Living Longer

The Blue Zones: A Book Review

By Sally J. Feltner, MS, Ph.D.

Ponce de Leon began his quest for the fountain of youth in 1531 and humans have been seeking magical solutions for keeping us younger and living our later years in relatively good health.

In 2009 with the backing of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, AARP and the National Geographic, Dan Buettner established the Blue Zone Project and authored The Blue Zones: 9 Lessons for Living Longer from the people who lived the longest, He interviewed those who were either centenarians or those in their later years and began to investigate what factors may have contributed to five regions of longevity hotspots in the world that included:

  • Sardinia in Italy with the highest concentration of centenarian men.
  • Seventh Day Adventists in Loma Linda, California, where some residents live ten more healthy years than the average American.
  • The Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica that has the world’s lowest rates of middle-age mortality and the second highest concentration of male centenarians.
  • Ikaria, Greece that has one of the world’s lowest rates of middle age mortality and lowest rates of dementia. Only 20 percent of people over 80 showed any signs of dementia, whereas a similar study of long-lived people near Athens showed an almost 50 percent rate of dementia- a rate similar to that for older Americans.”
  • Okinawa, Japan home to the world’s longest living women.

Remarkably, all the regions had common characteristics that included family and purpose, community and spirituality, stress reduction and physical activity. Mr. Buettner later published The Blue Zones Solution and coauthored with Ed Diener, The Blue Zones of Happiness.

One major practice was that all their diets, though not vegan, were predominantly based on plants. Meat and other animal products are either the exception or used as a condiment. Additionally, Okinawans, practice a philosophy called hara-hachi bu regarding food; they only eat until they are 80% full.

In the Costa Rican Zone, everyone feels like they have a plan “de vida” or life plan. Even at ages above 60 and 70, inhabitants don’t stop living. They keep themselves busy; they love to work. It provides them a “reason to waking up in the morning” called ikigai. There is no word for “retirement” in Okinawa.

The book introduces some very interesting longevity “superstars.”

  • Marge Jones, at 100 years old from Loma Linda begins every day with a mile walk, a stationary bicycle ride, and some weight lifting. “I’m for anything that has to do with health”, she says
  • Kamada Nakazitam, 102 years old from Okinawa says “To be healthy enough to embrace my great – great grandchild is bliss.”
  • Ellsworh Wareham, age 91 from Loma Linda, assists during heart surgery procedures, something he does about two or three times a week
  • Abuela Panchita, 100 year old Costa Rican woman whose 80 year old son, Tommy bicycles to see her every day, spends every day cooking, splitting logs and using a machine to clear brush from her garden.
  • The notion of moai in Okinawa stands for “a social support network. Says 77 year old Klazuko Mann, “each member knows that her friends count on her as much as she counts on her friends.”
  • From the author: “I once pressed a 101-year-old woman in Ikaria, Greece to tell why she thought people there lived so long. ‘We just forget to die,’ she said with a shrug. None of them went on a diet, joined a gym, or took supplements. They didn’t pursue longevity – it simply ensued”

The final chapters in the first book boil it all down into nine lessons and a cultural distillation of the worlds’ best practices in longevity a and how they can be applied to the American food culture.

However, there is a downside that is currently happening. From the Author: “Sardinians today have already taken on the trappings of modern life. For example, junk foods are replacing whole-grain breads and fresh vegetables traditionally consumed here. Young people are fatter, less inclined to follow tradition, and more outwardly focused.”

I’ve enjoyed these books immensely and have often referred to them in various tweets and posts. The first book concludes with a chapter on Your Personal Blue Zone. Other books such as “the Blue]Zones Solution” give us more explicit ways to establish Blue Zones in other areas such as the U.S.

From the back cover of The Blue Zones Solution – “Propagating the Blue Zones would not only prevent a rise in the prevalence of diabetes (and other misfortunes) it would allow us to eliminate more than 80 percent of the burden we have now. That’s revolutionary.” David Katz, M.D., Director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center

The Blue Zones are lessons in how lifestyles can affect our health and longevity. Prevention of chronic disease as we age is the primary goal.  More attention needs to be paid to improve the American diet in order to “add years to your life and life to your years.”

 

 

The Pima Indians: A Study of Lifestyle and Obesity

By Sally J. Feltner, MS, Ph.D

The Pima Indians of Arizona have the highest rates of diabetes and obesity in North America. An estimated 50 percent of Pima adults are obese, and of those, 95% have diabetes type 2.

WHAT HAPPENED?

The story is not new – it more than likely began in the 1500’s when the Spanish explorers made contact with them in the New World. They and most Native tribes of that time were hunter-gatherers. They were lean, active and healthy people.

Pima Indians are believed to be descendants of people who crossed the Bering Strait from Asia to the Americas. Their traditional diet included meals made from the crops they cultivated including corn (maize), kidney beans, sunflower seeds, pumpkins and squash.  Small game such as rabbit, was a staple part of their diet together with meat from their livestock such as sheep and goats. Larger game was also available such as deer, elk and bear. As they were in close proximity to rivers, fish, duck and many different types of shellfish were major elements of their diet, which was also supplemented with herbs, acorns and roots. Sadly, as the years went on, the Arizona group met with some unavoidable circumstances that changed their way of life considerably – especially their traditional diets, economics, and well-being.

  • In 1859, the Arizona Pimas’ land along the Gila River was taken away by the U.S. government which left them to live on what land was left known as the Gila Reservation.
  • In 1866, new settlers began to populate the Pima region and diverted the water from the Gila River for their own use.
  • By 1869, the river had dried up and the Arizona Pimas were left with no water and less land to grow their food and crops resulting in an on – and – off – 40-year-old famine. As a result, the government exacerbated the problem again by providing subsidized foods to the tribe consisting of white flour, sugar, lard and canned goods, a far cry from their traditional diets of corn, beans and squash.

The timing of these significant changes in lifestyle and livelihood of the Arizona Pima population coincides with their development of diabetes type 2.  At the turn of the nineteenth century, studies recorded only one case on the Gila River Reservation. In 1937, a study documented twenty-one persons with diabetes. By the 1950’s, however, the prevalence had increased ten-fold and a study initiated in 1965 documented in the Arizona Pima Indians the highest prevalence of diabetes ever recorded.

THE PIMA INDIANS IN MEXICO

The Pima Indians who had settled in Mexico resided in the small town of Maycoba. For decades they had been isolated until 1991 when a paved access to the town was constructed.  Before that they grew a majority of their own food and still adhered primarily to their traditional diet that was similar to the Arizona tribe. Since they are genetically similar to the Arizona Pima, they present an opportunity to study and compare the two-lifestyle patterns of both tribes (diet and exercise) on their health statistics.

What Has Been Learned from Various Studies of these two Populations?

An Abstract from one study in 1994 that compared the two groups gives us the following details:

OBJECTIVE The Pima Indians of Arizona have the highest reported prevalence of obesity and diabetes type 2 In parallel with abrupt changes in lifestyle and the incidence in Arizona Pimas have increased to epidemic proportions during the past decades. To assess the possible impact of the environment on the prevalence of obesity and diabetes type 2, data were collected on members of a population of Pima ancestry living in a remote mountainous location in northwestern Mexico, with a lifestyle contrasting markedly with that in Arizona.

RESULTS  The Mexican Pimas were significantly lighter and shorter with a lower Body Mass Index. They also had a significantly lower plasma total cholesterol level than the Arizona Pimas. Even more startling was that diabetes type 2 was less prevalent with only 2 women (11%) and 1 man (6%) in the Mexican group compared with a prevalence of 37% and 54% in male and female Arizona Pima Indians respectively.

CONCLUSIONS This preliminary investigation shows that obesity, and perhaps type 2 diabetes is less prevalent among people of Pima heritage living a “traditional” lifestyle than among Pimas living in an “affluent” environment. These findings suggest that, despite a similar potential genetic predisposition to these conditions, a traditional lifestyle, characterized by a diet including less animal fat and more complex carbohydrates and by greater energy expenditure in physical labor, may protect against the development of cardiovascular disease risk factors, obesity, and diabetes type 2.

DISCUSSION:

These results indicate that a more traditional lifestyle of the Mexican Pimas protects the group against obesity, diabetes and kidney disease, even though they may have a genetic predisposition for such health problems.

What explains the results of experiences of the Arizona Pima?  One popular theory is one thing that drives obesity is a switch to a diet of highly refined carbohydrates that are so common in the Standard American Diet (SAD). When the Pima replaced traditional, unrefined carbohydrates with refined (sugar and flour), they became obese. It may not be the amount of food we eat but what kinds or quality we consume.

The lessons learned here support the theory that lifestyle factors appear to significantly influence the prevalence of obesity and diabetes type 2 in a population predisposed genetically to these conditions. Their story gives us all the opportunity to reassess our own current diets and lifestyle factors that may lead to healthier food environments and ultimately prevent our current situation of the diabesity dilemma.

SOURCES

Stephen Guyenet, Lessons From the Pima Indians. Whole Heath Source: Nutrition and Health Science.

Leslie O Schulz, PhD, Lisa S. Chaudhari, PhD. High-Risk Populations: The Pimas of Arizona and Mexico. Curr Obes Rep. 2015 March 1; 4(1): 92-98

Ravussin, et al. Effects of a Traditional Lifestyle on Obesity in Pima Indians, Diabetes Care 1994 September 17(9): 1067-1074

Can We Say What Diet is Best for Health?

 

Can We Say What Diet is Best for Health?

Over the past few decades, it has been reported that a lifestyle pattern of poor dietary choices is linked to a growing disparity between life span (longevity) and health span, defined as years of healthy life.  Globally, lifestyle-related chronic diseases constitute an enormous and growing burden of obesity, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, cancer, all of which involve diet in some manner.

What are these dietary patterns that often claim successes over another pattern? This comparison offers a brief description of each pattern as well as the rationale for the claims.

 

Dietary Pattern Primary Characteristics Rationale
Low Carbohydrate Restriction of total carbohydrate to less than 45% calories

High protein or either animal or plant origin

Has recent and widespread interest. Can include a popular variation called the ketogenic diet (highly restrictive)
Low Fat (Vegetarian and traditional Asian) Restriction of total fat or 20% of daily calories. Some can include dairy and eggs, limited meat such as chicken and seafood Long-standing use, extensive research backup. Popularity is weak due to limited appeal; lack of taste

 

Low glycemic (blood sugar) Limits the glycemic load of certain vegetables and many if not all fruits. Relevant to diabetes and pertains to carbohydrate quality as to effects on blood glucose in the body.
Mediterranean Emphasis on olive oil, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, whole grains, beans, limited meat, moderate wine included Mimics the traditional diets of Mediterranean countries. Associated with extensive research that emphasizes “healthy” fats

 

 

 

 

Mixed Balanced

Includes both plant and animal foods that conform to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, DASH and Diabetes Prevention diets Long-standing, widespread use. Associated with extensive research and intervention trials to address chronic diseases.

 

Paleolithic Focus on diet of our Stone Age ancestors. Avoiding processed foods with emphasis on fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, lean meats.

Dairy and grains are excluded.

Native human diet emphasis with substantial research. Emphasis on lean proteins.
Vegan Often exclude all animal products, including dairy and eggs. If ill-conceived, can include plant-based junk food leading to nutrient deficiencies. Relevant to ethics, animal welfare issues, environmental sustainability

 

Claims for other dietary patterns exist in abundance. Many such practices such as juicing or fad dieting does not meet the requirements for a healthy diet pattern. Add to these raw food eating, detoxification schemes that enjoy media attention in the popular culture but only contribute to the confusion of those who seek existing  legitimate dietary advice.

Can we say what diet is best for health? It would be difficult based on individual needs for one thing. Ideally, It is often said that the best diet is one you decide for yourself based on some basic knowledge and your particular lifestyle. The diet should focus on health and weight control, not just weight loss.

Even if the healthy diet claims are made clear, we must learn somehow to navigate our way through the supermarket that constantly appeals to our senses with a myriad of some 40,000 products with the majority of them processed in bags, boxes, bottles, jars, and cans. Many are loaded with fat, sugar or salt. Often, many Americans are drawn to the appeal of convenience that many of these foods offer.

Here is what we think we know.  From assessing the diets presented in the table above,  compatible elements of these diets include: Limited refined starches, added sugars, processed foods, limited intake of certain fats, emphasis on whole plant foods (nuts, seeds, legumes) with or without lean meats, fish, poultry, and seafood.

To put this in its most simplest form,  Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food and The Omnivores Dilemma says:

Food, not too much, mostly plants.

 

 

All About Diabetes Type 2 in the U.S.

We may be approaching another healthcare crisis other than the pandemic.  In both crises, the numbers keep rising and no one really seems  to earnestly do much about it. Both can be frustrating and prevention can be a key factor.  Prevention always is the best medical advice but it’s difficult to find help due to a lack of interest or funding.  In my opinion, many cases of diabetes type 2 can be prevented if enough attention is paid to understanding certain aspects of the disease. Studies of previous prevention programs have shown to make a difference. One particular study compared lifestyle  modifications with the anti-diabetes drug, metformin and found that lifestyle modifications were just as effective as taking the drug. This finding is an important result in that it suggests that lifestyle can influence our health and help to prevent some of the chronic diseases that have become leading causes of death in the U.S.

Even weight loss of 5-10% of body weight  is the first line of defense against diabetes type 2 as well as learning about which foods you eat can help control blood glucose levels thus resulting in insulin secretion and/or insulin resistance.

CLICK HERE.

You can find the complete study HERE.

Doctors and Diets?

So many times I have heard from people that tell me their doctors say:  “Watch your diet”.  What in  the heck does that mean?  Perhaps we hear this from many physicians because they do not receive much nutrition education in medical school.   There has got to be a better way to inspire people about their lifestyle choices.  My recommendation:  Consult a nutritionist (watch for credentials). There are many types of nutritionists that have dubious training and lack any reliable credentials. For diabetes help, look for the credentials “CDE” which tells us that  this person is a certified diabetes educator.  Many are also registered nurses or registered dietitians.  Read the related articles below for a comprehensive discussion of this problem.

CLICK HERE.

CLICK HERE.

 

 

Intermittent Fasting: Help or Harm?

 

Intermittent fasting simply means that you don’t eat for a period of time each day or week. Some popular approaches include:

Alternate-day fasting. Eat a normal diet one day and either completely fast or have one small meal (less than 500 calories) the next day.

5:2 fasting: Eat a normal diet five days a week and fast two days a week.

Daily time-restricted fasting. Eat normally but only within an eight-hour window each day. For example, skip breakfast but eat lunch around noon and dinner by 8 p.m.

Some research suggests that intermittent fasting may be more beneficial than other diets for reducing inflammation itself, and improving conditions associated with inflammation such as Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, asthma, multiple sclerosis, and stroke. Studies with a number of animal species have reported that fasting (or calorie restriction) leads to a longer and healthier lives.

There is a lot of confusing advice about whether intermittent fasting is a healthy eating pattern. The following article presents a common sense approach.

One thing is becoming certain. We eat too much and finding safe and healthy ways to combat this trend would seem practical in our society with its concomitant problem of the obesity/diabesity epidemics.

CLICK HERE.

Diet and Inflammation

Diet, Chronic Disease 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.

Diet is one of those lifestyle factors in which somehow, we have gone astray. As we often hear, the Standard American Diet (SAD) is becoming more and more to be a causative factor of our ill health.  As a result, body weight is on the rise and we are becoming more sedentary. Obesity is linked to the metabolic syndrome and type-2 diabetes  and has come to be called the diabesity pandemic.

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. Also, heart disease is now thought to have other risk factors such as high LDL cholesterol, high triglycerides and low HDL cholesterol that may be or not be related to dietary factors.

(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.  In this type, the inflammatory response needs be controlled or managed or at least short lived. Should it continue on, persisting cytokines of the immune system can produce excessive damage, leading to a number of diseases, including fibromyalgia, lupus, MS, and more. Cytokines can persist and overwhelm the immune response by releasing signals in the nervous system and and may contribute to a “cytokine storm” killing healthy cells as well as the offending agents (bacteria or virus).

(FYI – cytokines are small proteins produced by immune defensive cells that affect other cells and the immune response to an infectious agent. They act as cell messengers.

Can Diet as a Lifestyle Make a Difference in our Susceptibility to Disease and Affect Our Overall Health??

Recently, much has been written about specific foods and dietary approaches you can do to that either promote or reduce low grade inflammation. Keep in mind that this is only speculation, and some is just pure marketing by the food industry to promote a certain brand. At this point, we are beginning to research this more conclusively and in order to do that, studies have to measure whether a certain substance in the diet either raises or depresses what is known as inflammatory biomarkers in the body. The most used is one called high sensitivity C-Reactive protein (hsCRP). Others include inflammatory markers interleukin-1 or interleukin-6 as well as others. To do this involves a simple blood sample. I have had one to measure my inflammatory status a few years ago. If you see a study that claims to have noninflammatory properties, look for the way the study was performed – i.e., did it measure the effects on these inflammatory markers.

The goal of this blog post is to guide us to the right anti-inflammatory foods to reduce your 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. They need not be gluten-free unless you have some issues with wheat and need to limit its intake.
  • 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 usually with antioxidant propertiesHigher
  • 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
  • Higher fiber consumption was associated with less inflammation in seven studies, using hsCRP as a marker.

Bottom Line:

If you’re looking for an eating plan that closely follows the tenets of anti-inflammatory eating, consider the Mediterranean Diet which is high in fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fish and healthy oils (primarily olive oil).

In addition to lowering inflammation, a more, natural, less processed food diet can have noticeable effects on your physical and emotional health.

The Mediterranean Diet In A Nutshell

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. It comes highly recommended and contains most of the foods labeled Anti-inflammatory.

High in fresh fruits and vegetables, olive oil, legumes, unrefined grains
Moderate in low-fat dairy
Low in meat
Moderate to high in fish
Moderate alcohol intake

Is All Sugar Equal?

Simple sugars are considered simple because they are small molecules that require little or no digestion before they can be used by the body. They come in two types: monosaccharides and disaccharides. First, here is a little sugar biochemistry.

Types of Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are chemical compounds that contain carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. Simple carbs, also called sugars include monosaccharides (fructose, glucose, and galactose)  and disaccharides (sucrose, lactose, and maltose). They are found in foods such as table sugar, honey, milk, and fruit.

Complex carbohydrate include oligosaccharides and polysaccharides. Glycogen is a polysaccharide found in animals, and starch and fiber polysaccharides are found in plants. Sugars and starches consumed in food are broken down in the digestive tract to monosaccharides which can be absorbed in the bloodstream.

The simple sugars the body uses directly to form energy are glucose and fructose. Galactose is readily converted to glucose by the body. So, basically, all sugars and starches (chains of glucose) end up as glucose in the body. When the body has more glucose  than it needs for energy, it converts the excess to fat and and glycogen. The glycogen is stored in the liver and muscles. When the body needs energy, glycogen is broken down making glucose available for energy formation. Glucose can also be obtained from certain amino acids and the glycerol part of fat. A constant supply is needed for the brain, red blood cells, white blood cells and some special cells in the kidney.

What are Added Sugars?

It is now a requirement to state the amount of added sugars on the Nutrition Facts Panel of most food products. Most of the simple sugars in our diet comes from foods and beverages sweeteners as sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup. Added sugars make up 15% of the total caloric intake of Americans.

High-fructose corn syrup is a liquid sweetener found in many soft drinks, fruit drinks, breakfast cereals and other food products.  It consists of 55% fructose and 45% glucose, compared to sucrose that contains 50% glucose and 50% fructose. For example, one 12 oz serving of a soft drink contains about 9 teaspoons of sugar. That’s a lot of sugar and far more than is good for health.

The American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than 6 teaspoons a day and men only 9 teaspoons a day.

Source: Judith E. Brown, Nutrition Now,  7th Edition.

CLICK HERE.

The Rising Rate of Obesity and Its Consequences

“The headlines this week broadcast the following research:  Doctors at NYU Langone Health center conducted the largest study so far of US hospital admissions for COVID-19, focused on New York City. They found obesity, along with age, was the biggest deciding factor in hospital admissions, which may suggest the role of hyper-inflammatory reactions that can happen in those with the disease.”

Just what are the latest facts and implications about our obesity epidemic in the U.S.?

This data is from the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention in February 2020 and presented in Life Extension Magazine, May 2020.

  • A startling result is that 42.4% of adults are obese. Additionally, 31.8% were overweight.
  • This situation is expected to not improve statistically. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine estimates that by 2030, the percentage of obese American adults will rise to 48.9%. These percentages reflect a total of $446 billion dollars of medical costs annually.
  • Women, African Americans, and those with a low socioeconomic status are affected at a significantly higher rate.

What are the medical implications?

  • Excess body weight increases the risk of developing and dying from a broad spectrum of cardiovascular diseases, cognitive disorders (e.g. Alzheimer’s) and at least 13 different types of cancers.
  • Obesity has been determined to be the underlying cause of approximately 20% of deaths in the United States.
  • An analysis of 57 studies encompassing 900,000 individuals published in Lancet found that for every 5 point increment in Body Mass Index was associated with a 30% increased mortality risk.
  • Additional negative effects of excess weight include fatty liver disease, sleep apnea, chronic pain syndromes like low back pain, IBS, osteoarthtis, depression, negative pregnancy outcomes, and chronic inflammation.

Foods that Kill

There are many factors that contribute to the rise in obesity rates; however, diet and lifestyle have recently been identified and collectively referred to as components of the Standard American Diet (SAD). One of these is processed food.

  • Processed foods tend to be high in added sugar, salt, oil and unhealthy fats are often mentioned as well as ultra-processed foods that are so altered that they hardly resemble their original whole-food state.
  • The food industry refers to them as an “industrial product” loaded with additives that attempt to enhance the food’s characteristics such as food stability, shelf life, textures, colors, and flavors. They are often referred to as emulsifiers, humectants, and sequestrants or others that have barely recognizable names.  Ultra-processed foods are often ready-to-eat, require minimal preparation and are highly marketed. Ultra-processed foods account for more than 60% of dietary energy in the U.S.
  • Populations that have the lowest intake of processed foods exist and have been recently studied and known as the Blue Zones. These are groups of individuals that live an average of 10 years longer than those in cultures who consume the SAD, otherwise known as the Western diet. These areas are found around the globe in Sardinia, Italy, Ikaria, Greece, Okinawa, Loma Linda, California, and Nicoya, Costa Rica.
  • An observational study of Spanish university graduates followed participants for a median of 10.4 years. Consumption of an average of 5.3 servings of ultra-processed food per day, compared to an average of less than 1.5 servings per day, was associated with a 62% increase for all-cause mortality. For each additional serving, this risk increased by 18%.

What Is the Optimal Diet?

There are numerable reports on the health benefits of vegan, vegetarian, or plant-based diets. However, there is one diet that has been studied extensively for its healthy effects called the Mediterranean Diet. There is no one Mediterranean diet; however, it is usually associated with the intake of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds, extra-virgin olive oil, fish, seafood, moderate amounts of poultry, eggs, and dairy products. Red meat and sweets are limited as well as a low intake of processed foods.  A moderate intake of wine is acceptable. (moderate = 1-2 glasses).

Conclusions:
A possible molecular explanation for why overweight is harmful has been discovered by researchers. They suggest that overeating increases the immune response. This response causes the body to generate excessive inflammation  during the COVID-19 infection and that inflammation is at the core of many other chronic diseases.
University of Oslo. “Being overweight causes hazardous inflammations.” ScienceDaily, 25, August 2014.
If current trends continue and we find that 50% of our population is in the obese weight category, there will be alarming rates of catastrophic health consequences. Our health care costs will become unsustainable. It is a common belief that as long as you are not obese, you can be overweight and still be healthy. This is not always true. Many studies have found that a higher weight was associated with a higher risk of dying; however, this has remained  a major debate issue among obesity experts.

How much sugar?

We know in times like these, our sugar intake is the last concern on our minds. In fact, we may be eating more of it due  to stress and discontent of our current environment.   But when this horrible pandemic is over, we have to try to get back to improving our diets as much as possible to make up for lost time. Here is a good article about sugar intake that is in reality reasonable and informative in general about the glycemic index, fructose, and artificial sweeteners and processed foods.

CLICK HERE.