Jan
07
2024

Backup your New Year’s Resolutions by looking at short-term Consequences

In the New Year it pays to backup your New Year’s resolutions by looking at short-term consequences. An article in “the conversation” explains how you can keep yourself motivated to stick to healthy habits. The alternative would be to fall back into unhealthy habits, which lead to various disease conditions. Traditional thinking centered around keeping long-term outlooks in front of your mind when tempted by the smell of doughnuts. In these cases, you think that the long-term consequences of eating doughnuts or consuming sugary drinks result in diabetes and obesity. But the smell or taste of unhealthy foods can be so overpowering that the long-term consequences of potential diseases is forgotten. This is the point when your New Years resolution may fade away in favor of falling back to unhealthy eating habits.

Think short-term to resist temptation

The new approach is to replace the thinking of long-term outlooks by short-term outlooks. The authors cited an example of 4000 participants in 7 separate studies. When the short-term consequences of anxiety and a sugar and caffeine crash were explained for caffeine containing sugary drinks, 25% of participants were able to abstain from the energy drinks in comparison to those who were informed about long-term consequences.

Another experiment

A similar experiment involved the consumption of sugar in the form of cookies. One group of participants read about the short-term effects of eating sugar. A second group read about the long-term effects of eating sugar. A third group did not get any information about the effect of sugar. There was also a “reward system” for all the participants: they had to decide between receiving a tote bag or eating cookies. Those who had read about the short-term effects of sugar were 30% less likely to choose cookies than the ones who read about the long-term effects. The ones who read the short-term effects were 45% less likely to choose the cookies than the ones who read nothing about the effects of sugar.

Verbalizing short-term consequences

Here are some thoughts that help to verbalize short-term consequences:

  • For alcohol: excessive drinking can lead to poor sleep and hangovers.
  • Fast food can make you feel bloated or give you indigestion.
  • Sugar and starchy meals: make you bloated and give you an acidy stomach, also will lead to rapid weight gain.
  • Focus on the good taste of apples and carrots. People will eat more of it and get the health benefits without mentioning it.

You can keep your goals easier when you combine them with small rewards here and there. When you have achieved one thing, you could watch your favorite TV show. Another reward could be a brief visit to the gym that makes you feel more fit. Or go and buy yourself a new pair of shorts for the gym. The authors of this article provide evidence from studies that showed that several mini rewards distributed throughout the day are more effective than big rewards at the end of the day.

Measurements of weight fluctuations

I found that body composition scales are very useful to monitor your diet intake. Here is an example how I use this device. My weights, fat% and body mass index for a number of days is listed below. The first line shows the baseline measured in the morning. On Saturday lunchtime I was invited to a Christmas family dinner. I ate more than I should have had. You can see the results on the Sunday readings: weight up, fat up and BMI up. I watched my calorie intake throughout Sunday.

Weekday              Weight (KG)                 Fat %        Body mass index

Saturday:                   63.6                           13.2                  21.7

Sunday:                     64.0                           14.2                  21.9

Monday:                    63.4                           14.3                  21.7

It took another two days (Wednesday) before the fat percentage was down to 12.9.

There is another powerful tool, Dr. Valter Longo’s fasting mimicking diet. I reported about this under this link. Briefly, once a month I eat only 500 to 600 calories daily for 5 days. This helps me to lose my body mass index from 21.8 down to 21.1 or 21.2. After that I can eat a normal diet until the next month when I do the fasting mimicking diet again. It is an easy way to keep my body mass index in the 21.0 to 22.0 range. My wife and I prepare our own 500 to 600 calorie diet with natural food.(No, you do not get much, but it can taste good!) We do not buy Dr. Longo’s expensive diet boxes.

Backup your New Year’s Resolutions by looking at short-term Consequences

Backup your New Year’s Resolutions by looking at short-term Consequences

Conclusion

Focusing on short-term goals and consequences increases the percentage of success for those who have New Year’s resolutions. You can use this for many different approaches: eating less sugar, losing weight, getting regular exercise, reducing your alcohol intake, cutting out fast food and increasing your healthy vegetable and fruit intake. I also added a description of what I do with the help of body composition scales to control my weight and body mass index. I also use Dr. Longo’s fasting mimicking diet once per month for 5-days. Since December 2017 (for 6 years) I practiced this. I find it extremely useful to maintain my body mass index in the 21.0 to 22.0 range. Medicine knows that it is important to keep your body mass index below 25.0. This will prevent heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer. It also helps to look forward to a healthy New Year.

Dec
23
2023

Any Form of Exercise is good

Here are a few items that can prolong life; among them any form of exercise is good. This article concentrates on the exercise part in relation to longevity. A recent publication described how regular exercise prolongs your long-term survival. According to a study released on occasion of the American Heart Association’s Scientific Session 2023 there are 8 major factors that prolong life: healthy diet, physical activity, nicotine exposure, sleep health, BMI, cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure.  Among this group of factors regular physical activity plays a major role to prolong your life. Researcher who studied various people found that those who neglected their physical health had a chronological age of 53, but their average biological age was 57. On the other hand, a group of fit people who engaged in regular physical exercise had a chronological age of 41 years, but a biological age of 36.

Clinical trials showing that any form of exercise is good

JAMA Internal Medicine study by Dr. del Pozo Cruz 

This study examined what the optimal amount of physical activity per week is to reduce mortality compared to an inactive population. 500,705 eligible US adults were observed for about 10 years. The abbreviations that the authors used in the study were as follows:

MPA: moderate aerobic physical activity

VPA: vigorous aerobic physical activity

MSA: muscle-strengthening activity

Results of mortality reduction with various amounts of physical activity

  • The best group engaged in more than 0 to 75 minutes of MPA combined with more than 150 minutes of VPA and 2 or more MSA sessions per week. Their mortality rate was 50% lower than an inactive comparison group.
  • The optimal combination for reduction of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cancer mortality risk was as follows: more than 150 to 225 minutes of MPA, more than 0 to 75 minutes of VPA, and 2 or more MSA sessions per week. This reduced combined mortality of CVD and cancer by 70%.
  • The researchers stated that the adjusted mortality rates represented 50% lower mortality rate for all-cause and cancer mortality. The mortality rate for CVD mortality was 3-fold lower than for inactive controls.

Smallest amount of exercise that reduces mortality

In a study published in the European Heart Journal the authors asked how little exercise per week was enough to reduce mortality from heart disease. They found that it takes at least 15–20 min/week of vigorous physical activity (VPA) to reduce mortality from heart attacks by 16–40%. If you increased the exercise level by 50–57 min/week the mortality rates reduced even further.

Are physically active jobs healthy?

Recent research showed that people who work in physically demanding jobs are more likely to develop early cognitive impairment. This is the pre-stage of Alzheimer’s disease. 15.5 % of people who worked in high levels of occupational physical activity developed dementia. This compared to 9% risk for people whose work involved a low level of physical activity, not too much and not too little. The finding confirms the notion that there is a need for balance of physical exercise. Several publications stressed what is optimal in terms of exercise: vigorous (75 to 300 minutes per week) and moderate physical activity (150 to 600 minutes per week). People who expose themselves to these amounts of exercise live the longest and stay healthy.

Discussion

The studies discussed here showed that the right amount of exercise can reduce mortality from heart disease and cancer. However, exercise is not the only factor that can do this. It is important to combine regular exercise with a healthy diet. Your diet should consist of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, lean proteins and limit saturated and trans-fat, added sugars, and sodium. In addition, you need enough sleep, maintain a healthy weight, manage your stress, and don’t smoke.

Any Form of Exercise is good

Any Form of Exercise is good

Conclusion

In this review I touched on the importance of regular exercise to reduce mortality from heart disease and cancer. Vigorous (75 to 300 minutes per week) and moderate physical activity (150 to 600 minutes per week) reduce mortality from heart attacks by 16% to 40%. But physical exercise is only one factor of mortality reduction. If you want the full benefit from other factors, you must quit smoking, eat a Mediterranean type diet with fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and lean proteins. Also you should limit saturated and trans-fat, added sugars, and sodium. In addition, you need enough sleep, maintain a healthy weight and manage your stress. Once you adopted this lifestyle, you live longer and you will get less diseases.

Dec
09
2023

Too much Ultraprocessed Food Makes you sick

A Lancet study published on Nov. 13, 2023 found that too much ultraprocessed food makes you sick. Researchers noted that ultraprocessed animal products and sweetened beverages were linked to an increased cancer risk as well as other diseases such as strokes or diabetes.

In Europe more than half of the food intake consists of ultraprocessed food. In the US a 2019 study found that 71% of the food supply is ultraprocessed.

Details of the study

The details of the study were summarized in a CNN report. Researchers of the study collected nutritional data from 266,666 men and women (60% were women) from 7 European countries between 1992 and 2000. The researchers followed the participants for 11 years. During that time they observed the participants for the development of chronic diseases and cancer. During the observation time 21,917 primary cancers, 10,939 cardiovascular events, and 11,322 type 2 diabetes cases developed. On entry into the study participants were questioned about their food intake in the past 12 months. This was matched with the NOVA classification system. It became clear that not all ultraprocessed foods were detrimental to the health of the participants. Animal products and sugar-sweetened drinks and foods caused chronic diseases in the participants of the study. However, ultra-processed breads, cereals or alternative plant-based products were neutral in terms of health risks.

Main findings of the study: too much ultraprocessed food makes you sick

The main findings of the study were that ingesting mostly ultraprocessed food leads to a 9% increase of heart attacks, strokes, diabetes and cancer. This is in comparison to controls who ate very little ultraprocessed food. However, when you reduce your intake of ultraprocessed food your risk of developing these diseases reduces. The key is to eat more fruit and vegetables and concentrate on eating minimally processed food.

Other studies with similar findings

In 2022 the British Medical Journal published two studies that documented a higher colorectal cancer rate and cardiovascular disease rate when subjects were eating larger amounts of ultraprocessed foods (UPF). Specifically, when men had exposure to a high percentage of UPF in their diet they developed 29% more colorectal cancer after 28 years of observation in comparison to men who ate a low percentage of UPF. A related study that went on for 14 years showed a 32% higher risk for death from cardiovascular disease for men who ate a high UPF diet in comparison to men on a low UPF diet.

French study 2019

A French study in 2019 followed 44, 551 French adults 45 years or older for 7.1 years. A 10% increase of consumption of ultraprocessed food caused a 14% higher risk of all-cause mortality. The authors stated that 80% of all premature deaths from noncommunicable disease are due to cardiovascular disease (CVD), respiratory disease, cancer, and diabetes. The authors discussed in detail the problems with overconsumption of ultraprocessed food.

Some of the contents of ultraprocessed food

Ultraprocessed food contains:

  • High salt content, and high sodium intake has been associated with cardiovascular deaths and increased stomach cancer risk.
  • Excessive amounts of added sugar. There is an association between added sugar consumption and an increased risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease.
  • Ultraprocessed foods contain very little fiber. More dietary fiber in one’s diet has an association with lower death rates.
  • Studies have estimated that reducing saturated and trans fats, salt, and added sugar in the diet prevent cardiovascular deaths.
  • High temperature food processing produces acrylamide. Acrylamide is a known carcinogen.
  • Consumption of processed meat products causes a higher risk of colorectal cancer and stomach cancer.
More ingredients of ultraprocessed food
  • Artificial sweeteners can alter microbiota and can cause the onset of type 2 diabetes and metabolic diseases.
  • With bisphenol A coating in food packaging endocrine disruptors enter the food. Bisphenol A causes endocrine cancers and metabolic diseases, such as diabetes and obesity.
  • The food industry uses additives frequently in their formulations. Some studies raised concerns about the health consequences of food additives. For instance, the food industry uses titanium dioxide widely. There is an association of titanium dioxide and increased risk of chronic intestinal inflammation and carcinogenesis.

It is easy to see that when we expose our bodies to a mix of these ingredients this can cause cardiovascular diseases, cancers and diabetes. The final outcome is that this leads to premature deaths.

Too much Ultraprocessed Food Makes you sick

Too much Ultraprocessed Food Makes you sick

Conclusion

Too much ultraprocessed food (UPF) makes you sick. This is the conclusion of a large study, which the Lancet published on Nov. 13, 2023. Researchers followed 266,666 men and women (60% women) for 11 years. The main findings of the study were that ingesting mostly ultraprocessed food leads to a 9% increase of heart attacks, strokes, diabetes and cancer. This is in comparison to controls who ate very little ultraprocessed food. Other studies going back to 2019 and 2022 showed very similar findings.

Other studies

A French study from 2019 noted that a 10% increase of consumption of ultraprocessed food caused a 14% higher risk of all-cause mortality. Several studies in 2022 showed that men who had an exposure to a high percentage of UPF in their diet developed 29% more colorectal cancer after 28 years of observation in comparison to men who ate a low percentage of UPF. A related study that went on for 14 years showed a 32% higher risk for death from cardiovascular disease for men who ate a high UPF diet in comparison to men on a low UPF diet. It follows from this data that a simple diet consisting of vegetables, fruit, nuts and lean meat (chicken turkey, fish) with minimal amounts of UPF protects you from premature death.

Oct
23
2023

News from the Blue Zones Regarding Longevity

This article is about news from the Blue Zones regarding longevity. Blue Zones are areas where many centenarians live. Medical News Today ran a review article about Blue Zones on Sept. 23, 2023. These Blue Zones are located in Sardinia, Italy; Ikaria, Greece; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Loma Linda, California and Okinawa, Japan. Many studies looked at centenarians in these areas and analyzed what lifestyles led to their longevity. Dan Buettner summarized at a conference that only 20% of deaths in the world are due to genetic conditions. 80% of people can postpone their death date by adopting healthy lifestyles.

Factors associated with longevity

Dan Buettner called the factors that lead to prolonged life “Power 9”. The following factors must be adopted simultaneously, if you want to reach 100 years of age and more:

  • Moving naturally and regularly
  • People in Blue Zones have a purpose in life
  • Reduce stress in your life
  • Practice the 80% diet rule, which is to stop eating when 80% full
  • Adopt a plant-based diet.
  • Consume alcohol in moderation
  • Be part of a community
  • Put family first
  • keep a social circle that supports healthy behaviors

A diet for longevity

Dan Buettner analyzed the dietary habits of centenarians. He found that 90% of the diet they consumed consisted of whole food, plant-based sources and about 65% of their diet were complex carbs. Buettner noted: “The pillars of every longevity diet in the world are whole grains, nuts, greens, and other garden vegetables, tubers and beans.” For years the benefits of a Mediterranean diet were investigated and found to be life prolonging. It also emphasizes vegetables, whole foods, greens, grains, nuts and beans. The review article in Medical News Today that I mentioned above contains recommendations of how to change your diet to a healthier one.

Regular exercise

We are built in a way that requires regular exercise. When you exercise regularly, your body produces healthy HDL cholesterol that balances the unhealthy LDL cholesterol. Overall, this counteracts clogging of arteries and prevents heart attacks and strokes.

When you prevent strokes and heart attacks, you live longer.

Have a purpose in life

When you have a purpose in life, your mind is focused on what excites you. Achieving what is your dream satisfies you. Your brain releases feel-good brain hormones (dopamine, serotonin, endorphins, and oxytocin). When these hormones are released, you relax and cope with stress better. Your blood pressure normalizes, hardening of the arteries is postponed. At the same time, you prevent heart attacks and strokes. This contributes to longevity.

Reduce stress in your life

When under stress, your adrenal glands release adrenaline and cortisol. In the short term these stress hormones help you to cope better with stress. But when stress gets chronic, it weakens your immune system and increases your risk for a heart attack or stroke. It ages you faster. You can counter stress in your life by adopting stress management techniques. Regular exercise stabilizes your emotional life. You can listen to relaxation recordings or to relaxing music to calm your nerves. Developing friendships is another method of coping with stress. Here is more information on how to reduce stress in your life.

Limit alcohol consumption

In the past it was thought that small amounts of alcohol would prevent cardiovascular disease. But these studies overlooked the fact that even small amounts of alcohol can cause various cancers. So, by limiting the amount of alcohol consumption you also limit your probability of getting cancer.

Be part of a community

Many psychological studies showed that social isolation leads to health problems. It follows from this that being part of a community stabilizes your health and prevents disease. When you socialize with other people you counter stress and prevent loneliness.

Putting family first

When you care about your family, family members will care about you. Studies showed that this is an important factor in preventing disease. It even reduces mortality. Lower mortality leads to longevity.

Keep a social circle that supports healthy behaviors

Strangely enough here is another psychological factor that leads to longevity: getting support from a social circle. Being part of a social circle can create positive energy that prevents health problems.

Discussion of factors that lead to longevity

It is interesting to see that a lot of the longevity factors are psychological in nature. But physical factors are also important, like a Mediterranean diet and regular exercise. One factor that was not mentioned by Dan Buettner is the importance of preservation of hormone stability. I attended many yearly conferences of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (also known as A4M). They take place in the middle of December in Las Vegas every year. Over the years many lectures centered around hormone deficiencies. They collectively lead to premature aging and deaths. However, speakers also stressed that when you replace the missing hormones, you can reach a balance point where life gets prolonged.

Hormone replacement

One of the speakers, Dr. Hertoghe, an endocrinologist from Brussels mentioned in various talks that a lack of human growth hormone (HGH) in older age can lead to premature death. When IGF-1 levels in the blood are low, replacing the missing HGH with regular HGH injections can add 26.5 years to your life expectancy. But other hormones like thyroid hormones, testosterone in males, and progesterone and estrogen in females can prolong life when replaced after menopause or andropause (the male version of menopause).

News from the Blue Zones Regarding Longevity

News from the Blue Zones Regarding Longevity

Conclusion

Many factors contribute to longevity in centenarians. A lot of the factors are psychological in nature, like having a purpose in life or reducing stress in your life. Others are: be part of a community, put family first and keep a social circle that supports healthy behaviors. Physical factors causing longevity are moving naturally and regularly; adopt a plant-based diet; and consume alcohol in moderation. There is one important factor of longevity that Dan Buettner overlooked: your hormone balance. When we approach age 60 and beyond many people stop producing adequate amounts of hormones.

Replacing missing hormones

Anti-aging doctors have done studies showing that replacing missing hormones in proper doses will prolong life. Dr. Hertoghe, an endocrinologist from Brussels mentioned in various talks that a lack of human growth hormone (HGH) in older age can lead to premature death. When IGF-1 levels in the blood are low, replacing the missing HGH with regular injections can add 26.5 years to your life expectancy.

Jul
15
2023

Poor Health is Linked to Loneliness and Social Isolation

In June 2023 a new study showed that poor health has a link to loneliness and social isolation. It was also reviewed by CNN. There have been many studies in the past examining whether poor health shows an association to loneliness and social isolation. But this new study is different: it is a meta-analysis of 90 prospective studies with follow-up from 6 months to 25 years. The study included only persons age 18 years and older. There was a total of 2.2 million participants. The study specifically examined the links between loneliness, social isolation and early death.

The Meta-analysis

This new meta-analysis is significant, because with such a high number of participants the statistical strength is much better than with smaller studies. All of the 90 studies examined were prospective studies. The meta-analysis showed the difference between controls and various experimental groups suffering loneliness, social isolation and early death. The researchers identified independent risk factors of subsets among the 2.2 million subjects as discussed further below.

Loneliness

The definition of loneliness in the study was the subjective distress people feel when there is a discrepancy between the social relationships they have and what they want. If their is no fulfillment of the need for connection or intimacy in their relationships, this too can be a source of loneliness. There is increased isolation of Americans due to the increase in TV watching, spending more computer time and increase in cell phone use. This is loneliness by choice. But very few know that this can cause disease.

Social isolation

When people are under social isolation, they are under chronic stress, which translates into disease. In the statistics below it is apparent that cancer and cardiovascular mortality show a significant elevation from social isolation. In women with breast cancer there was a 51% increased mortality due to social isolation.

Findings of the study

Here are the findings form the metaanalysis. All the findings of patients suffering from loneliness and social isolation were in comparison to control groups without social deprivation.

  • There is a 32% all-cause mortality from loneliness and social isolation
  • Loneliness is responsible for a 14% increase in mortality compared to those who are not lonely
  • There is a 24% increased cancer mortality due to social isolation
  • Social isolation is responsible for a 34% increase of cardiovascular mortality
  • Socially isolated individuals with cardiovascular disease had a 28% increased all-cause mortality
  • Socially isolated women with breast cancer had a 51% increased all-cause mortality

Life style factors part of loneliness and social isolation

Turhan Canli, a professor of integrative neuroscience in the department of psychology at New York’s Stony Brook University had no involvement in the study. He said: ”People who feel socially isolated or lonely tend to have unhealthy habits, such as smoking, alcohol use, poor diet or little exercise. Having a small social network or little to no contact with the outside world can also make someone less likely to receive medical care if they don’t have anyone checking on them.”

Broadening social connections

We learnt how devastating loneliness and social isolation are for your health. It follows from this that the solution is to concentrate on broadening social connections as a preventative measure. Canli said: “Think of maintaining a social network like any other health-promoting activity: exercising regularly, eating well, looking after yourself.” Cultivate your social connections with a higher priority than in the past. Engage in new circles of like-minded people. Seek opportunities out like joining an exercise class or a discussion group.

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Conclusion

Loneliness and social isolation are a real entity that threatens all of our health. A meta-analysis of 90 prospective studies (6 months to 25 years of follow-up) including more than 2 million people showed the following. There is a 32% all-cause mortality from loneliness and social isolation. Cancer mortality is up 24% due to social isolation. Socially isolated individuals with cardiovascular disease had a 28% increased all-cause mortality. Socially isolated women with breast cancer had a 51% increased all-cause mortality. There were more findings than these. Overall, this stresses the importance to cultivate your social connections, which prevents social isolation and loneliness. You will stay healthier for longer and not die prematurely.

Apr
06
2023

Erythritol is Linked to Heart Attacks and Strokes

A recent publication found that erythritol is linked to heart attacks and strokes. The study from the Cleveland Clinic was published Jan. 19, 2023 in Nature. It showed that people with diabetes had a 2-fold risk of getting a heart attack or stroke. Researchers measured the highest concentration of erythritol in their blood versus a control group with no erythritol in it. The study further showed that erythritol causes platelets to form clots, which could break of and travel to the heart or brain vessels. This triggered a heart attack or stroke. Dr. Stanley Hazen, director of the Center for Cardiovascular Diagnostics and Prevention at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute said: “We never expected this. We weren’t even looking for it.”

Erythritol is what causes heart attacks and strokes

What the research team was looking for was “find unknown chemicals or compounds in a person’s blood that might predict their risk for a heart attack, stroke or death in the next three years. “This is how erythritol was identified as a risk factor.

Erythritol is a sugar alcohol

Like sorbitol or xylitol, erythritol is a sugar alcohol, which occurs in many fruits and vegetables. Erythritol has less laxative effect than some of the other sugar alcohols. It tastes like sugar and adds bulk to any stevia-based sweeteners. These are the reasons why it became the preferred zero calorie sweetener of the industry. Also, in a mixture it diluted the pronounced sweet effect of stevia, but added the crystalline texture appearance like sugar to the sweetener. This is what the consumer expected of a sweetener.

The clinical trials showing there is a link between erythritol and heart attacks as well as strokes

One group of patient’s tests were 1,157 blood samples from people at risk for heart disease collected between 2004 and 2011. Another batch of blood samples came from over 2,100 people in the United States and an additional batch from 833 samples gathered by colleagues in Europe through 2018. 75% of the participants in all three populations had coronary disease or high blood pressure, and about 20% had diabetes. Over 50% were male and in their 60’s and 70’s.  All of those samples showed the following. Higher levels of erythritol showed a correlation to a greater risk of heart attack, stroke or death within three years.

Blood coagulation

Our blood has a delicate balance between coagulation from clotting factors and platelets on the one hand and fibrinolysis, which counters clotting, on the other hand. This ensures that we are not spontaneously bleeding and also not getting clots from hypercoagulation. The researchers found that it is this balance, which erythritol disturbs. Dr. Hazel said: “But what we’re seeing with erythritol is the platelets become super responsive: A mere 10% stimulant produces 90% to 100% of a clot formation”. This was the reason for the higher heart attack and stroke rates in the higher levels of erythritol in the blood.

Erythritol levels checked in healthy volunteers

The last part of the study involved tracking blood tests of erythritol in 8 healthy volunteers. They drank beverages containing 30 Grams of erythritol, which is the amount many Americans consume. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which examines American nutrition each year 30 Grams is the average daily consumption of Americans. The researchers took blood tests of erythritol for the next 3 days including tests of clotting risks. Dr. Hazen said: “Thirty grams was enough to make blood levels of erythritol go up a thousandfold. It remained elevated above the threshold necessary to trigger and heighten clotting risk for the following two to three days.”

Reaction of the industry

Robert Rankin, the Calorie Control Council’s executive director, an industry association, wrote in an email: “The results of this study are contrary to decades of scientific research showing reduced-calorie sweeteners like erythritol are safe, as evidenced by global regulatory permissions for their use in foods and beverages.” But this seems to be a lame excuse. The platelet clotting effect of erythritol simply was not what the FDA expected or tested for. The same was true for other regulatory bodies when they released it as safe. I have drawn my own conclusion and thrown out all sweeteners I had in my possession that contained erythritol.

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Conclusion

Sometimes studies come out of the blue, which change our everyday practice. One of these studies is Dr. Stanley Hazen, director of the Center for Cardiovascular Diagnostics and Prevention at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute. He showed that erythritol as an artificial sweetener is not harmless as previously thought of.  This included the FDA as a regulatory agency, which labeled erythritol as GRAS (=generally recognized as safe). Now new evidence of clinical studies showed that erythritol is responsible for a twofold risk of heart attacks, strokes or death in the next three years. Dr. Hazen included all kinds of controls and also fed healthy volunteers erythritol. No matter how he looked at it, the risk remained.

Erythritol causes clots, which cause heart attacks and strokes

In animal experiments he could also show that erythritol caused platelets to stick together and cause clot formation. These clots could travel into the heart and brain vessels and cause heart attacks and strokes. For any consumer it is the most sensible approach to NOT use any sweetener that contains erythritol. This involves reading product ingredients before you buy any sweetener. Assuming that products are harmless, when the label reads “Stevia” is a fallacy! In numerous products the ingredient list will show the word “erythritol”. Buyer beware!

Jan
14
2023

Cortisol is the Number 1 Longevity Hormone

At the 30th American Anti-Aging Academy Medicine Conference in Las Vegas one topic was that cortisol is the number 1 longevity hormone. Dr. Thierry Hertoghe, an endocrinologist from Brussels, Belgium gave a comprehensive lecture on Saturday, Dec.10, 2022. He explained that cortisol from our adrenal glands is vital to our health. Certainly, it is important for our quality of life and for health in general.  Indeed, cortisol keeps us alive when various circumstances challenge our health. Specifically, cortisol is on the bottom of the hormone cascade of corticotropin releasing hormone (CRH) from the hypothalamus/ Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) from the pituitary gland/and cortisol from the adrenal glands. It is important to realize that this is the hormone axis of the stress reaction that Dr. Selye first described.

Production of cortisol

Sedentary men produce 30 mg of cortisol per day, women 20 mg/day. Under stressful conditions ACTH production increases and causes an increase of cortisol production in the adrenal glands. To clarify, stressed men produce 40 to 60 mg per day and stressed women produce 30 to 40 mg/day. In addition, the older a person is, mononuclear leukocytes have less type 1 and type 2 glucocorticosteroid receptors.

Action of cortisol

Dr. Hertoghe pointed out that cortisol increases energy and stress resistance. It causes blood sugars to increase and also elevates blood pressure. The immune system gets stronger, allergies and inflammation decrease. Cortisol shapes our bodies: when there is cortisol deficiency the body is thin; with normal cortisol production the body has a normal configuration. Your body develops swelling and obesity with cortisol excess, but when cortisol is missing the body gets frail and thin.

Cortisol deficiency

Low cortisol production leads to low blood sugar and low blood pressure. This diminishes glycogen stores in the liver and muscle mass. A lack of circulating cortisol reduces gluconeogenesis in the liver, which is an alternative pathway of glucose production. One of the hallmark symptoms is mental fatigue, particularly in times of stress. With cortisol deficiency the person feels fatigue in the second part of the day.

Chronic fatigue syndrome

The peak age for chronic fatigue syndrome patients is 31 years. The mean duration of the illness lasts 7 years. 58% of patients have free serum cortisol levels at 20:00 hours, which is less than normal. In 40% of patients the total cortisol level is less than normal.

Burnout

With burnout the urinary free cortisol is diminished. Patients with cortisol deficiency have a hyper sensitivity to stress.

A lack of cortisol leads to feeling no energy and having no stress resistance. The person feels tense and has negative thinking. A person who has sufficient cortisol is full of energy, expresses emotions and handles stress well. With enough cortisol a person is relaxed, has positive feelings and finds solutions everywhere.

Adrenal crisis

Dr. Hertoghe explained that an adrenal crisis happens when there is not enough cortisol production in the adrenal glands to support the metabolism and the cardiovascular system. Gastrointestinal diseases, infectious diseases or stressful events like surgery, exposure to heat, strenuous physical activity, major pain or pregnancy can all trigger an adrenal crisis. When glucocorticoid therapy is withdrawn, this can also cause an adrenal crisis.

Addison’s disease

With Addison’s disease there is a lack of energy, muscle weakness, loss of appetite and unintentional weight loss. The reason for the symptoms is that the adrenal glands are not producing enough cortisol and aldosterone. There was a more than 2-fold increased risk of dying from Addison’s disease compared to a normal population in a Swedish study.

In another study the serum cortisol levels were determined in patients with heart attacks. The ones who had extremely low levels of cortisol were at almost a 9-fold risk of dying within 30 days compared to patients with a normal serum cortisol level. One of the famous patients with Addison’s disease was J.F. Kennedy. He collapsed in London, England and was finally diagnosed correctly in a British hospital after having suffered for several years without the correct diagnosis. This disease is not always easily diagnosed.

Cortisol therapy

With an adrenal crisis or Addison’s disease cortisol therapy can be life-saving. The physician uses physiological doses of glucocorticosteroid hormones (cortisol and others) and in emergency situations higher than normal doses. Dr. Hertoghe said that survival data were gathered with various severe disease conditions as follows.

Coronary heart disease survival

Dr. Hertoghe reported about a study that observed 1090 adults over 11 years. There was a 40% reduction of mortality when patients were treated with cortisol following a heart attack compared to controls who did not get cortisol treatments. The researchers also found that there was a 39% lower stroke risk when treatment with cortisol was instituted.

In a clinical trial with 39 patients who had heart attacks those patients treated with pharmacological doses of methylprednisolone (3 grams daily) experienced a significant reduction in infarction size.

In another study with 1118 patients Dr. Hertoghe reported a 28% reduction in mortality over 28 days compared with a placebo group. In this study medical researchers gave 2-3 grams of methylprednisolone early on into the heart attack. In the same study, after 6 months there was a 33% mortality reduction.

Stroke survival

Following a stroke, low cortisol levels (270 nmol/L) and high cortisol levels (550 nmol/L) both had an association with a poor long-term prognosis 1 year after follow-up.  However, the study also showed that patients with normal cortisol levels (between 270 nmol/L and 550 nmol/L) following a stroke had a very good long-term prognosis.

AIDS survival

AIDS patients belong into the group of chronic diseases that are associated with low cortisol levels in the blood. There are also clinical signs of low cortisol, namely dark circles around the eyes, hollow cheeks, brownish pale skin with pigment spots, hand creases that are pigmented and weight loss. Severely ill AIDS patients often have severe lung infections (Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia) due to their immune deficiency. A study involving 23 AIDS patients used methylprednisolone in the treatment group and no methylprednisolone in the placebo group. The clinicians administered 40 mg of methylprednisolone every 6 hours for 7 days in addition to antibiotic treatment for 3 weeks. They compared this to the placebo group without methylprednisolone. 75% of the treatment group survived until the hospital discharge compared to only 18% of the placebo group.

Sepsis and septic shock

Treatment of patients with septic shock with ACTH (the stress hormone) infusions showed that 88% had a cortisol response among survivors. The ultimate non-survivors only had a 27% cortisol response of their adrenal glands when stimulated by intravenous ACTH. Dr. Hertoghe pointed out that this suggests that some patients with septic shock may have relative adrenocortical insufficiency. This would explain why the adrenal glands of septic shock patients can be non-responsive to ACTH. In these cases, it is important that the physician treat with either intravenous cortisol or with synthetic glucocorticoids.

Treating septic shock with intravenous hydro-cortisol

One study showed that treating septic shock with intravenous hydro-cortisol gave the following results compared to placebo:

  • 7- fold higher septic shock resolution when compared to the placebo group
  • 8 – fold survival in the intensive care unit
  • 2 – fold higher hospital survival
  • 2 – fold better septic shock reversal in 7 days
  • 8 – fold better survival in the next 28 days.

Overall, this study clearly revealed that septic shock recovery is much better with intravenous hydro-cortisol treatment.

Cancer survival

A study found that breast cancer patients with metastases had flat saliva cortisol curves when compared to patients without breast cancer. If left alone breast cancer patients with a flat cortisol curve die earlier than those who used cortisol supplementation.  The researchers found out that the natural killer cells (NK cells) in these patients were missing. These are special lymphocytes that can kill cancer cells with their enzyme vesicles.

Glucocorticoid treatment

Dr. Hertoghe talked about short-term high-dosed glucocorticoid therapy and the difference between synthetic cortisol equivalents (Dexamethasone etc.) and the natural cortisol. He also talked about adding small amounts of these hormones: DHEA, fludrocortisone (0.1 mg daily orally), and bioidentical vasopressin to optimize cortisol replacement.

Cortisol is the Number 1 Longevity Hormone

Cortisol is the Number 1 Longevity Hormone

Conclusion

One of the vital hormones in our bodies is cortisol, the stress hormone. There is a hormone cascade starting with CRH in the hypothalamus, which stimulates ACTH release from the pituitary gland. This in turn releases cortisol from the adrenal glands. The end product, cortisol is the number 1 longevity hormone. It helps us to survive any stressful event. It gives us energy, stimulates the immune system and helps us to overcome dangerous illnesses. Dr. Hertoghe, an endocrinologist from Belgium gave a detailed lecture at the 30th American Anti-Aging Academy Medicine Conference in Las Vegas on Dec. 10, 2022. Dr. Hertoghe discussed how to survive a heart attack or stroke, sepsis, AIDS or Addison’s disease (=adrenal gland insufficiency) by adding appropriate cortisol doses or equivalent synthetic glucocorticosteroids. One thing is clear: we all need cortisol until the end of our lives.

Nov
19
2022

Lack of Sleep Harms the Immune System and Causes Inflammation

A research group from Boston, MA and New York, NY found that a lack of sleep harms the immune system and causes inflammation. This was summarized in this CNN article.

Specifically, they first conducted experiments with a mouse model. They studied the effects of sleep disruption and sleep deprivation and could later confirm identical changes in man. The observation was that a lack of sleep caused the hematopoietic cells in the bone marrow to proliferate, but the cell diversity was less than in people with normal sleep patterns. The same pattern of bone marrow proliferation was present in mice. This research was published Sept. 21, 2022 in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.

Chronic sleep deficit

A chronic sleep deficit caused chronic inflammation and eventually autoimmune diseases. Again, this was a pattern present in both the mouse model and in humans. Next the researchers observed what happened with sleep recovery. In the past it was assumed that with sleep recovery all of the physical changes from sleep deprivation would disappear. However, the opposite was true: both in mice and in humans the bone marrow stimulation and the lack of cell diversity persisted.

In the mouse model the researchers could show that there were permanent epigenetic changes, which were caused by sleep deprivation. The same is true with humans, but this is more difficult to show than in the mouse model. The researchers came to the conclusion that sleep deprivation stimulates bone marrow maturation, but restricts the clonal differentiation. In doing so the body initiates inflammation, which becomes chronic even with sleep restoration.

Human sleep studies

There were 14 volunteers that were the test subjects. One group was the normal sleep control. The other group underwent chronic sleep deprivation. Each group did this for 6 weeks. There was a 4-to-6-week washout period. Following this the previous normal sleep group started a 6-week sleep deprivation program. On the other hand, the prior sleep-deprived group switched to 6 weeks of normal sleep. All of the participants had daily late afternoon blood tests.

There are many sleep disruptions, which cause a sleep deficit

In modern life sleep gets disrupted in many ways. There can be sleep fragmentation, sleep restriction, jet lag, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), and insomnia.

People with these conditions often oscillate between these various types. They may have a few days of normal sleep, but then have sleep deprivation again for a few days. Every time they have sleep deprivation the bone marrow enhances hematopoietic activity. Normally there is a high leukocyte number in the blood at the end of the day and in the morning a lower leukocyte count. But with sleep deprivation there is a high monocyte count in the blood that stays high even when subjects switch back to a normal sleep pattern.

Epigenetic effect of sleep deprivation on bone marrow cells

The authors found that sleep deprivation affects the genetic control of hematopoietic cells in the bone marrow. They called this the epigenetic effect of sleep deprivation. This is responsible for the evening leukocyte response, the monocytosis and the tendency for autoimmune diseases. They summed this up by saying: “Our findings support the hypothesis that periods of poor sleep, even if followed by sleep recovery, have sustained consequences on immunological health.”

Lack of sleep harms the immune system and causes inflammation says the literature

There is ample evidence that a lack of sleep causes cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression and more frequent infections. Healthy sleep is important when you want to age well without complications. But enough sleep is also necessary to prevent obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Experts consider getting enough high-quality sleep as essential as a balanced diet and regular exercise.

Lack of Sleep Harms Immune System and Causes Inflammation

Lack of Sleep Harms Immune System and Causes Inflammation

Conclusion

So far, most researchers believed that when you miss some sleep for a few nights that a afternoon nap or a few nights of longer sleep would compensate for the sleep deficit with no sequelae. Think again, because new research from a group in Boston, MA and New York, NY found that lack of sleep harms the immune system and causes inflammation permanently. Sleep deprivation stimulates the bone marrow cells to multiply and causing proliferation of monocytes, called monocytosis as well. Despite afternoon naps and recovery sleep this condition remains  and can lead to autoimmune diseases. All this was unknown up to now. Our bone marrow cells need regular sleep hours to stay diversified and to optimally fight infections in the body. This prevents autoimmune diseases and keeps our defenses against viral diseases strong.

Oct
08
2022

Plant-Based Meat Alternatives are Healthier

A recent study showed that plant-based meat alternatives are healthier than the original meat dishes. This spread into various health websites on the Internet. One example is this one.

Some statistics about plant-based meat alternatives

Plant-based meat alternatives came to the market in the 1960’s. At that time, they consisted mainly of soy. Later textured vegetable protein joined soy products. Today they consist of pea protein, soy, potato, oils, various binders and flavorings to mimic the texture and flavor of meat.

The global plant-based meat market was about 5 billion USD last year. It is projected to increase by 19% from 2022 to 2030. The plant-based dairy alternatives market totaled 11 billion in 2020. The estimate is that this will grow to 32 billion in 2031.

How healthy are plant-based substitutes?

In the center of this discussion is the publication of Christopher J. Bryant from the Bath University in England. This publication reviewed 43 studies regarding plant-based substitutes regarding healthiness and environmental sustainability. In the following I am discussing the findings, particularly about health benefit of plant-based foods versus meat-based foods.

Problems with our current food consumption

There are several problems with human diseases that are transmitted from wildlife. HIV arouse from hunting of non-human primates. Rabies was transmitted in South America by vampire bats from cattle to humans. Early cases of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) came from contact with wild life. Finally, bats transmitted the SARS coronavirus-like virus from wild animals and live animal markets to humans. Subsequently human to human transmission caused the spread of Covid all around the world as a pandemic.

Use of antibiotics in feedlots

In order to control diseases in closely kept animal feedlots farmers feed the livestock antibiotics. This helps to contain infections, but it also poses a grave problem to humans as antibiotics become more and more resistant. Superbugs developed this way. 18% of meat imported from China was contaminated with Salmonella. 88% of those exposed to contaminated meat were resistant to at least one antibiotic. But 58% were resistant to multiple antibiotics.

A Harvard study from Boston showed in 2020 that red meat and processed red meat consumption caused 15% more heart attacks compared to those who substituted the protein source with plant-based foods. The same study also noted that the heart attack rates were about 15% less for subjects who substituted meat with plant products in comparison to meat eaters. 

Other results of the study

Several of the reviewed studies compared the nutritional profile of plant-based meat with the animal-based counterparts. Plant-based meat was significantly lower in saturated fat, and protein. However, they were significantly higher in fibre and salt. 40% of meat products were classified as ‘less healthy’. In comparison to that investigators assessed that only 14% of plant-based meat was ‘less healthy’. When saturated fat, sodium, sugar, and overall calorie content were tabulated, plant-based meat products compared favorably to meat. But salt content was often too high in plant-derived foods.

Plant-based burgers were much healthier than conventional beef-burgers, as they contained no cholesterol, less trans-fatty acids and less saturated fat. Vegetable-based food that contains pea protein is particularly valuable with regard to a high protein content.

Criticism of plant-based meat alternatives

At the present time many plant-based meat products have too much sugar and salt in it, but lack iron and vitamin B12. Various authors suggested that the food industry should add iron and vitamin B12 to their products and reduce the sugar and salt content.

Muscle synthesis

Mycoprotein is the active biochemical that builds up the protein of the muscle mass in man. Non-animal-derived dietary protein contains ample amounts of mycoprotein according to this publication. These authors investigated the ingestion of mycoprotein in a dose-response manner. They also measured insulin levels for 4 hours after ingestion of plant-derived mycoprotein. Insulin levels remain higher than normal for a sustained period.

Weight loss

A 2017 study showed that 40 grams of mycoprotein, which is the equivalent of 18 grams of protein was sufficient to lead to a robust muscle synthetic response. 60 g of mycoprotein (27 g protein) provided an optimal response regarding muscle synthesis. Gram for gram milk protein and mycoprotein were equivalent in amino acid bioavailability. Several studies examined weight loss following mycoprotein meals. One study found in overweight patients that chicken protein consumption was  higher in comparison to consumption of plant mycoprotein. The mycoprotein consuming group chose to eat 10% less calories than the chicken control group.

Greenhouse gas emissions and other factors

The publication cited above also included a lot of findings regarding how plant-derived food saves greenhouse gas emissions and other facts. For instance, the pork supply chain requires 3.3-times more fertilizer and 1.6-times more pesticides than the production of plant-derived food. What this means is that plant-derived foods are more environmentally sustainable than animal products.

Plant-Based Meat Alternatives are Healthier

Plant-Based Meat Alternatives are Healthier

Conclusion

Plant-derived foods have improved in the past few decades. Pea-derived plant products are now equivalent in terms of protein content to milk and meat. By eating more plant-derived food people consume less meat, which helps the environment, but also benefits the person who eats it. We know that with the consumption of a certain amount of plant-derived food less people develop cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. 40 grams of mycoprotein, which is the equivalent of 18 grams of protein was sufficient to lead to a robust muscle synthetic response.

Consumer beware

It is important to realize that not all is well with the list of “fake meat” and other highly processed plant-based products. Consumers must read the list of ingredients. If a product contains a laundry list of ingredients that not even an adult can pronounce and understand, it is very likely a highly processed food product that only pretends to be good for you. Should the sodium content be too high, steer away from it. High sugar content means that you put it back in the shelf. All in all, eating more plant-derived foods makes you healthier and improves the environment at the same time. But it is up to us to be discriminating colourful advertising from a nutritionally sound product.

Sep
04
2021

Effects of a Plant-centered Diet on Cardiovascular Disease in Midlife

A study followed younger patients for 32 years looking for the effects of a plant-centered diet on cardiovascular disease in midlife. The researchers determined the heart attack and stroke rates when the participants were in their 50’s to 60’s. When on a plant-based diet cardiovascular disease rates fell by 52% compared to a control group with a meat containing diet. One subgroup changed the diet from a regular diet to a plant-based diet over 13 years. This reduced the risk ratio by 61% for heart attacks and strokes when assessed later.

Details of this study

There were 4946 adults as participants of this 32-year study. They were recruited in 1985 and 1986, at which time none of them had cardiovascular disease. The study completed in 2018. The results were published on Aug. 4, 2021. The researchers assessed the plant-centered diet quality using a tool with the name “A Priori Diet Quality Score” (APDQS). The higher the score, the higher the quality of the food. This means the person consumed nutritionally rich plant foods, limited amounts of high-fat meat products and less healthy plant foods.

Although a plant-rich diet consisted primarily of nutritionally rich plant foods, small amounts of animal products were also allowed. This involved low-fat dairy products, non fried poultry and steamed or grilled fish. This made the diet tastier and ensured that people would stick to this diet for decades.

Improvements of heart attack rates with plant-centered diet

After 32 years 289 cases of cardiovascular disease developed. The researchers compared participants with the highest food quintile to participants with the lowest food quintile. As mentioned, the risk for participants on a plant-based diet was 52% lower to get a cardiovascular disease. Moreover, a subgroup changed from a higher risk (fatter meals, meat, less vegetables) diet to a lower risk diet (lean fat, lean poultry, vegetables). Physicians followed this subgroup for 13 years and the risk ratio for heart attacks and strokes fell by 61%.

Comparison to other diet studies

There are other studies that looked at the effect of diet changes on the risk of developing heart disease. One such study examined 86 cross-sectional studies and 10 prospective studies in a meta-analysis. Vegetarian diets reduced deaths from heart attacks by 25% and brought down the incidence of total cancer rates by 8%. A vegan diet reduced the risk of total cancer by 15%.

In a study from the United Kingdom dated March 2019 several clinical trials were analyzed regarding non-diabetic populations. The question came up, what the effect of a Mediterranean diet was on cardiovascular disease incidence and mortality. The authors reviewed 30 RCTs (49 papers) with 12,461 randomized participants and seven ongoing trials. In one study the observation time was 46 months. A Mediterranean diet reduced the cardiovascular disease mortality by 65%!

Another study from Spain

Another study from Spain published in 2019 examined 7356 older adults (average 67 years) and followed them for 6.8 years. The investigators kept track of the physical activity and put everybody except the controls on a Mediterranean diet. The group on the lightest leisure-time physical activity consuming a Mediterranean diet had the lowest mortality. The all-cause mortality of this group was 73% lower than the control group.

What is so healthy about the Mediterranean diet?

Despite a wide variation between all the 15 countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, there are common characteristics: an abundance of vegetables and fruit, along with nuts and legumes. Cereal products are largely whole grain. Olive oil is the principal fat source, and people eat fish, seafoods and poultry in moderation. They consume red meat rarely. Cheese and yogurt can be part of the diet, depending on the region.

The first clinical evidence supporting the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet came from the Lyon Heart Study. The researchers placed patients who had a heart attack either on the diet designed by the American Heart Association or a Mediterranean style diet. After a follow-up of 27 months, the group eating the Mediterranean diet had a reduction of heart attacks by 73% and a decreased mortality by 70% compared to the other group.

More detail on the ingredients of the Mediterranean diet

An analysis of the various foods of the Mediterranean diet shows the reasons for the health benefits clearly. The fats that people on a Mediterranean diet eat are heart-healthy monounsaturated fats like olive oil or fats that contain omega-3 fatty acids. They come from fish (tuna, salmon, trout, sardines) or from plant sources (walnuts, other tree nuts and flax seed).

As there is an emphasis on natural foods, the diet is extremely low in trans fatty acids (hydrogenated fats), which otherwise increases the risk for cardiovascular disease. As people consume more than 300g of vegetables per capita daily, the contents of antioxidants and other beneficial plant chemicals is much higher in comparison to Western diets. There are many individual components of the Mediterranean diet that contribute to the reduction of disease. This is particularly true for heart disease. It also is apparent, that there is not one single food or nutrient that is responsible for the health benefits. What matters are the interactive effects of all the nutrients that lead to the health benefits.

No processed food means healthier living

The practical application does not mean deprivation and starvation, but a move away from processed fats (margarine), baked goods (donuts, muffins, pastries), and high saturated fat snacks and trans fats (chips, crackers, cookies, pies). Food choices move towards those of fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts, fish, and olive oil. Portions or servings have to be adequate to maintain a healthy weight.

Mediterranean food is not the heaping plate of pasta with an afterthought of vegetables. It also is not the super-size fast food pizza with pepperoni and cheese. Mediterranean food incorporates fresh food rather than fast food. It entails a shift from large portions of red meat to smaller portions of fish, a transition from highly processed foods to ample helpings of dark green vegetables with a dose of olive oil. Low amounts of alcohol, especially red wine can make a meal enjoyable, which means that the limit is one drink per day for women, and two drinks per day for men. After dinner go for a walk!

Olive oil is one of the reasons why the Mediterranean diet is so healthy

In the past it was thought that the monounsaturated fatty acids in olive oil would be the reason why it is protective of the heart. However, newer studies have shown that it is the polyphenols and among these in particular hydroxytyrosol that lower blood pressure and protect you from hardening of the arteries.

A 2012 study from Spain has found that mortality from heart attacks was 44% lower than that of a control group who did not incorporate olive oil in their diet.

How polyphenols in olive oil work for you

Only two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil per day protect you from heart disease. It does so by reducing the total cholesterol level in the blood as well as the LDL cholesterol level. When there is more polyphenol in olive oil (such as in extra virgin olive oil), the body produces more HDL, which is essential to extract oxidized LDL from arterial plaque. On top of that polyphenol rich olive oil increases the size of the HDL particles (these larger particles have the name HDL2), which are more efficient in extracting oxidized LDL from arterial plaques. A Sept. 2014 study in humans showed that higher polyphenol olive oil as found in extra virgin olive oil caused an increase in the more effective HDL2 particles. This cleans out plaques from arteries more effectively than the regular, cheaper olive oil.

Effects of a Plant-centered Diet on Cardiovascular Disease in Midlife

Effects of a Plant-centered Diet on Cardiovascular Disease in Midlife

Conclusion

Several large, well-controlled studies showed that there are pronounced effects of a plant-centered diet on cardiovascular disease in midlife. Heart attack rates and mortality rates were reduced by 25% to 73% on a Vegan diet or a Mediterranean diet. When people combine a plant-centered diet with regular physical exercise they also live longer. One of the ingredients of a Mediterranean diet is extra virgin olive oil. It contains polyphenols that lower total and LDL cholesterol. It also increases the larger particles of HDL cholesterol with the name HDL2. HDL2 is more efficient in extracting oxidized LDL cholesterol from arterial plaques.

What you can eat on a plant-centered diet

A plant-centered diet incorporates fresh food rather than fast food. It entails a shift from large portions of red meat to smaller portions of fish, a transition from highly processed foods to ample helpings of dark green vegetables with a dose of olive oil. Instead of large portions of beef and sausages shift to seafood (tuna, salmon, trout, sardines), walnuts, other tree nuts and flax seed. The statistics clearly showed the effects of a plant-centered diet on cardiovascular disease in midlife with a reduction of heart attacks and mortality.

Some of the text above was published previously here.