Diet and Aging

“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.

CLICK HERE. https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/is-your-diet-aging-you#1

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.

Unhappy Meals

Food: there is plenty around and we all love to eat. But unfortunately, a lot of it we are consuming today is really not food. We eat it in the car after purchasing it at our favorite fast food establishment, or in front of the TV and often alone. We grab a bag of some kind of “healthy -sounding” food on the package and we call it lunch and sometimes even dinner.

Michael Pollan wrote a book a few years ago (2008) called In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. I highly recommend that every American who eats read this book. He refers to our current food choices as “not real” and describes them as “edible food like substances”. Many come with false health claims promising the same benefits as their “real” counterparts, but as Pollan says: “30 years of nutrition advice has only made us sicker and fatter. In the so-called American or Western diet, these foods are nowhere near being nutritious with their long lists of ingredients that are impossible to pronounce.

“Pollan’s manifesto shows us “how we can relearn which foods are healthy and to develop simple ways to return eating to its proper context -out of the car and back to the table.”

A portion of Pollan’s book In Defense of Food, first appeared in the New York Times Magazine under the title, “Unhappy Meals” and can be found online. The article requires a subscription but does allow a limited number of free articles.

If you want a book full of “straight talk” about our food culture, the book is a must read. The book should be available at reduced used book prices. Check Amazon.

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

Low Carb Diets: A Brief History

“Conventional scientific opinion says that eating too many calories without doing enough exercise to burn them off again causes weight gain. But this prevailing energy balance model faces a fresh challenge from the carbohydrate-insulin model (CIM) following the publication of a new article in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The CIM argues that it is the quality of the food a person eats — rather than the quantity — that determines whether a person will gain weight and eventually develop obesity. Consuming large quantities of processed and starchy carbohydrates in particular sustains a cascade of hormonal and metabolic changes that result in the storage of excess energy as fat.

Crucially, the CIM says that the urge to eat too many calories is a result of accumulating excess fat in the body, not its cause. This directly opposes the energy balance model.

So which model is correct? The answer has huge implications for the diets of billions of people, as well as the prospects of overcoming the obesity pandemic.

This week, Medical News Today spoke with several experts from both camps about the merits and shortcomings of each model. There is one thing that both models agree on: the sugars and refined grains that make up 42% of the calories in the U.S. diet should be drastically reduced.

To learn more about both models and the debate that rages around them, jump to “Obesity and weight loss: Why overall calorie intake may not be so important.”


Tim Snaith
Newsletter Editor, Medical News Today

What Does “Fattening” Mean?

Sally Feltner MS, PhDDiet and Health, The American Plate November 15, 2019 1 Minute

Spaghetti, Noodles, Tomatoes, Pasta

A term used for decades to describe foods that would make one gain weight was the expression of  “fattening”.

Moderate avoidance (though not totally responsible) of these foods became the conventional wisdom to help avoid weight gain and became a dieter’s mantra.  In fact, food history indicates that body-weight was relatively stable until about the late 1990’s in the United States. At that time, dietary advice had shifted to low-fat diets with the added disadvantage of food companies at the time replacing fat in their food products with more carbohydrate-containing foods.

Keep in mind- basic biochemistry tells us that all carbohydrates (except for dietary fiber) are eventually converted to glucose in the body to be used for energy.  We are further reminded that some carbs are referred to as “starchy” (bad) and others as “non starchy” (good ).

The following article further elucidates the term of what are now commonly referred to as “white foods” and refers to their state of processing – refined or unrefined and how they may participate in our current obesity epidemic.

CLICK HERE.

How’s Your Immune System?

Nutrition and Your Immune System 

The ability of the immune system to fight disease declines with age. As it does, the incidence of infections, cancers, and autoimmune diseases increase and the effectiveness of immunizations decline. In turn, the presence of infections and chronic disease contributes to malnutrition.

Nutrient deficiencies are common in older adults, including deficiencies of zinc, iron, beta-carotene, folic acid and vitamins B6, B12, C, D, and E. Supplements of some of these individual nutrients have been shown to increase certain aspects of the immune response, but have not been shown to reduce mortality from infections. High doses of some nutrients, including zinc, copper, and iron, depressed immune function, so supplement should not contain more than 100% of the daily value. There is little evidence that “megadoses” (over the Daily Value) of any vitamin or mineral is necessary for optimum health.

CLICK HERE.

Sugar and the Immune System?

Is our health declining? “The statistics are alarming. In 1960, one person in 100 had diabetes; today its one in eight. Experts are now predicting that by 2050, one person in three will suffer with the condition if the trend continues. Even worse, 70 percent of people who get diabetes will also develop heart disease.”

“Three generations of Americans have been raised on what is referred to as the “Standard American Diet” based on high-calorie, nutrient deficient, overly processed foods with the blame primarily on salt, fat, and sugar found in fast foods.”Sadly, we are now witnessing the long-term effects of those eating patterns and runaway rates of chronic illness.”

Source: Judith Finlayson. You Are What Your Grandparents Ate, 2019, page 58.

CLICK HERE.

Three Decades of Food Milestones: 1990- 2021

Three decades of Food Milestones 1990 – 2020

Food timelines are invaluable for taking a brief look at what has happened and how it has influenced our eating behaviors.

1990 Food labels mean something: the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act passes, requiring standardized nutrition labels on most food packages. The food industry is not happy; they particularly protest adding “Added Sugars” and win their case this time.

1992 King Arthur introduces white whole wheat flour, enabling bakers to make their whole grain baking healthier.  The United States Department of Agriculture releases the Food Guide  Pyramid, visually confirming nationwide carbohydrate domination with 6-11 servings of carbohydrates a day.  Carbs are not separated into refined vs. complex.

Snackwells low fat cookies are introduced and fly off shelves. Later, the “Snackwells affect becomes shorthand for all that is wrong with the low fat, high carb diet fad. People mistakenly assume you can eat all the refined carbs you want. 

1993 Chipotle Mexican Grill is founded in Denver, marking the beginning of the “fast casual restaurant” category. The TV Food Network (now the Food Network) premieres, elevating chefs like Bobby Flay to celeb status.

1994 the Food and Drug administration approves the first genetically modified food, the long shelf -lived Flavr Savr tomato, followed a year later by GMO canola, corn, soy beans and squash, marking the anti GMO movement. It was met with considerable safety concerns., especially in European countries.  

1996 The FDA approves Olestra, a fat – free fat substitute with the unfortunate side effect of inducing “anal leakage”. Lays Wow potato chips made with olestra even sport a warning label. After its demise in food processing, olestra found new life as an industrial lubricant.

1998 Sucralose, made from sugar but is noncaloric, is introduced but the obesity rate is not impressed by its contribution to sugar-free foods.

2002 low carb guru Robert Atkins, MD, releases Doctor Atkins New Diet Revolution,” establishing further the popularity of the low carb diet he promoted 30 years with his first book. This “diet” began to slowly replace the ill-advised low fat diet for “hardcore” dieters.

In other news, organic labels finally have more attention. The USDA national organic programs, Certified Organic Labeling, rules, some 12 years in the making, go into effect.

2004 Facebook arrives and enabling you to share what you had for breakfast with 1000 of your closest friends. Photos of foods (homeccoked, however, appear in many posts.

2006 in April, Michael Pollan releases the Omnivore’s Dilemma, making terms like food system, high fructose corn syrup and Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) household words.

2007 The Human Microbiome Project (HMP) was a United States National Institutes of Health (NIH) research initiative to improve understanding of the microbial flora involved in human health and disease. Prebiotic and probiotics became familiar terms and the yogurt industry blossomed. Source: Wikipedia

2008 Chobani launches and the cult of Greek yogurt begins. Now we no longer have to strain regular yogurt through a coffee filter to make it.

2009 The White House kitchen garden is planted in March and an interest in vegetables and sustainable eating skyrockets. Gluten free foods become a thing with $1.56 billion dollars in US sales, and projections of continuing breakneck growth.

2010 Welcome, instant pot! Now we can cook slow, fast or steam vegetables, make rice, etc, etc.  

2011 in June, the USDA replaces the Pyramid guide with My Plate, where vegetables and fruits fill half the dish and nudge grains to a smaller portion. First lady Michelle Obama announces it. Instagram arrives.

2013 Blue apron and other meal kit delivery services kickoff, making home cooking as easy as opening a box.

Jay-Z announces he’s doing a 22 day vegan challenge. Veganism officially becomes cool.

2016 Restaurant delivery services go mainstream: 50% of Americans report using apps like Grubhub and DoorDash to purchase meals from casual dining outlets, with 26% ordering at least once weekly.

2017 The Regenerative Organic Alliance releases its Regenerative Organ Certification Program, which incorporates soil health, animal welfare, and social justice in its eligibility criteria.

2018 Plant based milk sales have exploded, growing 61% in the last five years. The dairy industry is disturbed.

2019 the eat Lancet Commission releases its food in the Anthropocene report in January, linking our red meat and sugar heavy diets to climate change, and recommending we slash our consumption and eat more plant- based foods.

And now ,  Googling “nutrition” today gets over 1 billion hits but alas, 72% of Americans are overweight or obese based on Body Mass Indexes. Obesity becomes a risk factor for infectious disease, primarily COVID-19.

2020 Covid – 19 sweeps the world. Many Americans line up for miles at food distribution sites. Restaurants offer take out and deliveries, and small businesses teeter. Yet perseverance is everywhere, chefs, nonprofits, entire communities find ways to offer hope, and nourishing food. Restaurants rebound and talk dominates with who should wear masks; should schools open; are vaccines effective, should vaccinated people only have privileges?

This takes us to the present – 2021. The food culture will probably be changed forever.

Is Sugar Addictive?

“A new trend has people freezing honey and it’s leaving some experts concerned. Eating too much of the sweet stuff can cause diarrhea, stomach pain and other complications, dieticians and doctors told multiple news outlets less this week here’s what to know about the trend and whether it’s safe. In the past few weeks, the social media platform, Tick Tock has been flooded with videos that show people filling plastic bottles with honey and putting them in the freezer. Some users then squeeze out the golden, now solidified substance and sink their teeth right in. And people can’t get enough of the short clips. As of Wednesday, tons of millions of people had viewed content with the hashtags #frozen honey and #frozen honey challenge.

Another concern is that about 1/3 of people live with fructose intolerance which means their intestines have trouble absorbing fructose. In those cases, ingesting too much honey can cause diarrhea and discomfort.  As the honey thickens, it can also be brutal on your mouth, creating a risk for breaking teeth or causing decay.

 Another thing parents should consider is that children under one years of age should never eat honey due to the rare threat of Botulism.”

After reading this article from the local morning paper, my first inclination was that it resembles an image of drug addiction, only this time it’s pure sugar.

Watch for a future post on whether sugar (sucrose or fructose) is considered “addictive.” by addictive standards, i.e., what is addiction? Very interesting.

Source: Simone Jasper. The Charlotte Observer and Asheville Citizen Times, Tuesday, August 10, 2021.

Where’s the Pork?

” I am not a vegan, but I tend to be aware of the importance of how and what we eat in terms of sustainability, a respect for animal welfare and the impact of food on our environment.” FROM ABOUT THIS BLOG : FOOD, FACTS AND FADS.

Now is the time to “practice what we preach”. It will be interesting to see what happens in California. I am on the side of the animals (pigs, chickens, and veal calves).

CLICK HERE.