In the first large population-based study to evaluate the relationship between self-rated fitness level at midlife and future dementia risk – scientist noted some compelling findings. The evaluation included 3,559 Finnish adults followed for 30 years. Study subjects who reported their fitness levels at age 50 as “poor” were four times more likely to develop dementia over the next three decades vs. those who rated their fitness levels as “good”. (Journal of Internal Medicine, 2014; DOI: 10.1111/joim.12202)
There is now robust evidence that dementia develops over several decades and that physical activity/exercise, because it benefits the brain through so many different ways, is arguably the single most powerful strategy available to protect our mental faculties. Simply taking a brisk 30-minute walk most days during your adult life may mean the difference between saving or losing your mind.
I routinely review 80 plus studies a month related to nutrition and health and this one grabbed my attention like no other. In this meticulously controlled investigation, researchers had 39 healthy normal weight adult men and women purposely eat 750 extra fat calories a day for seven weeks with the goal of gaining 3% of their starting weight. One half of the study subjects consumed their extra fat calories from saturated fat while the other half consumed their extra fat calories from polyunsaturated fat. The diets were otherwise identical. As expected, both groups gained comparable amounts of weight, but there were striking differences in both the location of the weight gained and the composition of the weight gained (really fascinating!). Specifically – those consuming the extra saturated fat experienced a markedly greater increase in visceral (belly) fat relative to those consuming the polyunsaturated fat. Additionally, the saturated fat eaters gained more total body fat and less muscle mass. Those eating the polyunsaturated fat gained three times more muscle mass and much less total and belly fat. (Diabetes, February 2014 DOI: 102337/db13-1622 1939-327X)
The implications of this study for overall health are ENORMOUS as belly fat is the type of fat that leads to heart attacks, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, dementia, and some cancers while gaining or even maintaining muscle mass is profoundly beneficial for overall metabolic health, weight control, functionality and quality of life.
Bottom line – It is the type of fat that you eat that really matters. Click here to get the complete lowdown on how to do your fats right.
If you want to lower your risk of type 2 diabetes, then low-fat yogurt should be a staple in your daily diet. In one of the first large scale studies to examine the relationship between regular yogurt consumption and type 2 diabetes, scientist uncovered some very encouraging results. For this study, researchers followed the eating habits of 4,255 British adults for about 11 years. Study subjects who reported eating the most low-fat yogurt (about 4.5 standard 4.4 oz. servings a week) were 28% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes vs. those consuming the least. Some other forms of reduced fat “fermented” dairy products including low-fat cottage cheese were also tied to diabetes protection, but not quite as high as low-fat yogurt. Other forms of dairy products, including milk and full-fat yogurt and cheeses, did not show any protective benefits for type 2 diabetes.
I am convinced that fermented foods are quite special in terms of their unique health benefits. The “good bacteria” they contain are rapidly rising stars on the immune and metabolic fronts, in addition to their well-established role in maintaining digestive health. I make a point to include a serving of low-fat or non-fat, plain, Greek yogurt in my diet each day.
In a fascinating new study scientist have uncovered what may be a key behavioral practice for staying slim and avoiding weight gain—diligence in healthy eating during the weekdays. For the study, researchers had 80 adults weigh themselves each day before breakfast for up to one year. The primary aim of the study was to determine if study subject’s weights fluctuated depending on the various days of the week. Some telling patterns clearly emerged. In most every study subject, regardless of their body weight, weight increased over the weekend, peaking by Monday morning. There was a clear difference however in what happened during the weekdays between those who lost or maintained weight vs. those who gained weight over the study period. For the maintainers and losers, weight typically went down right away during the first part of the week with the maximal decrease on Friday. For the gainers, there was no statistical difference in weight during the weekdays relative to the prior weekend. The researchers concluded that weekend weight gain appears to be a universal phenomena, and that quickly and more strictly adhering to healthy diet changes during the weekdays is likely fundamental to lifelong weight control.
Low-fat or non-fat PLAIN yogurt is truly the cream of the dairy crop and a superstar, standout food. Here are 6 great reasons to enjoy it daily. [this is repetitive with the “6 reasons” thing before.]
Yogurt provides probiotics (beneficial bacteria) that are fundamental to gastrointestinal health as well as metabolic and immune function.
Yogurt provides more calcium than any other food. As an added bonus, the calcium in yogurt is especially well absorbed.
Yogurt is a great source of high quality protein, magnesium, B-vitamins, potassium, and zinc. Some brands also provide vitamin D (look for them).
Yogurt contains a special form of vitamin K, called K2 that is particularly beneficial for bone health and cardiovascular health.
Relative to other dairy products, yogurt is more easily digested and generally better tolerated in those who are lactose intolerant.
In addition to protection from type 2 diabetes, evidence is promising that yogurt also helps to ward off high blood pressure, colon cancer, metabolic syndrome, and osteoporosis.
The healthiest yogurt choice is PLAIN, organic, and low-fat or non-fat. I am a huge fan of Greek-style plain yogurt because it is so rich and creamy, and because it has double the protein (great for appetite control!) of standard yogurts. My preferred choice is the large container of Organic Stoneyfield Greek Non-fat Plain Yogurt. Stay away from flavored yogurts as most are filled with added sugar! Sweeten your plain yogurt with some berries, cut up fresh fruit, or simply add a touch of honey, molasses, sugar, or maple syrup.
Walnuts are an excellent source of those hard to find plant-based omega 3 fats.
Walnuts are uniquely high in a special form of vitamin E, gamma-tocopherol, revered for its heart health prowess.
Walnuts are home to a broad array of beneficial plant antioxidants, including some exceedingly rare and highly prized ones like juglone, which is thought to explain the connection between walnut consumption and decreased prostate and breast cancer risk.
Additionally, studies have shown walnuts to be protective against many more of our most dreaded diseases including: type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, dementia, macular degeneration, and even stress.
Choose those with the deepest, richest color. The more color, the more beneficial phytochemicals it provides and usually the more fiber, vitamins and minerals too. The superstars include: all cruciferous (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, kale, collards), carrots, garlic, onions, leaks, sweet potatoes, dark leafy greens, tomatoes, winter squash, asparagus, red/orange/yellow bell peppers, berries, cherries, plums, any whole citrus, cantaloupe, kiwi, mango, peaches, pears, red grapes, apples, and dried or fresh apricots
Some vegetables are better for your raw while others are better for you cooked. Your best bet is to eat some of both every day.
Choose the “smallest” offerings of vegetables. The smaller the piece of produce the higher its skin to flesh ratio. The nutritional goodness in produce, especially phytochemicals and fiber are more concentrated in the skin.
Favor non-starchy vegetables over fruit, especially if you have a weight issue. Many have a high nutrient to calorie ratio and more favorable effects on metabolism.
Seek out locally or regionally grown produce in the grocer. It is generally fresher, tastier, healthier and less stressful on the environment.
Be aware of the varieties of vegetables that provide the highest levels of pesticide exposure – spinach, celery, potatoes and sweet bell peppers. I suggest organic for these vegetables.
Be aware of the “cleanest” (lest pesticides) varieties of vegetables – onions, avocado, frozen corn, frozen peas, asparagus, cabbage, broccoli, eggplant.
Recognize that frozen vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh. Stockpile them when they go on sale!
Try growing your own veggies. Anyone can grow lettuce in a pot.
Eat salad at least once a day. You should never go a day in your life without eating some form of dark leafy green.
Restrict the starchy, higher glycemic vegetables – white potatoes, parsnips, rutabagas and corn, especially if weight is an issue.
Black pepper has a long history of medicinal use in Eastern cultures and some nifty new science shows that it may prove beneficial for weight loss. According to researchers from Korea, piperine – a plant chemical in black pepper that is responsible for its hot and spicy taste – blocks the activation of genes that drive the development of new fat cells. Past studies have also shown that piperine improves the absorption and activity of the powerful anti-inflammatory spice turmeric, which has shown promise in reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.
(Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry May 2, 2012)
According to a new report in the prestigious journal Neurology, the brain-health credentials of those precious omega 3 fats just received yet another boost. For this study, researchers measured the blood levels of omega 3 fats in 1,111 elderly women and measured the size of their brains with MRI scans 8 years later. Women who had the highest blood levels of omega 3 fats had significantly larger brain volumes 8 years later vs. those with the lowest levels of these vital-for-brain-health fats. The researchers also noted that the bigger brain volumes in those with highest omega 3 blood levels were particularly striking in the area of the brain called the hippocampus. The hippocampus is the brain’s memory center and loss of volume in this key brain region occurs very early in the development of Alzheimer’s and dementia—even before symptoms appear.
Omega 3 fats are your brain’s highest quality building material and play an essential role in both optimal brain structure and optimal brain function. Tragically, most Americans, especially children, have woefully insufficient intakes. Oily fish like salmon are the richest food sources of omega 3 fats and appear to be a SUPERIOR source relative to fish oil supplements. Personally, I strive to eat 5 servings of oily fish, preferably wild salmon, each week to achieve an optimal intake. Here is how I do it.