Aug
27
2022

Ultra-Processed Food and Dementia

Researchers are more and more concerned about an association between ultra-processed food and dementia. A new study found that when you consume more than 20% of you daily food intake as processed food, you can start developing cognitive decline. Eating just 2 cookies per day, which have about 100 calories, will lead to cognitive decline.

What is processed food?

Foods such as instant noodles, hot dogs and ice cream are not healthy. There is too much salt, sugar and unhealthy fat in them that undermine your health. If you consider breakfast granola as “healthy”, you’d better take a look at the ingredients: sugar is one of them! Frozen meals, sugary drinks, take-out pizzas, deep-fried chicken and French fries also belong to unhealthy foods. Unless you buy fresh ingredients and make your own Mediterranean-style meals, you will struggle staying healthy. Processed foods lead to weight gain, which is difficult to shed unless you give up processed food.

Processed food often contains flavorings, colorings or other additives. White bread and bakery products, fried snacks, crackers, cookies, ice cream, candy, cream cheese and processed cheese, soda and frozen meals fall into this category.

Conference in San Diego

At the 2022 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in San Diego researchers revealed the results of a Brazilian study. 10,000 Brazilians were followed with dietary habits and intermittent cognitive tests for up to 10 years. In the beginning none of the participants had a cognitive deficit. The average age at the time of the beginning of the study was 51 years. When you eat more than 20 % ultra-processed food of your total calorie intake every day, cognitive decline is showing up on the cognitive tests. Specifically, patients who consumed more than 20% calories from ultra-processed food developed 28% faster decline in cognitive tests. They also developed 25% faster decline in executive functioning.

Comment from a co author

Co Author Dr. Claudia Suemoto, an assistant professor in the division of geriatrics at the University of São Paulo Medical School stated: “In Brazil, ultra-processed foods make up 25% to 30% of total calorie intake. We have McDonald’s, Burger King and we eat a lot of chocolate and white bread. It’s not very different, unfortunately, from many other Western countries”. She went on to say: “58% of the calories consumed by United States citizens, 56.8% of the calories consumed by British citizens, and 48% of the calories consumed by Canadians come from ultra-processed foods”. She expressed her concern that these statistics show that many more seniors than now will develop Alzheimer’s disease. In the Brazilian study researchers followed their subjects for up to 10 years. After decades of exposure to ultra-processed food the numbers of people with cognitive deficits and Alzheimer’s disease will be much higher.

Other means to prevent cognitive decline

A study showed that regular aerobic exercises (running, treadmill, walking) or stretching, balancing and range of motion exercises both prevented cognitive decline. The best is to build some form of exercise into your daily routine. This is particularly important for people who have desk jobs.

What are healthy foods to eat?

We need to eat more vegetables, fruit and cut out sugar, omit too many starchy foods, salt and unhealthy fats. So, how does that work? In the following I am giving examples of a healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Breakfast

Start the day with fresh fruit, a bowl of rolled oats with milk or a milk alternative. Add a few almonds or chopped nuts or ground flaxseed. You could add raspberries, blackberries, strawberries or blueberries.

If you want a breakfast with egg, try an omelet with eggs or egg white with mushrooms, onions and chopped greens! No, it does not always have to be kale! Enjoy arugula or spinach. Add some salsa on the side.

For those who hate to prepare breakfast, take it easy: put 1/2 a banana, a cup of berries, 1 tablespoon almond butter and 3/4 cup of low-fat yoghurt into the blender. Blend at high speed. This takes less than 2 minutes. Enjoy! It does not get much easier than that.

Lunch

Assemble some mixed salad greens, 1 sliced tomato, 1 cup of sliced cucumber, half a sliced avocado and 1/2 shredded carrot on a plate or in a bowl. Add 2 slices of cheese or 2 tablespoons of crumbled feta cheese. Add one boiled and sliced egg or alternatively 4 slices of chicken breast. Make a dressing of 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar. You can prepare this easy lunch the evening before and take it to work.

If you want a warm lunch, cook a simple Italian-style vegetable soup. Sprinkle it with a tablespoon of grated parmigiano cheese and serve it with a slice of whole-grain bread. A vegetable chili is a good choice for a colder day. Have some fresh fruit for dessert.

Dinner

Make vegetables the main event. Do not have a huge steak with an afterthought of vegetables, but build a tasty meal around vegetables with a protein of your choice: lean meats, such as chicken breast, enjoy fish or other seafood or experiment with other protein sources, such as tofu. The latter works well in an Asian-style vegetable stir-fry. And otherwise: breaded and deep-fried chicken or battered fish are not healthy choices, even if you prepare the meal at home! Forget the breading and dip the meat into a tasty marinade instead! If you want to have a quick dessert, make a colorful fruit salad with a dollop of yoghurt on top. For all those who drool over a decadent dessert in a restaurant, go ahead and order that Tiramisu and share it with others of your party. But it should be an exception rather than a regular treat.

Ultra-Processed Food and Dementia

Ultra-Processed Food and Dementia

Conclusion

Researchers are more and more concerned about an association between ultra-processed food and dementia. A new study found that when you consume more than 20% of you daily food intake as processed food, you start developing cognitive decline. Eating just 2 cookies per day, which have about 100 calories, will lead to cognitive decline. It is fairly easy to cut out junk foods from your diet and to adopt healthy eating ha its.

Meal suggestions

Start the day with fresh fruit, a bowl of rolled oats with milk or milk alternative. Add a few almonds or chopped nuts or ground flaxseed. You could add raspberries, blackberries, strawberries blueberries. I sweeten everything with stevia extract and avoid sugar completely. For lunch you could have mixed salad greens with 2 slices of cheese or 2 tablespoons of crumbled feta cheese. Add one boiled and sliced egg or alternatively 4 slices of chicken breast. For dinner make vegetables the main event. Do not have a huge steak with an afterthought of vegetables, but build a tasty meal around vegetables with a protein of your choice: lean meats, such as chicken breast, enjoy fish or other seafood or experiment with other protein sources, such as tofu.

Final remark

You see, it is fairly easy to avoid ultra-processed foods that lead to cognitive decline. It involves a critical look at your current eating habits and very likely some cleaning-out of less than desirable foods from your pantry.

Feb
20
2022

Stimulating the Immune System Leads to Better Cancer Survival

Notably, conventional medicine has nothing to offer against advanced cancer, but stimulating the immune system leads to better cancer survival.

Dr. Hoffer’s survival experiment with incurable cancer patients

The following is a description of a 9-year follow-up of incurable cancer patients. They were given supplements known to stimulate the immune system and their survival rates were recorded. Ref. 1 describes the experiment by Dr. Hoffer, the father of orthomolecular medicine. It is important to realize that this is a branch of medicine that uses large doses of vitamins and minerals. This can rectify metabolic changes in various diseases. Dr. Hoffer treated 131 advanced cancer patients between 1976 and 1988 with a mixture of mega vitamins and minerals. There was a control group (not taking any supplements) and the experimental group.

Results regarding incurable cancer patients over 9 years

In fact, the results of this 9-year follow up study are depicted in the image below. The Y-axis represents the % of survival (at the zero point of time 100 % of each group were alive), the X-axis shows the time of survival in years. To clarify, the group of cancer patients taking meta vitamins is depicted with orange columns, the control group with blue columns. At 7 years of follow-up none of the controls survived. Explicitly, there was an 8-year survival advantage of the mega vitamin group versus the control group (control group 28% survival at year 1 of follow-up, mega vitamin group 34% survival at year 9 of follow-up).

List of supplements patients in the experimental group took daily

With this in mind, here is the detailed list of the supplements that Dr. Hoffer instructed his experimental group cancer patients to take daily.

Vitamin C, 10,000 to 40,000 mg orally daily; B3 vitamin (niacin or niacinamide) 300 to 3,000 mg; vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) 200 to 300 mg; folic acid 1 to 30 mg; vitamin E succinate 400 to 1,200 IU; Coenzyme Q10 300 to 600 mg; selenium 200 to 1,000 micrograms daily; zinc 25 to 100 mg; calcium and magnesium supplement (2:1 ratio); mixed carotenoids as carrot juice; multivitamins and minerals.

Ref. 1 (page 347) explains that in this case the Mayo Clinic did a study where they “duplicated” Dr. Hoffer’s study by using only high doses of vitamin C. It is important to realize that they failed to show any cancer fighting effect. However, they neglected to include all of the other cancer fighting supplements listed above. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that stimulates the immune system partially, but does not fight cancer by itself.

Strengthen your immune system by taking 14 supplements

In the following I like to share what I found when I investigated what supplements are necessary for optimal immune responses. The Linus Pauling Institute wrote a detailed review of the literature on the topic regarding “Immunity in depth”. It is published by the Oregon State University.

Essentially, there were 14 supplements that are listed below that were critical for the immune system to fully respond.

In the following I listed the 14 supplements, but, if they were present in Dr. Hoffer’s clinical cancer trial, I inserted them right after each item. 8 out of 14 supplements overlapped between Dr. Hoffer’s supplements and the supplements necessary to stimulate the immune system. There is a total overlap of 57%.

  • Vitamin A: mixed carotenoids as carrot juice
  • Vitamin B6: vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) 200 to 300 mg
  • B12 vitamin
  • Folic acid: folic acid 1 to 30 mg
  • Vitamin C: Vitamin C, 10,000 to 40,000 mg
  • D3 vitamin: Ray Schilling’s answer to Can vitamin D lower your risk of CoVID-19?
  • E vitamin: vitamin E succinate 400 to 1,200 IU
  • Iron
  • Copper
  • Selenium: selenium 200 to 1,000 micrograms daily
  • Magnesium: calcium and magnesium supplement (2:1 ratio)
  • Zinc: zinc 25 to 100 mg
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Probiotics

Dr. Hoffer’s additional vitamins and minerals were: multivitamins and minerals; Coenzyme Q10 300 to 600 mg; and vitamin B3 (niacin or niacinamide) 300 to 3,000 mg. The 5 items that were missing in Dr. Hoffer’s clinical trial were vitamin B12, vitamin D3, iron, copper and probiotics.

Discussion

During the Covid epidemic the importance of the immune system for survival became very clear. One of the current mysteries regarding the immune system is why some people develop only very mild symptoms with Covid, while others get deadly sick. The other question has been around much longer: when it comes to cancer survival, why are there long-term survivors with some advanced cancers, but others perish. I believe that the key is how well the immune system is functioning. Dr. Hoffer’s end stage cancer survival trial achieved a 34% survival of cancer patients at year 9 of the clinical trial. At that time 100% of the control group were dead. Indeed, this is a remarkable finding.

Supplementation with vitamins and minerals prolonged cancer survival

The only difference was the supplementation with 57% of the Oregon University list of supplements necessary to stimulate the immune system. One of the more important supplements, namely vitamin D3 was not even included and yet there was a 34% survival in the experimental group after 9 years. Conventional medicine concentrates on surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy as the major therapeutic tools to fight cancer, but there is rarely if at all the mention of supplements. Ordinarily end stage cancer patients live on average 3 to 6 months.

Mayo Clinic’s attempt to jeopardize Dr. Hoffer’s cancer survival findings

When the Mayo Clinic got wind of Dr. Hoffer’s clinical trial they quickly attempted to “duplicate” the findings, but they left everything out except mega doses of vitamin C. Then they proclaimed that Dr. Hoffer’s data were flawed. In reality they failed to duplicate the findings, because they were poor copycats. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, but it won’t be of help to cancer patients on its own. As the Oregon State University publication showed, there are 14 supplement that are necessary to work in symbiosis to stimulate to immune system to fight cancer.

It is significant that there was a 57% congruence between Dr. Hoffer’s list and the Oregon State University list of supplements to stimulate the immune system. Future cancer clinicians should revisit Dr. Hoffer’s clinical findings and finetune them to increase the long-term cancer survival times. For one, the supplement list should include vitamin D3, probiotics and omega-3 fatty acids.

Stimulating the Immune System Leads to Better Cancer Survival

Stimulating the Immune System Leads to Better Cancer Survival. (Image source). 

Conclusion

Dr. Hoffer did a clinical trial that lasted 9 years between 1976 and 1988. Some patients were recruited earlier than others, but all were observed for a total of 9 years. He treated end-stage cancer patients with vitamin and mineral supplements. A control group that did not take any supplements was included in the trial. After 9 years the experimental mega vitamin group had a survival of 34%. None of the controls that did not take any supplements were still alive after 7 years. The literature by the Oregon University showed that 14 supplements are necessary to support the immune system. Dr. Hoffer’s clinical trial used 57% of these supplements. I am postulating that the good results of the mega vitamin group with respect to cancer survival likely comes from a strengthening of the immune system with the supplements.

The future of cancer treatments

Cancer treatments are entering a new phase where with the help of multiple treatment modalities combined (photodynamic therapy or PDT, immunostimulation, oxygen therapy and low-dose laser activated chemotherapy) it is now possible to cure many cancers that were untreatable in the past. The tunnel vision approach of conventional oncology with only a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy is obsolete for cases where cancer has metastasized. At this point the methods described here are promising, but have to be still considered experimental until larger clinical trials confirm Dr. Hoffer’s findings.

Reference

Ref. 1: Andrew W. Saul, PhD: “The Orthomolecular Treatment of Chronic disease”, Basic Health Publications Inc., Laguna Beach, CA 92651, 2014.

Dr. Hoffer’s cancer survivor experiment (part of the above) was previously published here.

Feb
13
2022

How healthy are Carbohydrates?

A recent review article asked: how healthy are carbohydrates? The three food components that occur in natural food are carbohydrates, fats and protein. Among the carbohydrates it is important to distinguish between simple carbohydrates (such as sugar) and complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates are readily absorbed into the blood, which causes an insulin peak. After a few hours the peak is gone, and there is a “crash”. You will know the feeling of feeling hungry just a few hours after eating doughnuts! Complex carbs like peas, beans, fruit and vegetables take longer to get digested. The final breakdown product of the digestive process is sugar as well. But this process takes longer meaning that the concentration of sugar in the blood is much lower. There is also no “crash”. The result is that complex carbs cause less insulin secretion into the blood.

Long-term effect of eating too much sugar

Integrated over several decades of life, this means that a person who constantly consumes beverages with sugar and snacks containing sugar is at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. In contrast, a person who eats well balanced meals where the insulin secretion is low, will not develop diabetes and have much less hardening of the arteries. This translates into a lower risk to develop heart attacks and strokes.

The types of carbohydrates

Before I discuss the health effects of various carbohydrates, we need to look at the types of carbohydrates.

Simple carbohydrates

Table sugar is a disaccharide, which consists of one molecule of glucose and one molecule of fructose.

The enzyme amylase very quickly breaks down the chemical bond between fructose and glucose and creates these monosaccharides in the small intestine from which they are rapidly absorbed. Milk sugar is a disaccharide, which consists of a molecule of glucose bound to a molecule of galactose. Milk contains 2 to 8% of milk sugar. We have to watch these simple carbs, because they trigger insulin production and lead to accelerated hardening of the arteries, heart attacks and strokes.

Complex carbohydrates

In contrast, complex carbs are healthy, because they take some time to be digested in the digestive tract. They consist of polysaccharides, long chains of sugar molecules. Both starches and dietary fiber consist of complex carbohydrates. They often are present in vegetables and many fruit. Complex carbs slow down the absorption of their breakdown products and minimize the insulin response. Dietary fiber is the indigestible part of fruit and vegetables. It contributes to good gut health as the beneficial gut bacteria can multiply on the fibre particles.

Healthy carbs

When simple carbohydrates dominate in our food intake, we are in trouble because they are loaded with calories. Overconsumption of them leads to weight gain and obesity, to diabetes, heart attacks, strokes and even cancer. On the other hand, consumption of complex carbohydrates is healthy. We get them from eating apples, bananas, berries, vegetables like spinach, tomatoes and carrots. Other healthy complex carbs are whole grain flour, quinoa and brown rice. Black beans, lentils, peas and garbanzo beans are also healthy complex carbs. Dairy products like low fat milk, yogurt and ricotta cheese are healthy as well.

Mediterranean diet as an example of a healthy, balanced diet

In 2019 a study was published where women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) were either put on a Mediterranean diet or not. This study showed that a Mediterranean diet was anti-inflammatory, reduced insulin resistance and reduced testosterone levels in PCOS patients.  But the same is true in a general population. The Mediterranean diet is one example of a healthy, balanced diet with complex carbohydrates. It prevents insulin resistance, inflammation and hormone disbalance. Other diets have similar effects like the DASH diet, the Zone diet and the Pritikin diet.

Quantity and quality of your food intake matters

A 2018 study from India showed that it matters how many carbohydrates we consume.  On average Indians eat a diet with 65-75 percent of calories coming from carbohydrates. Many of these carbs are the unhealthy simple carbohydrates. How healthy are  carbohydrates? The authors recommended to reduce complex carbohydrates to 50-55% and to add 20-25% protein, mostly from vegetable sources and add 20-30% from fat. The fat consumption needs to include monounsaturated fats (e.g., olive oil, nuts and seeds). Among the carbs a lot of green leafy vegetables help to balance the diet. This prevents the development of type 2 diabetes, heart attacks and strokes.

The above addresses the issue of quality of food. But it is also important what quantity of food we are eating. This is where counting or estimating calories comes in. If we overeat, we will very quickly gain weight and eventually can develop obesity.

The glycemic index and glycemic load

In order to help you with the choice of right carbohydrates the glycemic index was developed.

Here is another reference about the glycemic index/glycemic load.

In table 1 towards the end of the last link you find a column designated “GI” for glycemic index. All the foods that have a value less than 55 are foods that you can eat freely.

Problematical carbohydrate foods

Baked russet potatoes and boiled potatoes are very high on the GI index list. Puffed rice cakes, doughnuts, jelly beans and corn flakes measure high on the glycemic index list. But water melons, dried dates, white bread and white rice are also items to be avoided.

You best avoid anything with a glycemic index above 55. The column to the right of GI shows you a serving size and the last column on the right the glycemic load. The lower the glycemic load per serving, the better it is for your health. The glycemic index and the glycemic load are useful concepts of helping you to sort out your diet items.

My wife and I used this in 2001 to shed weight. We both lost 50 pounds (=22.72 kilograms) each in a period of 3 months.

Fasting mimicking diet (FMD)

According to Dr. Longo intermittent fasting stimulates the stem cells of the bone marrow. This leads to new clones of lymphocytes (B cells and T cells), which are part of the immune system. Your immune system becomes stronger from this.

Dr. Longo has done detailed mouse experiments, which inspired him to develop a new diet plan. Patients would receive a fasting mimicking diet (FMD) on 5 consecutive days per month. The rest of the month consists of a normal, balanced diet. 5 days of the month the person consumes a low 600-800-calorie diet. This reduced calorie intake is enough to ensure adherence to the diet, but low enough to lead to enormous positive metabolic changes including youth-preserving stem cell stimulation.

I am following the FMD

I have followed a FMD since December 2017. It helps me to keep my weight (BMI) in the 21 to 22 range. I feel more energetic and have managed to stay in good health.

The above chapter on the FMD was previously published here.

How healthy are Carbohydrates?

How healthy are Carbohydrates?

Conclusion

Healthy eating consists of 50-55% calories from complex carbohydrates; add to this 20-25% protein, mostly from vegetable sources and add 20-30% of total calories from fat. The fat consumption needs to include monounsaturated fats (e.g., olive oil, nuts and seeds). Unfortunately, most “convenience foods” (=processed foods) are incompatible with a healthy lifestyle. They contain too much simple carbs (sugar). Many people live on 65-75 percent of calories coming from simple carbohydrates, which are too many carbs. It should be complex carbs that digest slower and that do not induce insulin resistance. The glycemic index and glycemic load are useful concepts to help you chose the right foods that keep you healthy. The fasting mimicking diet can help you to take the last few pounds off that may be difficult to shed. Weight loss and weight maintenance are possible when you choose the right foods.

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.

Apr
17
2021

Which are the Most and Least Contaminated Crops

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Farmers are spraying many crops with pesticides, so which are the most and least contaminated crops? Recently, the Environmental Working Group’s 2021 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce was published. The various fruit and vegetables are also called the “dirty dozen”. You see from this readily that the most contaminated crops are strawberries, followed by spinach and kale, collard and mustard greens. Nectarines, apples and grapes are next followed by cherries, peaches and pears. The list is made complete by bell and hot peppers, celery and tomatoes.

Safety of food

This means that it is not safe to eat any of these fruit and vegetables from regular crops, as they are all contaminated by pesticides. It is advisable to exchange these crops and buy the organic version of each instead. This is easy to do, and I have done this for years. If you have a garden or access to a community garden, you can also grow some of them yourself.

What pesticides do in the body

People can acquire pesticides orally as contamination of crops. But people can absorb them as well by inhalation or through the skin. People affected by pesticides may complain about a sore throat, a cough, eye and skin irritation. They also may develop a headache, loss of consciousness, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. In the worst case there can be profound weakness, seizures and death.

You may think:” Why worry? There is probably just a little bit left, and this surely will not harm me.” But make no mistake: many of the pesticides are hormone disruptors, and that “little bit” does matter!

Action of hormone disruptors

Hormone disruptors may have a molecular structure similar to estrogen. As a result, laboratory analysis may show smaller semen counts in males causing infertility.  Women can develop cysts in the ovaries, menstrual bleeding abnormalities and breast cancer. With pregnancy pesticides can cause early miscarriages. In addition, women can also have fertility problems as a result of hormone disruptors.

A French study showed that consumption of organic food reduces cancer risk

One way to find out what pesticides (insecticides) are doing to the body is to do a comparative study. In France researchers compared cancer rates between people who consumed organic food and others who ate regular food (treated with pesticides). Researchers recruited 68,946 French adults for the study. More than ¾ of the study population were women in their mid 40’s. Researchers divided these subjects into 4 groups depending on how many of 16 organic food groups they were consuming.

Details of the French study (organic food intake versus non-organic food intake)

First of all, the type of foods included fruit and vegetables, ready-to-eat meals, meat and fish, vegetable oils and condiments, dietary supplements and other products. Also, the investigators followed this population for an average of 4 ½ years. Finally, during that time 1,340 cancers developed. 459 breast cancers occurred, 180 prostate cancers, 135 skin cancers, 99 colorectal cancers and 47 non-Hodgkin lymphomas.

Those who ate the most organic food developed 25% less cancer on average. When it came to Hodgkin’s lymphoma, organic food consumers developed 73% less of it than people on regular food. Postmenopausal breast cancer was 21% less frequent among those who had the highest amount of organic food.

The least contaminated fruit and vegetables

The Environmental Working Group’s 2021 Shopper’s Guide for the least contaminated fruit and vegetables lists the following. Avocados, sweet corn, pineapples and onions. Papayas, frozen sweet peas, eggplant, asparagus, broccoli and cabbage are next. Finally, kiwifruit, cauliflower, mushrooms, honeydew and cantaloupe complete the list of the least contaminated crops. This means that you can buy these crops without concern whether or not you should buy the organic version. It is good to know what is acceptable and what you need to avoid by buying the organic version.

GMO foods and Roundup

It is interesting that there is no law in the US and in Canada that GMO foods should have a label that identifies crops with genetic modifications. This is changing rapidly as people realize that in many countries of Europe all GMO foods require labeling. Here is a publication that shows that the GMO labeling campaign is gaining momentum.

Genetically modified corn and soy contains the Bt toxin; it has been found in babies as mentioned in this article. Bt toxin damages the small bowel (the ileum) through Cry1Ab (the protein produced in genetically modified corn and soy). This in turn disables the absorption of vitamin B12. We know that this causes anemia. Historically the cause of pernicious anemia was due to a lack of vitamin B12 absorption.

Effects of Roundup

In a publication dated April 2013 Drs. Anthony Samsel and Stephanie Seneff discuss the effects of Roundup. They noticed that glyphosate inhibits the cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes in the liver. This is a crucial detoxification enzyme complex. When toxicity studies of glyphosate in mammals emerged, this was not common knowledge. The CYP enzymes in the liver are important to metabolize and eliminate estrogens and also help to detoxify xenobiotics, which are estrogen-like substances (residues from insecticides).

Glyphosate amplifies the effect of environmental toxins

Thus glyphosate (=” Roundup”) amplifies the damaging effect of environmental toxins and chemical residues from non-organic food that we eat. Researchers have shown a build-up of estrogens and xenoestrogens that are responsible for the development of many cancers (atypical Hodgkin’s lymphoma, breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer etc.). Based on this data it makes sense to switch to as much organic food as you can afford. Organic food does not contain Roundup. For the sake of your health at least stay away from the “dirty dozen”!

Which are the Most and Least Contaminated Crops

Which are the Most and Least Contaminated Crops

Conclusion

The poisoning of the food chain is a real concern. As far as pesticides (insecticides) are concerned the Environmental Working Group’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce has been extremely useful. They publish a yearly guide of the “dirty dozen”, but also of the least contaminated fruit and vegetables. Regular crops with pesticide residues can cause infertility in both men and women. They also can cause early miscarriages in pregnant women. Generally speaking, they can cause headaches, loss of consciousness, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. In the worst case there can be profound weakness, seizures and death. A French study showed that subjects on organic food developed 25% less cancer on average. When it came to Hodgkin’s lymphoma, organic food consumers developed 73% less of it than people on regular food. Postmenopausal breast cancer was 21% less frequent among those who had the highest amount of organic food.

The above contains parts from this blog.

Dec
05
2020

Mother’s Lifestyle Predicts Heart Attack Risk for Offsprings

A European Society of Cardiology study found that mother’s lifestyle predicts heart attack risk for offsprings. This study was published in the Journal of Preventive Cardiology, a journal of the European Society of Cardiology. It was also summarized in Science Daily. The study author Dr. James Muchira of Vanderbilt University, Nashville said: “This maternal influence persists into the adulthood of their offspring.” What he meant is that the study found that lifestyles of mothers influence the choices of lifestyles of the offsprings, and with poor choices even determine when the next generation gets their heart attack or stroke.

In previous research the team established that both genetic factors as well as environmental and lifestyle factors are responsible for cardiovascular disease. Now the researchers wanted to determine the influence of each parent on the risk of cardiovascular disease of the offspring.

Set-up of the study

The study was done with offspring and the parents of the Framingham Heart Study. 1989 children from 1989 mothers and 1989 fathers were enrolled 1971 and followed for 46 years. The average age of the offspring at enrolment was 32 years. The study ended 2017. Dr. Muchira said: ”Crucially, the study followed children into most of their adult life when heart attacks and strokes actually occur.”

Risk factors for cardiovascular disease

The researchers rated the risks of fathers and mothers in the study according to 7 factors.

  • Smoking status (non-smoker preferred)
  • Diet (healthy or not)
  • Physical activity
  • Body mass index (normal or not)
  • If blood pressure is too high
  • Level of blood cholesterol
  • Blood sugar values

The researchers established three categories of cardiovascular health: poor (fulfilment of 0 to 2 factors); intermediate (fulfilment of 3 to 4 factors) and ideal (fulfilment of 5 to 7 factors). The researchers wanted to know how long the offspring were able to live without symptoms of cardiovascular disease.

Findings of the study

Here are the findings of the study.

  • Children of mothers with ideal cardiovascular health lived free of cardiovascular symptoms for 27 years; they were on average 32+27= 59 years when symptoms started.
  • Children of mothers with poor cardiovascular health lived free of cardiovascular symptoms for 18 years; they were 32+18= 50 years old when symptoms started; this is 9 years earlier than children from mothers with ideal cardiovascular health.
  • Father’s cardiovascular health did not influence the children’s onset of cardiovascular symptoms.

Cardiovascular risks of the children are due to a combination of things

A combination of the health status during the pregnancy and the environment in early life influenced the children.

Dr. Muchira said: “If mothers have diabetes or hypertension during pregnancy, those risk factors get imprinted in their children at a very early age. In addition, women are often the primary caregivers and the main role model for behaviors.” Sons were much more affected by their mother’s cardiovascular health status. Dr. Muchira explained: “This was because sons had more unfavourable lifestyle habits than daughters, making the situation even worse. It shows that individuals can take charge of their own health. People who inherit a high risk from their mother can reduce that risk by exercising and eating well. If they don’t, the risk will be multiplied.”

Discussion

We remember that the Framingham Heart Study long time ago established the above-mentioned risk factors for heart disease. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4159698/ It is also important for the offspring to quit smoking as this is a high-risk factor for heart disease. Next eat a balanced diet, like the Mediterranean diet. With this you eat more vegetables, less meat, more fish and add olive oil. Engage in regular exercise, which will raise the protective HDL cholesterol. Keep your body mass index low (in the 21.0 to 22.0 range, but definitely below 25.0). Keep your blood pressure in the normal range (120/80 or less). Make sure that your blood cholesterol and blood sugar values are normal. This will give you the lowest risk to develop a heart attack or a stroke.

Mother’s Lifestyle Predicts Heart Attack Risk for Offsprings

Mother’s Lifestyle Predicts Heart Attack Risk for Offsprings

Conclusion

We are normally concerned about our own cardiovascular health. But in a new study researchers examined children of participants in the Framingham Heart Study and their parents. This showed that the cardiovascular health status of the mother had a significant influence on the children’s  cardiovascular health. The offspring had an average age of 32 years when the researchers started to follow them for 46 years. When the mother was in poor cardiovascular health, the offspring developed cardiovascular symptoms at age 50. But when the mother’s cardiovascular health was ideal, the children got symptoms of cardiovascular disease only at age 59. This delay of 9 years of disease onset was purely due to the mother’s cardiovascular health status.

Risk management of cardiovascular risks

The authors of the study say that the children can do a lot to minimize the cardiovascular risk. They need to work to reduce the known risk factors and also start a regular exercise program. The authors of the study mentioned that even people who inherited a risk for cardiovascular disease benefit significantly from cutting out risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

Aug
08
2020

Poor Diets Threaten Americans and Cause Diseases

A new Federal Nutrition Research Advisory Group stated that poor diets threaten Americans and cause diseases. More than 500,000 people in the US are dying every year because of poor nutrition. 46% of adults have unhealthy diets; but children have even more, namely 56%. In 1979 the US healthcare cost was 6.9% of the gross domestic product. Compare this to 2018 when the US healthcare cost was 17.7% of the gross domestic product.

The Federal Nutrition Research Advisory Group states: “Poor diets lead to a harsh cycle of lower academic achievement in school, lost productivity at work, increased chronic disease risk, increased out-of-pocket health costs, and poverty for the most vulnerable Americans.”

You can improve your diet quality 

When you start cutting out junk food and other processed foods, the quality of your food intake is improving. Eat more vegetables, and fruit. Eat wild salmon, which provides omega-3 fatty acids. Do not consume vegetable oils like soybean oil, canola oil, safflower oil, corn oil and grapeseed oil. They all contain omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids are essential fatty acids and they convert mainly into energy. But the problem is that our western diet contains too many omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids can convert into arachidonic acid, which causes inflammation. This in turn can cause heart attacks and strokes on the one hand and arthritis on the other. Use cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil instead for cooking and on salads.

How does poor quality food affect your health?

Researchers are aware of trans fats causing Alzheimer’s disease, heart attacks and strokes for a long time. They increase the bad LDL cholesterol, decrease the good HDL cholesterol. Rancid oils contain free radicals that oxidize LDL cholesterol and attack the lining of your arteries through small dense LDL cholesterol. The FDA has started to initiate steps in 2015 to make the use of trans-fats in the food industry illegal. Completion of this in the US occurs in early 2020.

Japanese trans-fat study (Alzheimer’s disease)

This Japanese study followed 1,628 Japanese community residents (men and women) for about 10 years. Researchers used the typical trans fatty acid, elaidic acid to monitor the accumulation of trans fats in patients. This is possible with a simple blood test, which serves as a marker for industrial trans fats. 377 participants developed dementia (247 Alzheimer’s disease and 102 vascular dementia). Based on the blood elaidic acid levels earlier in the study individuals with higher trans-fat levels were more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease as the study progressed. Patients whose trans-fat blood levels were in the higher range were 50% to 75% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

Diseases caused by poor lifestyle habits

It is important to review the diseases that shorten life expectancy due to having poor lifestyle habits. Note that it is not only your dietary habits that determine this, but in addition, several lifestyle factors.

Cardiovascular disease

Smoking, lack of regular exercise and poor eating habits result in being overweight or developing obesity. All of these are risks with LDL cholesterol elevation and HDL cholesterol lowering that leads to heart attacks and strokes. Here is a study that shows how life is shortened after a heart attack. It is clear from this how important it is to give up all of the poor lifestyle habits to avoid this from happening.

Cancer

90% of lung cancers are the result of cigarette smoking. Heavy drinking can contribute and also lead to cancer of the liver, esophageal cancer, cancer of mouth and throat and cancer of the breasts in women. In addition, consuming too much alcohol causes cancer of the colon and rectum in both sexes.

Diabetes

There are a variety of risk factors causing diabetes. Obesity, a lack of exercise, a bad diet with too much carbohydrates and the aging process are what contributes to the development of type 2 diabetes.

We see again that it is largely lifestyle issues that drive the onset of this disease. People who have developed diabetes need to control their blood sugar very closely to avoid complications of diabetes. This includes making healthier choices.

Otherwise complications of diabetes are diabetic nephropathy, blindness from macular degeneration of the cornea, heart attacks, stroke and diabetic neuropathy. In addition, vascular complications also include artery occlusions in the lower extremities with frequent foot or below knee amputations.

Chronic diseases

Often chronic diseases develop when there is generalized development of inflammation. COPD, chronic kidney disease and arthritis are examples of such conditions. In addition, Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, asthma, Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis and diabetes belong into this category. All of these chronic diseases have in common that cytokines produce inflammation in the body. This keeps the chronic disease going and makes it more difficult to cure. When the person with a chronic disease makes poor lifestyle choices, the inflammation just becomes more chronic.

Smoking is one of the factors that makes chronic inflammation more chronic. Having a body mass index above 25.0 (being overweight) and above 30.0 (obesity) also creates more inflammation in the body. Excessive alcohol intake damages body cells and releases free radicals. These in turn cause inflammation and make the chronic disease more difficult to treat. An unhealthy diet tends to raise the bad LDL cholesterol, introduces pesticides and other chemicals into your system and adds to chronic inflammation. Finally, a lack of exercise is not contributing to a healthy circulation and lowers the protective HDL cholesterol, paving the way for heart attacks and strokes.

Poor Diets Threaten Americans and Cause Diseases

Poor Diets Threaten Americans and Cause Diseases

Conclusion

A new Federal Nutrition Research Advisory Group has been formed, which noted that many Americans follow very poor diets. 46% of adults in the US have unhealthy diets; but children have even more poor diets, namely 56%. This is of concern, because in time this causes a variety of diseases discussed here. Instead of just treating the symptoms of these diseases, it is important to improve the diet people are on, which prevents the development of these diseases. A well-balanced diet not only prevents diseases, it also leads to longevity and healthy aging without Alzheimer’s disease. Take care of what you eat, and be sure it is healthy!

Part of this text was published before here.

Jul
11
2020

Fat Deposits Mean Higher Covid-19 Risk

A new study showed that fat deposits mean higher Covid-19 risk. This study was reviewed here.

The article is based on the June 10, 2020 publication of the British Medical Journal.

They did large population studies showing that obesity is an independent risk factor for severe disease and death from Covid-19. One study with 428,225 participants had 340 admitted to hospital with confirmed Covid-19 coronavirus. 44% of them were overweight and 34% were obese. Another study, the OpenSAFELY study used linked electronic health records. 17,425, 445 participants were included and 5,683 Covid-19 deaths occurred. In this study there were 29% overweight and 33% obese persons. The researchers noted a dose-response relationship between excess weight and severity of Covid-19. The researchers removed confounding factors like age, sex, ethnicity, and social deprivation.

Critical illness and death rates in overweight and obese people

They realized that critical illness caused by Covid-19 was increased compared to normal-weight people as follows.

  • Covid-19 risk 44% higher in overweight people
  • Covid-19 risk 97% higher in people with obesity

This means that the risk for serious illness from Covid-19 was 1.44-fold for overweight persons and 1.97-fold for obese persons compared to normal-weight controls. The OpenSAFELY study also looked at the death rates from Covid-19 for people with obesity. Two obesity categories were investigated: obesity with a BMI of 30-34.9 and BMI of greater than 40 compared to normal-weight controls. Here are the death rates.

  • BMI of 30-34.9: 1.27-fold increased risk
  • BMI of greater than 40: 2.27-fold risk

Possible mechanisms explaining fat deposits mean higher Covid-19 risk

The researchers mentioned three possible mechanisms why overweight and obese people may have higher Covid-19 disease and death rates than normal-weight controls.

First, angiotensin converting enzyme-2 is found with higher frequency in fat cells of overweight and obese persons. Researchers are aware of the fact that the Covid-19 coronavirus uses this enzyme to enter body cells. It may also be the reason that fat cells become reservoirs that can shed virus for much longer than in normal-weight people with less fat cells. They pointed out that others have seen this also and found it with other viruses. In the case of influenza A, obesity prolonged viral shedding by 42% compared to normal-weight controls. And with H1N1 influenza obesity was an independent risk factor for hospitalization and death.

Weaker immune system, more lung resistance

Secondly, any virus can weaken the host’s defence of the immune system. Researchers showed this previously with the influenza virus. But now with Covid-19 coronavirus the cytokine storm due to a weak immune system is a major factor in making the viral infection worse. A lack of vitamin D is another factor in promoting the cytokine storm.

Third, obesity decreases lung function and it is difficult to improve this. There is greater lung resistance in the airways and it is difficult to expand the lungs in obese patients. When the doctor transfers patients with obesity to the intensive care unit, it is more difficult to increase their oxygen saturation with artificial ventilation.

Unhealthy environment, so fat deposits mean higher Covid-19 risk

The researchers point out that we live in a very unhealthy environment. In 2016 there were 1.9 billion people worldwide who were overweight or obese. These figures are rapidly rising. Presently about 65% to 70% are overweight or obese in the UK or the US. Obesity causes high blood pressure, heart disease, strokes, type 2 diabetes and cancer. We are all surrounded by processed food with extra salt, sugar, wheat and other unhealthy ingredients. The high mortality and deaths rates of Covid-19 in overweight and obese people point to the problem that society has.

Reduce salt, sugar and saturated fats in food

The culprits are salt, sugar and saturated fats. Merchants and food producers must reduce them in processed food. In the UK new government regulations have already resulted in lower salt content in foods. As a result, there is less high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease is in decline. All nations need to reduce salt, sugar, and saturated fat. When the weight comes down, we all are less prone to catching dangerous viruses.

Fat Deposits Mean Higher Covid-19 Risk

Fat Deposits Mean Higher Covid-19 Risk

Conclusion

The pandemic has taught us a new lesson, namely that overweight and obese people are at higher risk of contracting Covid-19 coronavirus. In a research paper of the British Medical Journal concrete figures showed that the Covid-19 risk is 44% higher in overweight people and that it is 97% higher in people with obesity. The OpenSAFELY study also showed that obese people with a BMI of 30-34.9 have a 1.27-fold increased risk of catching Covid-19. But morbidly obese people with a BMI of greater than 40 have a 2.27-fold risk of catching Covid-19. There is a clear linear dose-response curve between the amount of fat a person accumulates and the risk for Covid-19.

Cut out junk food and decrease your risk for Covid-19

Covid-19 is directly related to the amount of junk food we eat. As a result we can say that eating junk food increases the Covid-19 risk. The opposite is true also: sensible eating and cutting out junk food makes you lose some pounds, and your risk for Covid-19 decreases.

Jun
13
2020

Mediterranean Diet Reduces Heart Attacks and Strokes in Diabetes

A recent publication came to the conclusion that a Mediterranean diet reduces heart attacks and strokes in diabetes. This Canadian and Spanish study compared prospective cohort studies and randomized trials (RCT). 41 reports (3 RCTs and 38 cohorts) formed the basis for this analysis.

Details of the study

Metaanalysis showed that a Mediterranean diet reduced the cardiovascular disease incidence by 38%. It also reduced myocardial infarctions (heart attacks) by 35%. Next the authors compared the highest to the lowest adherents to the Mediterranean diet (Med diet). The highest Med diet adherents showed the following reductions:

Cardiovascular disease mortality: 21%

Coronary heart disease incidence: 27%

Coronary heart disease mortality: 17%

Stroke incidence: 20%

Stroke mortality: 13%

The conclusion was that the Mediterranean diet is beneficial to prevent heart disease and strokes in people with diabetes.

Other studies

In a study from the United Kingdom dated March 2019 several clinical trials were analyzed regarding non-diabetic populations. Again, 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) with12,461 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 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 increase 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 it 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 fruits 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 the 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 one drink per day for women, and two drinks per day for men. And 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.

In a 2012 study from Spain it was 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 will increase the size of the HDL particles (these larger particles are called 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, which cleans out plaques from arteries more efficiently than the regular, cheaper olive oil.

Endothelial function

The endothelium is the lining of the arteries. Normal endothelial functioning involves widening of the arteries and maintaining its flexibility. The body achieves this through production of a signal molecule, called nitric oxide; the endothelial cells that line our arteries from inside produce it. Exercise increases the production of nitric oxide as well (Ref.1).

In a group of patients with poor endothelial function 2 tablespoons of olive oil (polyphenol rich) per day given over 4 months (the time of the study) showed a significant improvement of endothelial function.

The authors suggested that an enzyme in the endothelial cells, called nitric oxide synthase is being stimulated by components of polyphenol-rich olive oil. This leads to protracted release of nitric oxide, which in turn keeps blood vessels flexible and wide open. Other investigators found that olive oil can influence even a hereditary gene variant of endothelial nitric oxide synthase found in people with a history of premature heart attacks. This high-risk group of people should take extra virgin olive oil regularly to prevent premature heart attacks and strokes.

Endothelial dysfunction occurs when the arteries no longer can deliver adequate amounts of blood to vital organs like the heart or the brain. Endothelial dysfunction is also present in patients with type 2 diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and metabolic syndrome. Introducing extra virgin olive oil in the diet of these patients will help restore their endothelial function.

Lowering blood pressure

In a study on 23 hypertensive patients it was shown as far back as in 2000 that extra virgin olive oil over 6 months allowed physicians to reduce high blood pressure medications by 48%. When the study was crossed over, the reverse was the case for the control group on sunflower oil. The polyphenols of olive oil released nitric oxide, which is known to lower blood pressure. This is an important finding. High blood pressure is a risk factor for the development of hardening of the coronary arteries. This leads to heart attacks, congestive heart failure, but also stroke. Regular intake of 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil often will reverse high blood pressure and restore normal endothelial function.

Preventing heart attacks and strokes

In April of 2013 The New England Journal of Medicine published a Spanish diet study that showed that a participants on a Mediterranean diet with olive oil or nuts had 30% less heart attacks over 5 years than people on a low fat control diet. Other studies have also shown that olive oil and omega-3 fatty acids play a big role in preventing heart attacks and strokes. We also know that regular exercise reduces the risk further; so does keeping your body mass index below 25.0. Extra virgin olive oil is part of the protection from heart attacks and strokes. The study did not show any protection against cancer.

Mediterranean Diet Reduces Heart Attacks and Strokes in Diabetes

Mediterranean Diet Reduces Heart Attacks and Strokes in Diabetes

Conclusion

A Mediterranean diet reduced heart attacks and strokes in diabetic patients, but also in patients without diabetes. Here I attempted to show what the ingredients of a Mediterranean diet are that lead to such astounding positive effects. There is an emphasis on vegetables and fresh ingredients of food. In addition, olive oil and a lack of processed food are also important. With these wholesome ingredients the lining of the arteries works best. The body reduces cholesterol and lowers blood pressure. The end result is that there are less heart attacks and strokes, and people live longer.

Note: Part of this was previously published here and also here.

May
16
2020

Cutting Out Bad Lifestyle Habits Increases Life Expectancy

A Jan. 8, 2020 study stated that cutting out bad lifestyle habits increases life expectancy. It was a publication in the British Medical Journal by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The senior author of the study was Frank Hu, chair of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard Chan School. The researchers looked at data collected from a large group of males and females that had been accumulated for 34 years. They found that a 50-year-old male or female who did not change their lifestyle habits had another 25.5 years to live for males and another 29 years to live for females.

Five bad lifestyles and life expectancy 

The 5 bad lifestyle habits were smoking, a body mass index above 25.0, excessive alcohol intake, less than 30 minutes of exercise per day and an unhealthy diet.

When people cut out all of those risky lifestyles, 50-year-old men and women had a life expectancy of 37.6 years for men and 43.1 years for women. This was an addition of 12 years of healthy life for men compared to controls who did not change their lifestyles. With regard to women there was an addition of 14 years of life compared to controls.

Diseases that kill prematurely

The research team wanted to know what diseases caused the most reduction in life expectancy when people did not change their bad lifestyle habits. Men and women who cut out all negative lifestyle habits were 82% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease. They also were 65% less likely to die from cancer. Bad lifestyles caused the two major diseases, cardiovascular disease (heart attack and strokes) and cancer, which increased overall mortality. The overall study time was about 30 years. The third major disease that can cost lives is diabetes. In addition, the research team identified chronic diseases as being another potential cause of people dying prematurely.

Additional life expectancy

When life expectancies were broken down according to diseases, the following was noticed.

For men:

When cancer free    When free of heart issues   Without diabetes

6 more years             9 more years                         10 more years

For women:

When cancer free    When free of heart issues   Without diabetes

8 more years            10 more years                       12 more years

Dr. Frank Hu, who chairs the department of nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health said: ”We found that following a healthy lifestyle can substantially extend the years a person lives disease-free”. Those who do not shed their bad lifestyle habits will come down with one or more of the mentioned diseases and die prematurely. Others who cut out all their bad lifestyle choices live substantially longer.

Diseases caused by poor lifestyle habits

It is important to review the diseases that shorten life expectancy due to having poor lifestyle habits.

Cardiovascular disease

Smoking, lack of regular exercise and poor eating habits result in being overweight or developing obesity. All of these are risks with LDL cholesterol elevation and HDL cholesterol lowering that leads to heart attacks and strokes. Here is a study that shows how life is shortened after a heart attack.

It is clear from this how important it is to give up all of the poor lifestyle habits to avoid this from happening.

Cancer

90% of lung cancers are the result of cigarette smoking.

Heavy drinking can contribute and also lead to cancer of the liver, esophageal cancer, cancer of mouth and throat and cancer of the breasts in women. In addition, cancer of the colon and rectum are also caused by consuming too much alcohol in both sexes.

Diabetes

There are a variety of risk factors causing diabetes. Obesity, a lack of exercise, a bad diet with too much carbohydrates and the aging process are what contributes to the development of type 2 diabetes.

We see again that it is largely lifestyle issues that drive the onset of this disease. People who have developed diabetes need to control their blood sugar very closely to avoid complications of diabetes. This includes making healthier choices.

Otherwise complications of diabetes are diabetic nephropathy, blindness from macular degeneration of the cornea, heart attacks, stroke and diabetic neuropathy. In addition, vascular complications also include artery occlusions in the lower extremities with frequent foot or below knee amputations.

Chronic diseases

Often chronic diseases develop when there is generalized development of inflammation. COPD, chronic kidney disease and arthritis are examples of such conditions. In addition, Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, asthma, Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis and diabetes belong into this category. All of these chronic diseases have in common that cytokines produce inflammation in the body. This keeps the chronic disease going and makes it more difficult to cure. When the person with a chronic disease makes poor lifestyle choices, the inflammation just becomes more chronic.

Smoking is one of the factors that makes chronic inflammation more chronic. Having a body mass index above 25.0 (being overweight) and above 30.0 (obesity) also creates more inflammation in the body. Excessive alcohol intake damages body cells and releases free radicals. These in turn cause inflammation and make the chronic disease more difficult to treat. An unhealthy diet tends to raise the bad LDL cholesterol, introduces pesticides and other chemicals into the system and adds to the chronic inflammation. Finally, a lack of exercise is not contributing to a healthy circulation and lowers the protective HDL cholesterol, paving the way for heart attacks and strokes.

Cutting Out Bad Lifestyle Habits Increases Life Expectancy

Cutting Out Bad Lifestyle Habits Increases Life Expectancy

Conclusion

Bad lifestyle habits are what causes us to get illnesses and die prematurely. Functional medicine and anti-aging medicine are at the frontier of modern medicine. These specialties are teaching us how to stay well and age gracefully. For decades conventional medicine has treated only symptoms, but not the causes of diseases. But this has not changed the mortality rates of heart attacks and cancer. Smoking, a body mass index above 25.0, excessive alcohol intake, exercising less than 30 minutes of exercise per day and an unhealthy diet are causes that make us sick. These bad lifestyle factors cause chronic inflammation in our system. They are the real cause of heart attacks, strokes, cancer and diabetes, the major killer diseases that prevent healthy aging.

Facing bad lifestyle habits

Bad lifestyle habits cause chronic inflammation. T he C-reactive protein blood test can measure the degree of inflammation that is present. A fasting insulin level can detect whether a person is in danger of developing diabetes and improved lifestyle habits can prevent this from happening. Men can add 12 years and women 14 years of healthy life by eliminating bad lifestyle habits. By eliminating chronic inflammation our new life expectancy, which is 79 to 80 years, now can reach 92 to 94 years. It is up to you how healthy you stay and whether or not you age gracefully.