Archive for the 'Healthy Diet' Category

Scientists Are Learning How to Slow Aging

Scientists are getting closer to unraveling the mystery of aging and now a new study points to evidence that omega-3 fatty acids appear to slow the biological aging process.  University of California researchers found that omega-3 fatty acids may slow aging by protecting the body’s chromosomes from the usual damage that occurs with aging. In their recent study of patients with heart disease, those who had the highest intake of omega-3 fatty acids had the most slowing of their biological aging process, while those who had the lowest intake of omega-3 fatty acids had evidence of the fastest rate of aging.

To determine the speed of biological aging, the researchers measured the length of telomeres on the patients’ chromosomes. Telomeres are the protective caps at the end of chromosomes and the shortening of telomeres has been linked to not only the aging process,  but cancer and a higher risk of dying. Telomeres allow cells to divide while keeping the genetic material intact. Every time a cell divides, telomeres get progressively shorter until the cell ultimately dies.  This normal aging process can be sped up by environmental factors such as obesity, poor diet, inactivity and smoking.  Scientists theorize that counteracting telomere shortening could allow people to be healthier and live longer.

In the University of California study there was no distinction between meals of fatty fish and fish-oil supplements—leaving open the question of whether it’s better for people to eat more fish, to eat plants such as flaxseed or just to take omega-3 supplements.

Experts point out that the results of this study are preliminary and need to be replicated before physicians should use them in practice, but a number of other studies have found that omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial to heart health, and the American Heart Assn. recommends that patients with known coronary artery disease get at least one gram a day of omega-3 fish oil through intake of oily fish, such as salmon, herring and sardines, or the use of omega-3 fatty acid supplements for the prevention and treatment of heart disease.

Source: MedPage Today January 19, 2010

Video source: JAMA

Over 100,000 Cancers in the U.S. Each Year are Linked to Obesity

Weighing yourself is a good way to keep an eye on any upward trendsAccording to data recently released by the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), more than 100,000 cancers in the US each year are linked to excess body fat. It is well known that being overweight puts people at an increased risk of some types of cancer, but this research highlights the extent of the problem.

Excess body fat appears to be linked to 49% of endometrial cancers, 35% of esophageal cancers,  28% of pancreatic cancers, 24% of kidney cancers, 21% of gallbladder cancers, 17% of breast cancers, and 9% of colorectal cancers. 

According to one of the researchers, “The evidence is clear: If people sustain a normal body weight and remain physically active throughout life, it will have a major impact on cancer incidence.”

Learn more about the benefits of exercise and How to Start an Exercise Program

Source:  American Cancer Society, November 2009

Nightly Snacking Worse Than Daytime Nibbling

Late night snacking piles on the weightEating at night can lead to significant weight gain according to a recent study from  Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.  Researchers fed one group of mice a high-fat diet during the hours when they normally would be sleeping, and fed another group of mice the same diet during their waking hours.  The mice who ate during their nocturnal hours gained twice as much weight over six weeks as the other group.

Although this study was on mice, and may not be applicable to humans, previous studies have also found similar results. Simply altering the timing of eating, without necessarily cutting calories or increasing exercise, may be key to success in weight loss. 

Source: Arble D, et al., “Circadian timing of food intake contributes to weight gain” Obesity 2009; DOI: 10.1038/oby.2009.264. 

Source:  MedPage Today, September 4, 2009 

Almonds May Improve Immune Health

AlmondsAlmonds appear to enhance immune health and reduce inflammation, according to researchers  from the Institute of Food Research, Norwich, UK.  The results of their research were presented Tuesday at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in Philadelphia.

Almonds have also been found to be a high-fiber food and are quite heart healthy.  They’re a good snack with a lot of nutrition packed into a convenient package.  About a handful of almonds provides an excellent source of vitamin E, magnesium, fiber, monounsaturated fat, protein, potassium, calcium, phosphorous, and iron.

Source: Institute of Food Research, Norwich, UK, May 2009

Omega-3 Fatty Acids Protective Against Prostate Cancer

Salmon are an excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acidsOmega-3 Fatty Acids, particularly those found in dark fish and shellfish, appear to reduce the risk of advanced prostate cancer, according to researchers from the University of California, San Francisco.

In their recent study, men who consumed the greatest amount of long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids had a 63% reduced risk of advanced prostate cancer compared with those who ate the least. More specifically, men who ate boiled or baked dark fish (such as salmon, mackerel, and bluefish) one to three times a month had a 36% reduced risk of aggressive disease compared with those who never ate it, and those who ate dark fish at least once a week had an even greater reduction in risk. There was also a significant benefit for those with a cox-2 genetic predisposition to the disease.

How much fish per week is thought to be safe?  Because of concerns for exposure to mercury, the FDA has made the following recommendations:

  • Do not eat Shark, Swordfish, King Mackerel, or Tilefish because they contain high levels of mercury.
  • Eat up to 12 ounces (2 average meals) a week of a variety of fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury. Five of the most commonly eaten fish that are low in mercury are shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish.
  • Another commonly eaten fish, albacore (”white”) tuna has more mercury than canned light tuna. So, when choosing your two meals of fish and shellfish, you may eat up to 6 ounces (one average meal) of albacore tuna per week.
  • Check local advisories about the safety of fish caught by family and friends in your local lakes, rivers, and coastal areas. If no advice is available, eat up to 6 ounces (one average meal) per week of fish you catch from local waters, but don’t consume any other fish during that week.
  • Follow these same recommendations when feeding fish and shellfish to your young child, but serve smaller portions.

Source: Fradet V, et al “Dietary omega-3 fatty acids, Cyclooxygenase-2 genetic variation, and aggressive prostate cancer risk” Clin Cancer Res 2009; DOI: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-08-2503.


Source: MedPage Today, March 24, 2009

Red Meat Again Linked with Cancer and Heart Disease

Cheese burgersToo many burgers, steaks and hot dogs may shorten your life, according to researchers from the National Cancer Institute. In a recent large prospective study, investigators found that eating more red and processed meat is associated with an increased risk of mortality, particularly from cancer and cardiovascular causes.  On the other hand, white meat had a small protective effect against total and cancer mortality.


Source: Sinha R, et al “Meat intake and mortality” Arch Intern Med 2009; 169(6): 562-71.
Source: “Red Meat Associated With Increased Mortality Risk” MedPage Today, March 23, 2009

Higher Calcium Intake Linked with Lower Cancer Risk

Milk is an excellent source of calciumHigher calcium intake may reduce the risk of digestive system cancers in both men and women according to a study of men and women over 50 from the National Institute of Health.  The study also found a reduction in total cancer risk with increasing calcium intake in women, but not men. The analysis showed no effect of calcium intake on the risk of breast cancer or prostate cancer, however.

The highest calcium intake, and lowest cancer risk, in this study was consistent with current recommendations of 1,200 mg/d for adults over 50.  Calcium supplements were taken by 14% of the men and 41% of the women in this study. 

Calcium is also well known as an essential nutrient in the battle against osteoporosis, which is known as the “silent disease”.   It is a silent disease in that it progresses insidiously and painlessly up until the first symptom, which is usually a broken bone.  Unfortunately by then, most of the damage has been done.  Both men and women over age 50 are at risk of osteoporosis.  One-half of all women and one-fourth of all men over age 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in their remaining lifetime.

To prevent osteoporosis, the current guidelines for adults over 50 are to consume 1,200 mg/d of calcium in the form of food or calcium supplements.  Adults under age 50 need 1,000 mg daily, and teenagers need the most, 1300 mg/d.

Calcium in foods, especially from milk and milk products, has been found to be better absorbed than from supplements.  Milk products include hard cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt, green vegetables and spinach.  A simple way to estimate one’s daily intake of dietary calcium is to multiply the number of dairy servings consumed each day by 300 mg.   One serving equals 8 oz of milk or yogurt, 1 oz of hard cheese, 16 oz of cottage cheese, or 2 cups of broccoli.

Despite all efforts to eat a calcium-rich diet, if dietary intake of calcium remains below the recommended value, calcium supplementation is recommended. 

Read more important details about Calcium supplementation and Osteoporosis from Bay Area Medical Information.

Source: Park Y, et al “Dairy food, calcium, and risk of cancer in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study” Arch Intern Med 2009; 169: 391-401.
Source: MedPage Today, February 23, 2009

The Truth About Coffee

Cup of coffeeMost of us truly love our coffee and especially look forward to that first cup in the morning.  It’s delicious, it helps you wake up, and quite honestly, most of us are addicted to this wonderful brew.  But are we going to regret this delicious indulgence some day? 

A number of researchers have recently investigated the health benefits of coffee and found that drinking regular coffee on a routine basis was associated with many important health benefits such as a decreased risk of stroke, diabetes and dementia.  Also, several studies have found that people who drink coffee on a regular basis are up to 80% less likely to develop Parkinson’s.  Other research shows that compared to not drinking coffee, at least two cups daily was linked to a 25% reduced risk of colon cancer, an 80% drop in liver cirrhosis risk, and nearly half the risk of gallstones.

Coffee has been found to be helpful in people who have asthma.  It also has been known to stop a headache,  improve mood, increase concentration and give you that extra energy needed to get through the day.  

Some of the health benefits of coffee are merely from the caffeine.  An eight ounce cup of drip-brewed coffee contains about 85 mg of caffeine, whereas eight ounces of black tea only has about 45 mg of caffeine and 12 ounces of Coke has 35 mg of caffeine. Many of the so called “Sports/Energy Drinks” on the market are loading up on caffeine for that extra jolt and may contain over 150 mg of caffeine.

Researchers believe that most of the health benefits from coffee probably originate from substances other than caffeine. Phenolic compounds in coffee have strong antioxidant properties, which may improve endothelial function.  Caffeinated coffee appears to have beneficial effects on glucose metabolism, inflammation, and endothelial function which would account for protection against diabetes and stroke.

Of course adding cream which is loaded with fat may counteract some of the health benefits of coffee, and pouring several spoons full of sugar into the cup adds another carbohydrate load that is not beneficial. 

While these studies are very good news for coffee drinkers, be aware that coffee can lead to a number of health problems. These can include fast heart rate, tremors, irritable bladder, excessive urination, stomach irritation, gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), nausea, vomiting, restlessness, anxiety, depression,  and difficulty sleeping.

Caffeine is notorious for interfering with much-needed sleep. Many people get in a viscious cycle of using caffeine to mask their sleep deprivation, but then the excess caffeine keeps them from falling asleep the following night. The best way to break this cycle is to avoid all caffeine eight to ten hours before your desired bedtime.  Drinking coffee later in the day is more likely to cause insomnia as well as stomach irritation and reflux for many people. 

Another drawback of coffee is that certain drugs can interact with caffeine. Pregnant women and people with coronary heart disease or peptic ulcers are often advised to restrict or avoid using caffeine altogether. 

Contrary to the popular belief that coffee will sober you up after drinking too much alcohol, it can actually worsen the problem.  A recent study found that a high caffeine energy drink mixed with vodka actually reduced the participants’ perception of motor coordination compared with vodka alone.  This could obviously lead to disasterous consequences in a person who is drinking heavily away from home and has several cups of coffee to sober up before driving home.

So, is coffee good for us?  It depends on who you are, how much you drink, and when you drink it.  It’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about the amount of coffee you drink. 

Source: “High Coffee Consumption Linked to Lower Stroke Risk for Women”, MedPage Today, February 17, 2009
Source: Lopez-Garcia E, et al “Coffee consumption and risk of stroke in women” Circulation 2009; 119: 1116-1123.

Caffeinated Coffee May Be Linked with Lower Stroke Risk

CoffeeDrinking caffeinated coffee regularly may be linked with a lower stroke risk, according to Harvard and Madrid researchers. Women who drank two to three cups a day had a 19% reduction in the risk of all strokes but consumption of tea and caffeinated soft drinks was not significantly associated with a lowered stroke risk. The association was significant only in women who had never smoked or who had quit.

Other recent studies have also found that drinking coffee was associated with a decreased risk of diabetes as well as dementia.  

Researchers believe the health benefits from coffee probably originate from substances other than caffeine. Phenolic compounds in coffee have strong antioxidant properties, which may improve endothelial function.  Caffeinated coffee appears to have beneficial effects on glucose metabolism, inflammation, and endothelial function which would account for protection against diabetes and stroke.

While these studies are very good news for coffee drinkers, be aware that more research needs to be done.  Also keep in mind that some people should not drink coffee at all, and for others, drinking too much coffee can be problematic and lead to a number of health problems.  

Source: “High Coffee Consumption Linked to Lower Stroke Risk for Women”, MedPage Today, February 17, 2009
Source: Lopez-Garcia E, et al “Coffee consumption and risk of stroke in women” Circulation 2009; 119: 1116-1123.

Trimming the Waistline May Help Those with Migraines

Tape measureExcess abdominal fat may increase the risk of migraine headaches in young and middle-aged adults report researchers from Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia. In their recent large-scale study, people aged 20 to 55 who had larger waistlines were more likely to have migraines than those with smaller waistlines. However, among those older than 55, total body obesity wasn’t associated with migraine in women or men.

Excess abdominal fat also appears to be linked with diverticulitis, diverticular bleeding, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.  In a recent study published in the Journal of Stroke, researchers found those who had a waist circumference greater than 40.2 inches for men or 34.6 inches for women, the risk of stroke increased more than 4-fold compared with individuals with a normal waist size.  In general, women with a waist measurement of more than 35 inches and men with a waist measurement of more than 40 inches may have an increased risk for the above diseases.

A recent small study has found that periodic, intense exercise is best for burning the fat around the midsection. While any type of exercise is helpful, people who want to reshape their figures may need to boost the intensity of their workouts, researchers have found. Their study followed 27 middle-aged obese women. They found that those who exercised at a higher intensity for four months successfully shed fat from their midsections while those who exercised at a lower intensity showed no such changes in body fat.

It’s very important to note that anyone new to exercise should start off slow and gradually build the intensity, duration and frequency of workouts. Older adults and people with chronic health conditions should talk to their doctors before becoming more active.

Source: Dr. B. Lee Peterlin, of Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia, American Academy of Neurology news release, February 2009