Looking at a Blue Zone: Costa Rica

The Blue Zone diet is based on populations in the world that live the longest. The study was pioneered by Dan Buettner, a National Geographic best-selling author. After many years of interviews with centenarians, he and his team discovered five zones of the world that exhibited the most longevity: Okinawa, Japan, Sardina, Italy, Ikaria, Greece, Loma Linda, California and Nicoya, Costa Rico. They called these areas “Blue Zones” and here is just one of their stories.

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The Deadly Tomato?

The Deadly, Deadly Tomato.

“Botanically speaking, tomatoes are a fruit; technically, they’re a berry and legally a vegetable. In 1893 a ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court, the tomato became legally classified as a vegetable because it’s used as one. More recently, tomato ketchup was named a vegetable in the school lunch program.”

In the late 1700’s, a large percentage of Europeans were afraid of the lowly tomato. It was literally called a “a poison apple” because the higher classes of consumers at the time and place were thought to have died from eating them. An explanation? Wealthy Europeans use pewter plates high in lead content and the tomato got all the blame.

Early herbalist and religious references botanically named it also a mandrake (AKA as an aphrodisiac) and classified it as a poisonous nightshade called Solanaceae thought to contain toxins called tropane alkaloids. Other foods in this classification include the eggplant. Currently, some people consider them a problem especially if you have arthritis pain – cutting nightshades out of your diet may be worth a try; however, there is no reliable evidence to support this claim.  

The best tomatoes are seasonal – many of you may remember waiting for them to be at their flavor peak in the late summers (dependent on what part of the country you lived in like the northeast and upper Midwest states.) There, the weather is ideal for tomato growth with hotter days and cooler nights. It is best to buy tomatoes from local farmers and getting vine-ripened whenever possible. They taste the best and their flavor is at peak time.

” The fruit’s origin began in the Americas and eaten by Aztecs as early as 700 AD where it was known as the “tomatl.” It wasn’t grown in Britain until the 1590’s. It was associated with hotter climates and for this reason in cooler climates was only used as ornamental instead of food.”

“The first known reference to tomato was in 1710 in the British North American colonies and places the tomato in the Carolinas where it began to be accepted even with its ominous background.  Recipes appeared in American cookery manuscripts, but fears and rumors lingered. Around 1880, the tomato grew in popularity in Europe due to the invention of the pizza. Presently, the United States has become the world’s largest tomato producer.

Nutritional Information

Tomatoes have considerable vitamin C and some vitamin A.

Tomatoes are claimed to be an anticancer weapon. It contains lycopene, the plant pigment makes the fruit red. It is particularly associated as a prostate cancer fighter. 

However, it is best consumed when heated with oil for this effect.

Tomatoes also have a compound called lutein that may help prevent macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness in older people.

Source:

The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink, Smith, 2007

The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth, Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., C.N.S

The Mind-Gut Connection

A new developing science states: The connection between the mind and gut is bidirectional; the gut talks to the brain and the brain talks to the gut. Major health problems can appear when this system is disturbed; One way to minimize this is to keep your microbial “self” happy and working properly. The connection can affect mood and overall health.

HOW TO FEED YOUR GUT MICROBES

Try to maintain a variety of diverse gut microbes by maximizing your consumption of naturally fermented food, probiotics and prebiotics(these foods “feed” your own intestinal microbes.)

For reduction of gut inflammation, try these:

Cut down on animal fat in your diet.

Avoid when possible, mass-produced ultra-processed foods.

Reduce stress and practice mindfulness of what you’re eating.

Avoid eating when you are stressed, angry or sad.

Enjoy foods and eat with family and friends.

Listen to your gut feelings and signals.

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Source:

The Mind-Gut Connection: How the Hidden Conversation Within Our Bodies Impacts Our Mood. Emeran Mayer, M.D. 2016

Obesity and Covid

“Obesity is an extremely complex, multifactorial disease, with many of its most harmful effects arising from hormonal stimulation. Adipose tissue is an endocrine organ, and more than a hundred different hormones are produced by fat cells. As the cells expand with weight gain, production increases. Some of these hormones cause inflammation or trigger blood-clotting mechanisms, while others raise blood pressure or lead to insulin resistance, for example. Obesity affects virtually every body system and is associated with more than 200 medical conditions.”

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The Japanese Diet: Deconstructed

The Japanese diet is one of the world’s lowest in fat. Other attributes include fish as a mainstay and soy foods. The Japanese also care about appearance and think of food as an art – resulting in more appetizing and satisfying foods. Do these characteristics contribute to the Japanese record of low rates of major chronic diseases and the fact that they boast the world’s highest life expectancy – age 76 for men and 82 for women?

In contrast, in 1980, 30 percent of U .S. adult population were affected by at least one chronic condition. Today it’s 60 percent. The percentage of those affected by two or more chronic diseases has grown from 16 percent to 42 percent. What and how do the Japanese eat? Often, it is Interesting to study lifestyles, in particular what and how other cultures eat to gain some insights as to what exactly is a healthy diet. No one expects the typical American to start munching on seaweed but the study indicates that what and how we eat can affect our overall health and longevity.

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What are healthy habits? A new study

Americans don’t live as long as people in most other high-income countries. We hear so much about how healthy habits are the recommendations of the medical community, but often they come across as vague and not specific enough. How many times has your doctor said, “watch your diet” as you leave his/her office. Here are the highlights of a study that actually investigated the adherence of these habits and how they related to longevity rates.

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

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

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

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

The Factors:

1. Maintaining a healthy eating pattern (like the Mediterranean Diet) The DASH Diet or the MIND Diet are also healthy choices. You can find details on Amazon Books.

  • Recommended daily amounts of vegetables fruit, nuts, whole grains, polyunsaturated fatty acids, omega-3 fatty acids.  
  • Limiting red and processed meats, moderately.
  • Limiting beverages with added sugar, trans fats, and sodium

2. Moderate drinking (2 glasses for men and 1 glass for women) daily.

3.  Not smoking

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

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

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

Results:

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

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

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

Source:

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

Extra Virgin Olive Oil Benefits

Large Human Trial Demonstrates Extra Virgin Olive Oil Reduces Cardiovascular and Breast Cancer Risks

Results of a large clinical trial published in two prestigious medical journals JAMA an the New England Journal of Medicine demonstrate that a diet supplemented with extra Virgin olive oil provides health benefits.

The PREDIMED study enrolled adults age 55 to 80 who are considered at high risk for cardiovascular disease based on various factors.

Participant 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 new breast cancer 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. Interesting, 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

The First Dietary Guidelines 1980

The Old, The New, The Truth

Soon, The Dietary Guidelines for 2020  are due to be released.  As usual, there will be a flurry of discussions, debates, praise and criticisms somewhat dependent on what sections of the food industry are happy and those who are not.  The Dietary Guidelines, in my opinion, reflect who won the battle for the food industry’s interests this time around, to make sure their profit margins are kept intact. Little else new is gained from them and little attention is paid to them after their endlessly repeated advice based on lobbyists and politics. Who will win out this time?  In the past few decades, the advice has lacked conviction, e.g. what is moderation,  and has been so diluted, it plays little role in how our food supply affects our health.  Enjoy a little history of past advice and forgive me for the cynicism.

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The Nutritional State of the Nation: Does it Affect Covid-19?

A number of diseases and disorders share common risk factors of low intakes of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, excess calorie intake, body fat, and high animal fat intake. These risk factors are associated with the development of chronic inflammation and oxidative stress, conditions that are strongly related to the development of heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer and other chronic diseases that include stroke, osteoporosis, and obesity.

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of at least three of five conditions: hypertension, high blood sugar, obesity, high triglycerides, and low HDL cholesterol that increase the risk for cardiovascular disease. These diseases are all related to our diets and other lifestyle factors – namely exercise and smoking habits.

A new study in the journal Diabetes Care is the first to look at the impact of metabolic syndrome on outcomes for Covid-19 patients. “Together, obesity, diabetes and prediabetes, high blood pressure and abnormal cholesterol levels are all predictors of higher incidences of death in these patients and were more than three times more likely to die from the disease.

“The more of these diagnoses that you have, the worse the outcomes”, says lead author Joshua Denson , assistant professor of medicine and pulmonary and critical care medicine physician at Tulane University of Medicine.

“The underlying inflammation that is seen with metabolic syndrome may be the driver that is leading to these more severe cases.” Dr. Denson adds.  In this study, the most common conditions were hypertension (80%), obesity (65%), diabetes (54%), and low HDL (39%.)

Dr. Denson would advise anyone who meets the criteria for metabolic syndrome to be vigilant in taking measures to reduce risk or exposure to the coronavirus.  “It doesn’t matter if you’re young or old, we took that into account” he says.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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