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Monday
Jun162014

Good News About a Vegetarian Diet

In addition to its other health benefits, you might be able to lower your blood pressure a bit by following a vegetarian diet. That news follows an analysis of 39 studies by Japanese researchers looking at blood pressure measurements of vegetarians v. meat eaters. Overall, blood pressure among the vegetarians was “significantly lower” than that of those who eat meat. Investigators reported that the difference between people on vegetarian and non-vegetarian diets averaged five to seven millimeters of mercury - usually rendered as mm/Hg - for systolic blood pressure (the top number) and two to five mm/Hg for the diastolic (bottom) number. The researchers concluded that even these modest drops in blood pressure could reduce the risk of heart attack by nine percent and the risk of stroke by 14 percent if sustained over time. The Japanese study team noted that no differences were seen between the various sub-types of vegetarian diets – whether vegan or diets that allowed dairy products and eggs or even those that also allow fish. The study didn’t identify specific foods or nutrients in the diets that could be responsible for the lower blood pressure seen, but noted that vegetarian diets in general tend to be lower in sodium and higher in potassium and plant proteins.

My take? I’m not surprised that this review found that a vegetarian diet seems to help reduce high blood pressure. The DASH diet, which I recommend for people with hypertension, is heavy on vegetables and fruit and very light on meat. To help keep blood pressure in the normal range I suggest eating eight to 10 servings of vegetables and fruit per day, and limiting animal protein. For those who are salt sensitive or have a family history of hypertension, cutting salt consumption to about one teaspoon a day may help control your blood pressure. Incorporating garlic in your diet may be beneficial as well, since it has a modest effect on blood pressure, potentially helping to relax blood vessels. I also suggest consuming four to five servings of nuts, seeds and dry beans per week (the equivalent to two tablespoons of nuts or seeds, or 1/2 cup cooked dried beans). Include at least three servings of fish a week, emphasizing cold-water fish such as wild Alaskan salmon and sardines, which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Consider fish-oil supplements if you cannot get enough omega-3-rich foods. I also suggest taking calcium and magnesium since inadequate intake of both has been associated with high blood pressure. Women should get between 1,000 and 1,200 mg of calcium a day from all sources, while men need no more than 500-600 mg daily from all sources and probably do not need to supplement. In addition, take vitamin C, which has been shown to lower blood pressure in people with mild to moderate hypertension.

Eating Anti-Inflammatory Made Simple
Take the guesswork out of a healthful diet with Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging. Our shopping and eating guides, over 300 recipes, tips and videos follow Dr. Weil's recommended anti-inflammatory principles for promoting better health, from head to toe. See what it's about - start your free trial today and save 30% when you join!

Sources:
Yoko Yokoyama et al, “Vegetarian Diets and Blood Pressure: A Meta-analysis,” JAMA Internal Medicine, doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.14547

Friday
Jun132014

What Starchy Foods Do You Prefer? (Poll)

A recent Q&A discussed resistance starch and the role it plays in digestive health: Is Resistant Starch Good for You? Check out the article and let us know which starchy food your prefer most.

Thursday
Jun122014

Emotional Eating Goes Two Ways

When you consider emotional eating, you may focus on the tendency to seek comfort foods that beckon when you’re blue, but a new study suggests that emotional eating has a flip side: the healthy decisions you make about food when you’re in a good mood. Researchers at the University of Delaware set out to explore this territory by first recruiting 211 local adults and asking them to read inspiring articles about someone who had a good life and achieved worthwhile goals or to read something neutral. Afterward, when offered a choice of foods, the study volunteers who read the positive article rated the healthy ones higher than high calorie comfort foods. For a second study, the researchers gave 315 college undergraduates negative articles about someone whose life was sad and who failed to reach goals or something neutral to read. After that, when given food choices, the students preferred the comfort foods. The researchers concluded that when you’re in a good mood you’re more likely to think ahead, and about the future benefits of making healthy food choices. The flip side is that when we’re down, we’re still more likely to opt for the immediate taste and sensory experience that comfort foods offer.

Eating Anti-Inflammatory Made Simple
Take the guesswork out of a healthful diet with Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging. Our shopping and eating guides, over 300 recipes, tips and videos follow Dr. Weil's recommended anti-inflammatory principles for promoting better health, from head to toe. See what it's about - start your free trial today and save 30% when you join!

Sources:
Meryl Gardner et al, "Foods and moods: Considering the future may help people make better food choices." ScienceDaily, February 12, 2014.

Wednesday
Jun112014

Environmental Working Group - 2014 Shopper's Guide with Dr. Weil (Video)

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) publishes an annual Shoppers Guide. It consists of two lists - one of the "Dirty Dozen" produce varieties that have most pesticide contamination, the other of the "Clean 15" that are the least contaminated. Here's my discussion of why shoppers should be concerned about pesticide levels, and how the Shopper's Guide can help them avoid these worrisome chemicals.

More information:

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Tuesday
Jun102014

How Exercise Slows Aging

A team of British researchers appears to have figured out how exercise slows the aging process. The mechanism involves the newly identified hormone irisin, which is released from muscles after exercise. The researchers found that this hormone is capable of influencing the body’s fat cells so that they burn energy instead of storing it. This increases metabolic rate and is thought to have potential anti-obesity effects. For the study, the research team looked at irisin levels in 81 healthy individuals who were not obese and found that those who had higher levels of the hormone also had longer telomeres - the repeating DNA sequences at the ends of chromosomes. In healthy cells, telomeres help regulate cell division and prevent chromosomes from rearranging or fusing with one another, undesirable changes that could lead to cancer and other life-threatening diseases. The British researchers explained that their finding provides “a potential molecular link between keeping active and a healthy aging process.” Of course, to take advantage of this about you do have to bump up your irisin levels by exercising regularly.

Want To Age Gracefully?
It's not about the lines on the face - it's about the wisdom behind them. Don’t lament the passing of the years, celebrate all you have achieved, learned and earned, for your benefit and the benefit of others. Begin today - start your 14-day free trial of Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging now, and save 30% when you join!

Sources:
James E. Brown et al, “Plasma irisin levels predict telomere length in healthy adults”, AGE DOI: 10.1007/s11357-014-9620-9 

Monday
Jun092014

Counter the Effects of Menopause

Danish researchers have come up with a unique way to help women address some of the increased risks to health brought on by menopause. Noting that declining levels of estrogen can elevate blood pressure and contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease, the research team at the University of Copenhagen Centre for Team Sport and Health examined the effects of playing floorball, a indoor team sport similar to hockey that requires intense physical effort including many short sprints and directional changes. The investigators recruited 23 pre- and post-menopausal women for 12 weeks of twice weekly floorball practice. Initial exams of the participants established that blood pressure among the post-menopausal women was 10 percent higher compared to women of the same age who hadn’t yet reached menopause. The researchers also saw higher levels of an early marker for arteriosclerosis in the post-menopausal group. Results of the 12-week study showed a reduction in blood pressure of four mmHg, which the researchers said correlates to a 40 percent lower risk of stroke. There was also this unexpected benefit: the women had so much fun playing floorball that they insisted on continuing after the study ended.

My take? This is good news for women. Based on what I’ve read, playing floorball requires intense interval aerobic exercise. While I’m not sure how adaptable the lessons of this study are to women in the U.S., the findings do testify to the benefits of working out with a group of friends to stay motivated. If you do exercise with others, however, I urge you not to do so competitively. If allowed to dominate the activity, competitive thoughts can negate some of the benefits of exercise, especially on your cardiovascular and immune systems and emotions.

Want To Age Gracefully?
It's not about the lines on the face - it's about the wisdom behind them. Don’t lament the passing of the years, celebrate all you have achieved, learned and earned, for your benefit and the benefit of others. Begin today - start your 14-day free trial of Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging now, and save 30% when you join!

Sources:
Michael Nyberg et al, “Biomarkers of vascular function in pre- and recent post-menopausal women of similar age: effect of exercise training”, AJP: Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, 2014; DOI: 10.1152/ajpregu.00539.2013

Friday
Jun062014

What Is Your Main Source of Sugar? (Poll)

A recent Q&A discussed sugar in the diet and what too much sugar can do to our health: Is Sugar a Killer? Check out the article and let us know what the main source of sugar is in your diet.

Thursday
Jun052014

How Your Smartphone Can Sabotage Sleep and Your Job

Using your smartphone at home, at night, to deal with work projects can ruin your sleep and leave you with mental fatigue at work the next day. A new study from Michigan State University also suggests that part of the problem is due to the blue-wavelength light given off by smart phones, which appears to interfere with the sleep hormone melatonin. To arrive at their conclusion, researchers surveyed 82 upper-level managers, most of them male, who were studying for MBAs (Master’s in Business Administration degrees). Over a two-week period, the participants completed questionnaires asking them how often they used their smartphones after 9 p.m., and also asked them to report on their sleep quality and their alertness at work during the day. The survey results showed that using smartphones at night was linked to sub-optimal sleep, which in turn led to energy depletion in the morning. A second survey enrolled 136 employees in a wide range of fields whose average age was about 31. This group was more evenly split between men and women. Results confirmed the findings of the first survey and showed that using smartphones at night had more of an impact on sleep than using other electronic devices. The solution? Leave work at work when you can, and turn off your smartphone at night. The study will be published in a future issue of the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision process.

Source:
Russell E. Johnson et al, “Beginning the Workday yet Already Depleted? Consequences of Late-Night Smartphone Use and Sleep,” Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes (not yet scheduled for publication).

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