Category Archives: Longevity

Fresh Praise for the Mediterranean Diet in NYT

Dead whole fish aren’t very appealing to many folks

From Paul Greenberg’s opinion piece in the New York Times (July 19, 2018):

In 1953, not long before President Dwight Eisenhower suffered a heart attack in office, the social scientist Leland Allbaugh published “Crete: A Case Study of an Underdeveloped Area.” The landmark analysis of the eating patterns of an isolated Greek population strongly suggested that a calorie-limited diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and olive oil and low in animal protein, particularly red meat, could lower the risk of heart attacks and strokes, decrease chronic disease and extend life.

Medical research over the last half-century has largely borne out this initial finding. Weight-loss fads and eating trends come and go, but the so-called Mediterranean diet has stood fast. “Among all diets,” Dr. Walter Willett of Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health concluded in an email, “the traditional Mediterranean diet is most strongly supported for delivering long term health and wellbeing.”

Click for a more complete definition of the traditional Mediterranean Diet, which includes alcohol. More from Greenberg:

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As the clinician Artemis Simopoulos pointed out to me, two meatless days a week are the norm in Greek Orthodox communities. This religious provision encouraged traditional communities to eat fish not only on Fridays but on Wednesdays as well. Recent epidemiological evidence links two portions of seafood a week with lower blood pressure, lower LDL cholesterol and lower triglycerides. In spite of this, American seafood consumption has stayed consistently low compared with other developed countries.

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And for decades now, even Greeks have been abandoning their traditional foods and eating much more than they previously did. “In my view, the reason the diet worked to prevent heart disease on Crete was because they weren’t overeating,” said Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University. “By the time I got to Crete in the early 1990s, they were, and the hospitals were full of heart attacks and people with type 2 diabetes.”

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Today, 65 years after Allbaugh returned from Crete, with modern America plagued by one of the highest obesity rates in the world and failing to meet life expectancy averages of almost every other developed nation, it’s worth circling back to the eating patterns of the ancients. For if the United States were to put itself on a Mediterranean diet, we would likely see huge improvements not only in human and environmental health, but also in rural economic stability.

RTWT for Greenberg’s roadmap to an American Mediterranean diet.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Steve Parker MD, Advanced Mediterranean Diet

Two diet books in one

Mediterranean and Paleo Diets Linked to Lower Risk of Death

The Journal of Nutrition in 2017 published a study that looked at baseline diet characteristics of over 21,000 folks, then over the next six years noted who died, and why. Guess how many died?

Here’s a clue. These U.S. study participants were at least 45 years old at the start of the study.

2,513 died. Seems high to me, so I bet the average age was close to 65.

Hank’s not worried about death

I can’t tell for sure from the report’s abstract, but it looks like the researchers were interested in the Mediterranean and caveman diets from the get-go. Study subjects who ate Paleo- or Mediterranean-style were significantly less likely to die over six years. They were less likely to die from any cause or from cancer or from cardiovascular disease.

Why not adopt some Mediterranean diet features? Lose weight with the Advanced Mediterranean Diet.

Also consider the paleo diet (click for my 2012 definition).

Steve Parker, M.D.

Reference:

Paleolithic and Mediterranean Diet Pattern Scores Are Inversely Associated with All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality in Adults. First published February 8, 2017, doi: 10.3945/​jn.116.241919. Authors:

  1. Kristine A Whalen
  2. Suzanne Judd
  3. Marjorie L McCullough
  4. W Dana Flanders
  5. Terryl J Hartman
  6. Roberd M Bostick

Abstract

Background: Poor diet quality is associated with a higher risk of many chronic diseases that are among the leading causes of death in the United States. It has been hypothesized that evolutionary discordance may account for some of the higher incidence and mortality from these diseases.

Objective: We investigated associations of 2 diet pattern scores, the Paleolithic and the Mediterranean, with all-cause and cause-specific mortality in the REGARDS (REasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke) study, a longitudinal cohort of black and white men and women ≥45 y of age.

Methods: Participants completed questionnaires, including a Block food-frequency questionnaire (FFQ), at baseline and were contacted every 6 mo to determine their health status. Of the analytic cohort (n = 21,423), a total of 2513 participants died during a median follow-up of 6.25 y. We created diet scores from FFQ responses and assessed their associations with mortality using multivariable Cox proportional hazards regression models adjusting for major risk factors.

Results: For those in the highest relative to the lowest quintiles of the Paleolithic and Mediterranean diet scores, the multivariable adjusted HRs for all-cause mortality were, respectively, 0.77 (95% CI: 0.67, 0.89; P-trend < 0.01) and 0.63 (95% CI: 0.54, 0.73; P-trend < 0.01). The corresponding HRs for all-cancer mortality were 0.72 (95% CI: 0.55, 0.95; P-trend = 0.03) and 0.64 (95% CI: 0.48, 0.84; P-trend = 0.01), and for all-cardiovascular disease mortality they were 0.78 (95% CI: 0.61, 1.00; P-trend = 0.06) and HR: 0.68 (95% CI: 0.53, 0.88; P-trend = 0.01).

Conclusions: Findings from this biracial prospective study suggest that diets closer to Paleolithic or Mediterranean diet patterns may be inversely associated with all-cause and cause-specific mortality.

 

Oldsters, Preserve Your Muscle Mass While You Lose Weight. Here’s How.

dementia, memory loss, Mediterranean diet, low-carb diet, glycemic index, dementia memory loss

“Honey, please come to the gym with me.”

From UPI.com:

Seniors who want to lose weight should hit the weight room while they cut calories, a new study suggests.

Older folks who performed resistance training while dieting were able to lose fat but still preserve most of their lean muscle mass, compared with those who walked for exercise, researchers report.

“The thought is if you lose too much lean mass, that this will exacerbate risk of disability in older adults,” said lead researcher Kristen Beavers, an assistant professor of health and exercise science at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C. “Our findings show if your treatment goal is to maximize fat loss and minimize lean mass loss, then the resistance training is probably the way to go.”

We’ve know for a while that resistance training helps preserve muscle mass in younger folks during weight-loss programs. I’ve always figured the principle applied to older folks, too. It’s good to have proof. Average age of these study participants was 67.

Steve Parker, M.D.

 

Do Longevity Researchers Live Very Long?

No, according to this anecdotal article at NYT. For instance…

“Then there is Jerome Rodale, founder of the publishing empire dedicated to health. In 1971, Dick Cavett invited Mr. Rodale onto his TV show after reading a New York Times Magazine article that called him “the guru of the organic food cult.” Mr. Rodale, 72, took his chair next to Mr. Cavett, proclaimed that he would live to be 100, and then made a snoring sound and died.”

 

Does the Mediterranean Diet Really Prevent Chronic Diseases?

 

Told ya so!

A couple PhD nutritionists with the University of Arizona Cancer Center reviewed the literature in favor of the healthy Mediterranean diet in 2017. They agree with me that the health claims hold up to scrutiny. From the abstract:

A large body of research data suggests that traditional dietary habits and lifestyle unique to the Mediterranean region (Mediterranean diet, MD) lower the incidence of chronic diseases and improve longevity. These data contrast with troubling statistics in the United States and other high income countries pointing to an increase in the incidence of chronic diseases and the projected explosion in cost of medical care associated with an aging population. In 2013, the MD was inscribed by UNESCO in the “Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.” The 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans included the MD as a healthy dietary pattern. Therefore, specific objectives of this article are to provide an overview of the nutritional basis of this healthful diet, its metabolic benefits, and its role in multiple aspects of disease prevention and healthy aging.

Source: Mediterranean Diet and Prevention of Chronic Diseases

Steve Parker, M.D.

Steve Parker MD, Advanced Mediterranean Diet

Two diet books in one

 

Dietary Fat Linked to Loss of Skeletal Muscle Mass in Women

Loss of skeletal muscle is one hallmark of the aging process. Look around and you’ll see it everywhere. That muscle loss, in turn, contributes to dependency and falls. But as always, remember that correlation is not causation. So the study results may not hold up over time. And we don’t know if they apply to men. Click the link below for all the juicy details.

“To our knowledge, this is the first population-based study to demonstrate an association between a comprehensive range of dietary fat intake and fat-free mass.”

Source: Dietary Fat and Fatty Acid Profile Are Associated with Indices of Skeletal Muscle Mass in Women Aged 18–79 Years | The Journal of Nutrition | Oxford Academic

How Does the Mediterranean Diet Protect Against Disease?

From the Journals of Gerontology:

Consuming a Mediterranean diet rich in minimally processed plant foods has been associated with a reduced risk of developing multiple chronic diseases and increased life expectancy. Data from several randomized clinic trials have demonstrated a beneficial effect in the primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, atrial fibrillation and breast cancer. The exact mechanism by which an increased adherence to the traditional Mediterranean diet exerts its favorable effects is not known. However, accumulating evidence indicates that the five most important adaptations induced by the Mediterranean dietary pattern are: (1) lipid lowering effect, (2) protection against oxidative stress, inflammation and platelet aggregation, (3) modification of hormones and growth factors involved in the pathogenesis of cancer, (4) inhibition of nutrient sensing pathways by specific amino acid restriction, and (4) gut microbiota-mediated production of metabolites influencing metabolic health. More studies are needed to understand how single modifications of nutrients typical of the Mediterranean diet interact with energy intake, energy expenditure, and the microbiome in modulating the key mechanisms that promote cellular, tissue, and organ health during aging.