Friday, October 16, 2009

Healthy Food Choices Key To Longevity

"Eating less is better than eating more, especially if it’s a nutritious mix of whole grains, fruits, vegetables and the like. The evidence is overwhelming now that it will improve your health and will improve your chances of living healthier and probably longer."

"Going back more than a half century to an experiment at Cornell University in the mid-1930s, calorie restriction has been shown again and again to extend the lives of mice, rats and other animals." NYtimes

A wonderful article about dieting and longevity in last Sunday's New York Times Magazine describes a large-scale medically supervised diet called the Calerie diet. Motivated, highly organized normal weight individuals (BMI 22-28) reduced their daily calories by 25 percent for two years. Some of the study's success is attributed to the "accountability factor": they kept journals, counted calories, had support group sessions and so on. It quoted my favorite, most trusted academic diet experts, Susan Roberts and Barbara Rolls. Of course animals are different than humans:

"Primates and mice are kept in cages and eat what they are fed; none have ever had to choose to forswear a spring roll or a cupcake."

Therein lies the challenge: maintaining willpower to overcome temptation.

"Moving a heavyset person’s body-mass index from, say, 35 to 29 might increase his longevity by reducing the risk for diseases like diabetes. Yet it is not “triggering the anti-aging pathways” that have been observed at the cellular and molecular levels in animals of normal weight when placed on a calorie-restricted diet....the study’s architects determined that 25 percent was both humanly feasible and, based on data from previous experiments, could have noticeable effects on the rate and diseases of aging."NYTimes.

Here's a link to Wolfram Alpha's Body Mass Index calculator, the best one online now.

“There are really three things we want to know,” Susan Roberts, a professor of nutrition and psychiatry who is in charge of the Calerie team at Tufts [and author of The Instinct Diet],

1)“The first is, can we really implement human caloric restriction?
2) The second is, can we really implement it in a way that doesn’t neglect the biology? People can’t walk around hungry, so is hunger a necessary part of the biology of calorie restriction?
3) The third is, are there unacceptable side effects that you wouldn’t pick up in animals that you would pick up in humans?” Roberts went on to say: “And if we found that caloric restriction was healthy and everyone can do it? The goal of the trial is to see if this is ready for prime time.”

"A number of recent experiments — notably by Barbara Rolls at Penn State — demonstrated that humans tend to eat a consistent weight of food from day to day, but not necessarily a consistent number of calories. By building a diet around foods with a low-energy density, especially vegetables, fruits and soups, participants can conceivably ingest the same weight of food as they might on a regular diet while taking in fewer calories."

To count calories, the study "used a Web site called At the medical centers running Calerie, you see a lot of people walking around eating apples...Another negative side effect that subjects share is feeling chilled. This isn’t dangerous — these people are, after all, burning less energy. Counselors tell them to put on a sweater."

Pessimistically, doctors of the study think that “the people in the study are not going to stick with it” after they leave. That's exactly why maintenance and vigilance are keys to long-term weight loss.

"Calorie restriction — or simply living a life of less in a culture of more — is extremely difficult to achieve and even more difficult to maintain."NYTimes. Of course a two-year study has its inherent limits: "we already live a long time now, thanks to advances in medicine, surgery and public health, so “if you wanted to do longitudinal studies in humans, it would take 125 years,” Eric Ravussin, who leads the team doing the Calerie experiment at Pennington in Baton Rouge." The study has found that this powerful intervention (the diet) is "basically cleaning out the arteries" and doctors believe it will improves help and chances of living a longer and healthier life.

"To avoid problems at 70, you need to begin at 50" says Annie Condit, a registered dietitian at the University Medical Center at Princeton. Ms. Condit's advice is easy - eat healthy and smart. "If it comes in a bag, box or can, throw it away," she says. "If it grows on a bush, in the ground or in a tree, go for it. Keep it as fresh as possible." (Packet Magazine, Oct 13, 2009, p. 13)

All of this agrees with my "Sociable Diet" -- linked here. Recipes, some from Provence, are still going to be published here in future posts.

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