The Mediterranean Diet: More Good News?

The Mediterranean Diet has been the topic of many research studies in that it performs very well as far as giving us health benefits associated with prevention of many chronic diseases. This time its cognitive ability as well as a reduced risk of the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

The Bottom Line?

  • A study finds that the health benefits of a Mediterranean diet may include a reduced chance of developing dementia and memory loss.
  • Specifically, the diet appears to lower the level of amyloid and tau proteins that are linked with dementia.
  • People following the Mediterranean diet scored better on memory tests than those who were not following the diet.

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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

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.

 

Nutrition News in Brief

 

Drinking Tea and Healthy Brains

Tea has been a popular beverage since antiquity dating back to the dynasty of Shen Nong (2700 BC). Drinking tea has become increasingly popular in western countries today. It is assumed that the types of tea were both black and green teas; however, this was not designated in the abstract below.

A study from the journal Aging reported that drinking tea was associated with a healthy brain.

Method: The current study compared 15 tea drinkers aged 60 and older to 21 people in the same age group who did not regularly consume tea.

The researchers gave neuropsychological tests to the participants that evaluated cognitive function and used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to assess brain connectivity.

Results and Conclusion

The tea-drinking group had better organized brain regions and cognitive functions compared to those in the group who were not tea drinkers.

The authors stated: “Our results offer the first evidence of positive contribution of tea drinking to brain structure and suggest that drinking tea regularly has a protective effect against age-related decline in brain organization.”

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Blueberry Intake May Reduce Cardiovascular Risk

A study reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found a lower risk of cardiovascular disease among men and women with metabolic syndrome who consumed the equivalent of a cup of blueberries daily for six months. Metabolic syndrome is a collection of health risks, including high blood pressure, altered blood lipids, high blood glucose and a large waist circumference, that increases the chance of developing heart disease, stroke and diabetes type 2.

Method: A total of 138 individuals were randomized into groups that were given either 26 grams of powdered blueberries  (equivalent to a cup of fresh blueberries), 13 grams of powdered blueberries plus 1/2 cup of a mock blueberry placebo, or 26 grams of the placebo.

Insulin resistance, flow mediated dilatation (a measure of endothelial function), augmentation index (which measures artery stiffness), cholesterol and other factors were measured before and after the intervention. Endothelium refers to the cells that line the interior surface of blood vessels in the body as well as the lymphatic vessels

Results: The researchers observed an improvement in endothelial function and arterial stiffness in the group that received 26 grams of blueberry powder.

Conclusion: The authors stated: “The simple and attainable message to consume one cup of blueberries daily to consume one cup of blueberries daily should be given to those aiming to improve their cardiovascular health.”

 

 

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