed the American plate.  Is the low fat craze finally coming to an end?  Has this national experiment failed?  Will the low carbohydrate diet help curb the obesity epidemic or prevent heart disease?  Sounds like a “soap opera, doesn’t it?  One thing is certain – atherosclerosis is a complicated disorder and until its origin and pathology is conclusively determined, no one will know who was right.

 

The Pandemic and the Mind

The pandemic is making us depressed and anxious – can healthy food provide relief?

To the average person, it may seem eminently reasonable to assume that food affects our brains along with the rest of our bodies. But only within the past decade or so have researchers begun to establish the crucial link between diet and the mind.

The U.K. Mental Health Foundation reports that food plays an important role not only in depression but in schizophrenia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and Alzheimer’s disease as well.

The coronavirus pandemic has changed every aspect of our lives, including our eating habits. Comfort food was made for times like these, and it seems the healthy food trend that took root in recent years is reversing, at least for the time being. Shopping habits have shifted in favor of old processed favorites like frozen pizza, toaster waffles and canned spaghetti. These are convenience foods with long shelf lives that are designed to deliver pleasure. The typical American diet is often loaded with processed foods, pizza, fast food, white flour and sugary sodas.

Money is tight in many households, and busy parents are putting breakfast, lunch and dinner on the table instead of home cooking and using whole food. Open a box and there is dinner.  Besides, convenience foods are engineered  by the food industry to taste good and make us feel good at least in the short term.

But wait – there’s more. That’s because a growing body of research is showing that our food choices don’t just affect our waistlines. What we eat also may affect our mood and behavior. In other words, there may be something in the food we’re eating (or not eating) that’s influencing our state of mind.

The emerging field of nutritional psychology contends that modern western diets have contributed to increased rates of mental illness, particularly depression. Diets that follow a Mediterranean pattern of eating a lot of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, beans, fish and olive oil, have been linked to lower rates of depression. A diet change of just a few weeks has been found to lift moods. In a 2010 study, women who ate diets high in vegetables, fruit, fish and whole grains were less likely to suffer from depression.

As a third of all Americans are reporting that the coronavirus pandemic has taken a toll on their mental health, we might now need nutritious foods more than ever. One way to start is to simply cut down on “junk” foods and look for simple ways to prepare whole nutritious foods.

Source: Discover Magazine, September/October, 2020

Vitamin D and Infectious Disease

Vitamin D Foods

Immunologic Effects of Vitamin D on Human Health and Disease

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Free article

Abstract

Vitamin D is responsible for regulation of calcium and phosphate metabolism and maintaining a healthy mineralized skeleton. It is also known as an immunomodulatory hormone. Experimental studies have shown that 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D, the active form of vitamin D, exerts immunologic activities on multiple components of the innate and adaptive immune system as well as endothelial membrane stability. Association between low levels of serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D and increased risk of developing several immune-related diseases and disorders, including psoriasis, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, tuberculosis, sepsis, respiratory infection, and COVID-19, has been observed. Accordingly, a number of clinical trials aiming to determine the efficacy of administration of vitamin D and its metabolites for treatment of these diseases have been conducted with variable outcomes. Interestingly, recent evidence suggests that some individuals might benefit from vitamin D more or less than others as high inter-individual difference in broad gene expression in human peripheral blood mononuclear cells in response to vitamin D supplementation has been observed. Although it is still debatable what level of serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D is optimal, it is advisable to increase vitamin D intake and have sensible sunlight exposure to maintain serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D at least 30 ng/mL (75 nmol/L), and preferably at 40-60 ng/mL (100-150 nmol/L) to achieve the optimal overall health benefits of vitamin D.

This abstract and article was published in Nutrients, 2020: 12(7), 2097

In light of the current Covid-19 pandemic, questions are raised and answers sought about the role of nutrition in the prevention of infectious diseases. In this case, vitamin D (a fat soluble vitamin stored in the body) is examined.

Vitamin D Facts:

RDA Women: 600 IU; Men: 600 IU; UL: 4000 IU. Toxicity possible with long-term use of 10,000 IU daily. 1 microgram (mcg) vitamin D = 40 IU.

Primary Functions: Needed for absorption of calcium and phosphorus for bone formation nerve and muscle activity. Inhibits inflammation and is involved in insulin secretion and blood glucose level maintenance.

Consequences of Deficiency: Weak, deformed bones (children), loss of calcium from bones (adults), osteoporosis.

Concenquences of Overdose: Mental retardation in young children, abnormal bone growth and formation. Nausea, diarrhea, irritability, weight loss. Deposition of calcium in organs such as kidneys, liver and heart.

Primary Food Sources: Vitamin D – fortified milk, cereals, and other foods. Fish

Highlights: Vitamin D3, the most active form is manufactured from a form of cholesterol in skin cells upon exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun. Inadequate vitamin D status is common. Breast-fed infants with little sun exposure benefit from vitamin D supplements. People with very dark skin, especially from Asian and Afro-Carribbean descent find it difficult to make vitamin D from limited sunlight.

NOTE: It’s important to know that megadoses of any vitamin or mineral are never recommended, unless there is a medical reason for doing so. In this case, a Canadian study reported that among 303 middle-aged and older adults (who were not vitamin D deficient), those who were randomly assigned to get 4,000 IU  of vitamin D  a day for 3 years lost more bone in their arms  than those who got 400 IU a day. Those who got 10,000 IU a day lost more bone in their arms and shins than those who got 400 IU a day.  See the consequences of overdose. 

 

 

Chronic Disease: Can Your Lifestyle Make a Difference?

 

Lately in the literature, lifestyle medicine has been mentioned as an effective practice that influences our overall health and risk of diseases in general. Many of the  leading causes of death in developed countries have been referred to as chronic diseases and ways to prevent these diseases is to practice a “healthy lifestyle”. But what does that exactly mean? Some research has suggested that our susceptibility to Covid-19 may even be altered by our lifestyles, obesity being named a risk factor.

In 1999, a Harvard-trained cardiologist, James E. Rippe published a textbook entitled Lifestyle Medicine in which he expressed his hope for a “new emphasis in medicine related to the links between daily behaviors and outcomes”. The idea slowly took root. In 2006, Loma Linda University School of Medicine, a Seventh Day Adventist institution in California, debuted the country’s first lifestyle medicine education program. A few years later the School of Medicine Greenville at the University of South Carolina went a step further, integrating lifestyle medicine into every facet of the curriculum and requiring prospective physicians in medical schools to spend 50 hours over two years covering the ways in which diet, nutrition and exercise impact the various organs and systems. Several other medical school programs have followed, that have been dedicated to the principals that healthy food, rich in nutrients, healthy fats, and lean protein, can be a potent weapon in the doctor’s bag.”

“How much a role does nutrition play in health? “It is the thing, says Jennifer Trilik , an associate professor at USC Greenville who directs the schools lifestyle medicine program. “if we’re talking about obesity, cardiovascular disease,  cancer, there’s so much evidence that saturated fat and trans-fat cause chronic inflammation, damaged the DNA and create growths in an adult body that shouldn’t be there. On the other hand, apples and blueberries have so many healthy antioxidants. We were made to eat whole foods and plant based foods, not processed ones out of a bag.

CLICK HERE.

What Else is in Your Food?

Twenty five years ago, It was largely assumed that health benefits came from the vitamin and mineral content of fruits and vegetables. That conclusion turned out to be incorrect because supplementation with specific vitamins and minerals failed to yield the same health benefits as did diets rich in fruits and vegetables. In addition, use of individual vitamin and mineral supplements was found to increase health risks in some studies, but not all. So, what else is in our foods?

Now nutrition and other scientists are investigating the effects of thousands of other substances in food on health.  The subjects of many current studies are plant chemicals known as phytochemicals or phytonutrients.   Phytochemicals are not considered essential nutrients because deficiency diseases do not develop when we fail to consume them. They are considered to be nutrients however because they are biologically active and perform health promoting functions in the body. Most bioactive food constituents are derived from plants.

Phytochemicals play a variety of roles for plants as they provide protection for the plant against bacterial, viral, and fungal infections; ward off insects; and prevent tissue damage due to oxidation. Some operate as plant hormones or participate in the regulation of gene function, while others provide plants with flavor and color.

More than 2000 types of phytochemicals, that act as pigments, have been identified and give plants a wide variety of colors. Some of these phytochemicals have been identified: beta-carotene (orange), lycopene (red), anthocyanins (blue to purple), allicin (white), and lutein (yellow-green). Many of them function as antioxidants in the human body as well as help us to fight against many chronic diseases in other ways.

The following are examples of vegetables you can buy or plant in the garden (organic not necessary) that provide some specific human health benefits that are thought to be due to either established nutrients or phytochemicals. Keep in mind that some have more research behind their claims; however, many do not and simply rely on presumed health benefits.

  1. Kale is a member of the cabbage family and is known to contain vitamins A, K, and C, as well as essential minerals like potassium, calcium, and magnesium. It is also rich in fiber and acts as a prebiotic that increases nutrient absorption in the gut. Kale also contains antioxidants that protect against oxidative damage and other aspects of chronic disease. Its nutrient density exceeds that of other vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, or those of the onion family.
  2. Onions have been known for their healing properties for centuries. One study compared wound healing results after the daily application of onion gel and found that scars were significantly less noticeable after just four weeks of use. Recent research has suggested that onions also contain compounds useful for the treatment and prevention of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and inflammatory diseases. Most of these benefits can be traced to onion’s high concentration of sulfur amino acids, phytochemicals such as flavonoids, phytosterols, and saponins – compounds that have anticancer, antibiotic, and antithrombotic activity.
  3. Potatoes are a rich source of potassium, fiber, vitamin C. Little attention is paid to potatoes recently due to their high calorie density and their relationship with obesity and diabetes. If they are eaten in whole form and not as French fries or chips, they can be healthy due to their high potassium content. Often, they are the only source of potassium for many people including children. Adequate potassium can protect us from hypertension.
  4. Tomatoes contain the phytochemical, lycopene, the carotenoid responsible for its red color and acts as an strong antioxidant. An increased intake has been associated with a decreased risk of prostate and breast cancers.
  5. Cauliflower in both forms, white or purple are high in phenolic compounds (a phytochemical) and antioxidants. Purple cauliflower is especially high in anthocyanins that is a potent anti-inflammatory and antiviral compound.
  6. Bell Peppers contain antioxidants that may protect against Alzheimer’s disease. Green, yellow, and red peppers are all high in phenolic compounds and vitamin C.

Bottom Line: As you can see, antioxidant activity can collectively have a powerful effect against free radical damage. This is enhanced by the many phytochemicals associated with a variety of vegetables and fruits, not just reliance on one or two of them in the diet.