Vitamin D: An Anti Inflammatory Vitamin?

Vitamin D Foods

Study: Patients Low In Vitamin D Twice As Likely To Develop Severe COVID-19 Symptoms

Here are some facts about vitamin D.  It is important to remember that just one study is only an observation but can be used to form a hypothesis for further research.  Actually vitamin D is now thought of as a hormone that is involved with helping to build strong bones. Also as a hormone, it plays key  roles in combating chronic inflammation. It does this by entering cells and turning genes that produce Inflammatory substances “off” and those that produce substances that reduce inflammation “on.” In our days of living with the pandemic, we need to pay attention to the dietary factors that may help curtail the effects of the coronovirus or COVID-19.

Inadequate vitamin D status is common.

How to Improve your vitamin D status:

  • Substitute a cup of skim milk for a sweetened beverage at one meal or snack a day.
  • Eat salmon once a week at dinner.
  • Select a vitamin D-fortified orange juice.
  • Buy or select and consume vitamin D-fortified breakfast cereals.
  • Exercise or walk in sunshine for 10 minutes three times a week. Best to wear shorts or short sleeves for better exposure (weather dependent, of course). Vitamin D is manufactured from a form of cholesterol in skin cells upon exposure to ultra-violet rays from the sun. You cannot get too much vitamin D from sun exposure.
  • Take a vitamin D supplement (400-600 IU) daily until you are able to get enough vitamin D through dietary means. NOTE: Please get your doctor’s permission to take vitamin D supplements since it is classified as a fat soluble vitamin and can be toxic at high doses (4,000 IU/ is the upper Tolerable Level) or 100 ug/day.  Check labels carefully. Source: Nutrition Now, 7th Edition, Judith E. Brown

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Looking for a Good Plant-based Diet?

Healthy Plant Protein

Plant -based diets are the newest trend in lifestyle medicine, although vegan diets have been with us for decades. Now there is some competition along with their gimmicks and do’s and don’ts that we have heard for years.

Nevertheless, these diets have a nutrition seal of approval as we attempt to give up the unhealthy Standard American Diet and good riddance to that. My favorite is the Mediterranean Diet as it is more balanced as far as flavor and taste is considered. It adds some meat as well as allows some wine in moderation.  All of these diets are beneficial and plant-based diets have shown to have health benefits in research studies. Any diet must be able to be sustained and those diets that are highly restrictive don’t seem to be followed for long periods of time. You ideally should consider one of these diets as a plan you can follow as part of your new healthy lifestyle.

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The Health Benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Olive oil has gained its fame with the advent of the Mediterranean Diet and the prevalence of its use in Mediterranean countries, especially Greece and Italy. Olive oil plays a major role in the diets of the majority of the Blue Zone cultures that boast of their longevity and as a part of a group of the longest living cultures on the planet. Tons of research supports the statement that olive oil has some serious health benefits.

So what is in olive oil? And what in the heck does it do for us? The primary fatty acid found in olive oil is a monounsaturated fat called oleic acid and from research is found  to be a heart healthy oil. Olive oil is very high in phytonutrients called polyphenols which are potent antioxidants.

Refined vs extra virgin olive oil

The problem is that olive oil is not all alike. Commercial producers have often promoted inferior or even imitation products that on the label says olive oil but has questionable benefits. So what is the extra virgin hype?  First of all, it is not refined and processed as the regular refined oil that is harvested by machine and processed with heat – this damages the polyphenols responsible for its health benefits and washes them away since they are water-soluble.

The extra virgin olive oil is often harvested by hand and separated without the use of heat, hot water, or solvents and is primarily left unfiltered, which preserves the delicate polyphenols. The first pressing produces the “best stuff,” known as “extra virgin” olive oil. Seek out the best – it’s worth it and your heart will thank you.

Recent Research

One study compared two groups of people with high blood pressure. One group was given sunflower oil and one group received extra virgin olive oil. In the olive oil group, blood pressure was decreased by a significant amount; it also decreased the need for blood pressure medicines in this group by a whopping 48 percent.

Results of a large clinical trial published in two prestigious medical journals, Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and the New England Journal of Medicine demonstrate that a diet supplemented with extra virgin olive oil provides other health benefits.The PREDIMED study enrolled adults age 55 to 80 who were considered at high risk for cardiovascular disease based on various factors.

Participants were assigned to a Mediterranean diet, one with supplemental extra virgin olive oil (at least 4 tablespoons) and the other supplemented with mixed nuts. The third group was assigned to a control, low fat diet.

Over almost five years of follow-up, cardiovascular outcomes including heart attack, stroke, and death from any cardiovascular cause, were noted. The Mediterranean diet groups had a significantly lower rate of negative cardiovascular outcomes. This association was particularly strong for the supplemental extra virgin olive oil group, which had a 31 percent reduction in risk for cardiovascular disease outcomes compared to the control diet group.

The researchers also observed data of breast cancer risk in the women enrolled. Here too, the diet supplemented with extra virgin olive oil was most protective, reducing rates of breast cancer by nearly 70% compared to the control diet. Interestingly, the group that supplemented with mixed nuts did not show a significant benefit in terms of breast cancer risk.

The study’s authors report that this was the first human trial to find a beneficial effect of a dietary intervention on breast cancer risk. Together, these results suggest that a Mediterranean diet with supplemental extra virgin olive oil is protective against both cardiovascular disease and breast cancer in older adults with existing risk factors.

A 2013 study showed that olive oil contributes to satiety and so helps with weight loss. FYI: Satiety is a feeling of fullness of having enough to eat) In a German study, subjects who ate yogurt laced with olive oil had higher satiety compared to those eating yogurt containing other fats. They also had higher levels of serotonin (a brain neurotransmitter) and improved mood. The olive oil group lost weight, while the other groups actually gained weight over a three month study.

Use olive oil as your main fat for cooking (such as sauteing and roasting) and in salads. Store olive oil in a cool dark area, as it is susceptible to oxidation as many oils are.

 

Food for Thought?

Reliable nutrition research is hard to find – at least the kind of studies that have no obvious conflicts of interest or bias from the food industry. Here are two recent studies that I found that appeared to have some legitimacy and no conflicts of interest. Source: Life Extension

Weight Loss and Breast Cancer Risk

It has been known for some time that excess body weight raises the risk of breast cancer.

Study Method: A large study that included 180,000 female subjects over 50 years of age had their weight assessed three times in 10 years by researchers from the American Cancer Society, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and others. They found that women who lost about 4.4 lbs to 10 lbs. had a 13% lower risk, women who lost 10 lbs to 20 lbs had a 16% lower risk, and those who lost 20 lbs or more had a 25% lower risk.

Women who lost weight, and then regained some of it back, also had a reduced risk of breast cancer compared to women whose weight remained stable.

Conclusions/Authors: “Our results suggest that even a modest sustained weight loss is associated with lower breast cancer risk for women over 50. These findings may be a strong motivator for the two-thirds of women who are overweight to lose some of that weight, one author said.

Source: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 2019 Dec.

Blueberries and Metabolic Syndrome

Researchers evaluated the effects of blueberry consumption on indicators of oxidative stress (free radicals) and inflammation in patients with metabolic syndrome. Oxidative stress occurs when cells are exposed to more oxidizing molecules (free radicals) than to antioxidant molecules that neutralize them. Over time, it increases the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer and other diseases. Blueberries have been found to have antioxidant functions as a result  of phytochemicals called polyphenols.

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions that includes some combination of high blood pressure, abdominal obesity, high blood sugar, and abnormal lipid profiles (HDL, LDL, trigycerides, total cholesterol). The syndrome is associated with a highly pro-inflammatory environment in the body and a sharp increase of risk for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

Method: For the study, one group of patients received a smoothie containing 22.5 grams of freeze-dried blueberries, (about 2 cups of fresh blueberries.) The other group received a placebo smoothie twice a day.

Results: After six weeks, blueberry supplementation markedly decreased oxidative stress in whole blood and monocytes (white blood cells as part of the immune system). Supplemented patients also had a reduced expression of inflammatory markers in the monocytes.

The researchers noted that to their knowledge, this was the first study to yield significant improvements in oxidative and inflammatory parameters in patients with metabolic syndrome just after six weeks of blueberry consumption.

Note: As with all research, one study is not sufficient to form conclusions – the study results need to be replicated.

Looking for more reasons to eat blueberries? A University of Illinois study tested different fruits for the presence of a particular polyphenol that inhibits a cancer-promoting enzyme. Of all the fruits tested, wild blueberries showed the greatest anticancer activity.

Throw them on a salad, in blender with a protein powder, eat them frozen with a dollop of yogurt. Put them on your morning cereal.

 

 

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