March 14, 2021 — 11:04 AM
More than 6 million Americans, age 65 and older, are living with Alzheimer’s disease. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, that number is expected to rise to more than 12 million Americans by 2050.
So, while misplacing keys or forgetting someone’s name are harmless human mistakes, those memory lapses over time can grow concerning. Thankfully, our brain and memory function isn’t entirely out of our control.
The brain is constantly undergoing neuroplasticity, meaning it’s growing and changing throughout our lifetime. One way to support that process and enhance memory function is by eating functional foods, neuroscientist and neurodegenerative disease researcher Kristen Willeumier, Ph.D., tells mbg.
Here are her go-to nutrients and food sources for a sharper brain:
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are a form of polyunsaturated fat (aka the “good” kind of fat) that helps shape cognitive capacity. They’re rich in eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which help support cognitive function, maintain the fluidity of cell membranes, and increase synaptic plasticity, Willeumier tells mbg.
In case you’re curious, “The more fluid a cell membrane is, the more efficiently it performs, contributing to a healthy mood and memory. It’s also crucial to cell survival, growth, and renewal,” she explains.
They also support memory function by maintaining brain volume in the hippocampus (the region of the brain involved in learning and memory) as we age, she explains.
Eating sustainable fatty fish—like wild cod, salmon, mackerel, sardines, and trout—is a protein-packed way to get more omega-3s. For those on a plant-based or vegan diet, Willeumier recommends marine algae and seaweed, walnuts, almonds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and flaxseeds.
Polyphenols are a plant-based dietary antioxidant with anti-inflammatory benefits, and they’re abundant in berries. “Blueberries are great for the protection of chronic disease and brain health,” Willeumier tells mbg.
A 20-year study from Harvard Medical School found that the adults who ate blueberries and strawberries had the slowest rate of cognitive decline. “They could delay cognitive decline by as much as two and a half years,” Willeumier says.
Because of the blood-brain barrier, foods that protect the brain will also protect the heart, making blueberries a one-stop-shop for vascular health.
The American Heart Association published a study on more than 93,000 women between 25 and 42 years old. In an 18 year follow-up, they found that those who ate blueberries and strawberries three times per week had a greater reduction in heart attacks.
There’s currently no cure for Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, but instead of fearing unexpected outcomes, take control where you can. Simply adding delicious and nutrient-dense foods to your diet, like blueberries and walnuts, is one way to take initiative with your brain health.
hort bursts of physical exercise induce changes in the body’s levels of metabolites that correlate to an individual’s cardiometabolic, cardiovascular, and long-term health, a study by Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) has found.
In a paper published in Circulation, the research team describes how about 12 minutes of acute cardiopulmonary exercise affected more than 80 percent of circulating metabolites, including pathways linked to a wide range of favorable health outcomes, thus identifying potential mechanisms that could contribute to a better understanding of cardiometabolic benefits of exercise.
“What was striking to us was the effects a brief bout of exercise can have on the circulating levels of metabolites that govern such key bodily functions as insulin resistance, oxidative stress, vascular reactivity, inflammation, and longevity,” said investigator Gregory Lewis, section head of Heart Failure at MGH and senior author of the study.
The MGH study drew on data from the Framingham Heart Study to measure the levels of 588 circulating metabolites before and immediately after 12 minutes of vigorous exercise in 411 middle-aged men and women.
The research team detected favorable shifts in a number of metabolites for which resting levels were previously shown to be associated with cardiometabolic disease. For example, glutamate, a key metabolite linked to heart disease, diabetes, and decreased longevity, fell by 29 percent. And DMGV, a metabolite associated with increased risk of diabetes and liver disease, dropped by 18 percent. The study further found that metabolic responses may be modulated by factors other than exercise, including a person’s sex and body mass index, with obesity possibly conferring partial resistance to the benefits of exercise.
35 minutes a day of physical activity may protect against new episodes, even in the genetically vulnerable
After six weeks, mice had lower levels of inflammatory leukocytes
“Intriguingly, our study found that different metabolites tracked with different physiologic responses to exercise, and might therefore provide unique signatures in the bloodstream that reveal if a person is physically fit, much the way current blood tests determine how well the kidney and liver are functioning,” notes co-first author Matthew Nayor of the Heart Failure and Transplantation Section in the Division of Cardiology at MGH. “Lower levels of DMGV, for example, could signify higher levels of fitness.”
The Framingham Heart Study, which began in 1948 and now embraces three generations of participants, allowed MGH researchers to apply the same signatures used in the current study population to stored blood from earlier generations of participants. By studying the long-term effects of metabolic signatures of exercise responses, researchers were able to predict the future state of an individual’s health, and how long they are likely to live.
“We’re starting to better understand the molecular underpinnings of how exercise affects the body and use that knowledge to understand the metabolic architecture around exercise response patterns,” says co-first author Ravi Shah of the Heart Failure and Transplantation Section in the Division of Cardiology at MGH. “This approach has the potential to target people who have high blood pressure or many other metabolic risk factors in response to exercise, and set them on a healthier trajectory early in their lives.”
Lewis is associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of the Cardiopulmonary Exercise Testing Laboratory at MGH. Nayor is a cardiologist at MGH and instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, and Shah is a cardiologist at MGH and assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. Other co-authors include Ramachandran Vasan, professor of medicine at Boston University and principal investigator of the Framingham Heart Study, and Clary Clish, senior director of Metabolomics at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.
The study was supported by the American Heart Association’s Grand Challenge Award and the National Institutes of Health.
November 10, 2020
In our series “Simple Steps to Sustainability,” experts from around the world give us their tips and tricks on how to live more sustainably.
Sustainable living is hard enough, now add the pressures of a global pandemic and all bets are off.
So we tracked down some experts and asked: What can we do to reduce waste?
“The single biggest source of waste that goes to municipal landfills is wasted food,” Peter Wright, the Assistant Administrator of the EPA’s Office of Land and Emergency Management, told Newsy.
“If food waste was a country, it would be the third biggest polluter after the U.S. and China,” Lucie Basch, the co-founder of Too Good To Go, said. “It’s 50% of people who don’t even know that there are several dates. The ‘best before’, for example, means that the quality is going to be perfect until that date. But it doesn’t mean after that date you can’t eat the product anymore.”
“To reduce your waste, you want to start looking at refusing taking things you’re going to have to throw away in the first place,” Alexander Furey, the founder of Zero Waste Mindset, said.
“Stock up on maybe some pantry staples in such a way that rather than getting a bunch of small bags of things wrapped in plastic, you could get one thing that you then divide up among your community,” Jocelyn Quarrell, the CEO and owner of Go Box, said.
“Maybe doing a waste audit of your home,” Furey said. “And every time you put something in the black bin, in the rubbish bin, write down what you put in. And then after a week, go back and look at your list and see if you can see patterns of the kinds of things you’re throwing away.”
For more videos on how to live sustainably, visit newsy.com/sustainability.
Contrary to popular belief, ‘ghee’ — a kind of clarified butter made by gently heating cow milk till it leaves behind liquid fat — which is often considered an unhealthy, fattening food item that creates hurdles in losing weight, is an Indian superfood which you must include in your diet.
In fact, the benefits of ghee are so many that even nutritionists, dieticians and other lifestyle coaches have started advising fitness enthusiasts to include it in their diet. Even renowned celebrity nutritionist Rujuta Diwekar has spoken on the benefits of ghee time and again on various platforms including her own social media handles which has thousands of followers.
On a healthier note, natural and free of unhealthy preservatives and trans fats, ghee not only has healing powers but is rich in omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, vitamin A, E and cholesterol and helps in boosting immunity. It consists of fat-soluble vitamins, which aid weight loss.
Besides this, it plays an imperative role in balancing hormones and maintaining healthy cholesterol. And beyond all the health benefits that ghee provides, the age-old ayurvedic ingredient has a special space as far as haircare and skincare rituals are concerned.
So here, we will make an attempt to find out what the benefits of ghee are and the reasons why we must include this Indian superfood in our diet. And for this, we at DNA spoke with Dr Rohini Patil, MBBS, Dietitian and CEO of Nutracy Lifestyle, who shared with us some pointers that list out the benefits of ghee.
Check them out here:
Strengthens the immune system
Ghee includes high butterfat, vitamins and protein that helps in the absorption of nutrients. It includes butyric acid which boosts immunity and also prevents the formation of cancer cells. Along with this, it includes vitamin D, A, K and E.
Keeps constipation at bay
Ghee promotes and strengthens the digestive functions. Taking one teaspoon of ghee in a glass of hot milk before sleeping helps in relieving constipation. It works as lubricator that helps to flush out waste. Also, it neutralizes acids in intestines that prevents stomach pain and acidity.
Source of healthy fats
Ghee is rich in omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids that have many health benefits. These fatty acids help in weight loss as it mobilizes fat cells to burn for energy. It also helps to remove toxins from cells and improves metabolism in the body.
Ghee is a really effective remedy for the treatment of cough. Due to its medical properties, it is being used for many years in Ayurveda. For the cure of cough, have one teaspoon of warm ghee directly or mix with ginger powder.
Powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory abilities
Ghee includes anti-inflammatory properties that treat various diseases. It maintains cholesterol level and is good for the heart as well. It contains vitamin E which is a powerful antioxidant. It also prevents tissue and cell damage.
Ghee promotes learning, memory and recalling functioning of the brain. It strengthens the nervous system. It is an important detoxifying agent and improves the strength of the brain.
Along with health benefits, it is also beneficial for applying on skin. Ghee is suitable for all skin types. It provides hydration to skin cells and moisturises dry skin, especially during winters. It also includes anti-ageing properties and is also good for chapped lips. So, add ghee to your diet for healthy living!
There are many reasons why you may not include dairy in your diet, but is fear of elevated cancer risk one of them? New research indicates that drinking just one glass of milk each day could dramatically increase a woman’s chances of developing breast cancer.
A new study commissioned by the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health and the World Cancer Research Fund found that women who drink cow’s milk could increase their risk of breast cancer by as much as 80 percent in comparison with women who drink soy milk. (Related: What Happens to Your Body When You Can’t Have Dairy).
Nearly 52,800 females participated in this 7-year-long study—which compared the health outcomes of women who drank cow’s milk versus those who drank soy—all of which had previously been involved in the Adventist Health Study-2. An important detail, seeing as Adventists typically abide by a vegetarian diet and also tend to eat a lot of soy products compared to those who follow the Standard American Diet.
Upon enrollment, all women were asked to fill out a detailed food questionnaire and a small group was selected to provide 24-hour food journals and urine samples periodically throughout the study. The results were shocking—more than 1,000 participants had developed breast cancer by the end of the study.
Researchers found that women who reported drinking eight ounces of cow’s milk each day escalated their cancer risk by 50% and those who drank two to three cups of the stuff per day increased their risk by up to 80%. Of course, this information doesn’t suggest that drinking one cup of cow’s milk per day makes a woman 50% more likely to develop breast cancer. Instead, this finding suggests that cow’s milk increases a woman’s individual risk by 50%. For example, the average risk for a woman developing breast cancer is about 12%. So, for a woman who falls in line with the average, her risk would elevate by 50% if she drank about 8-ounces worth of dairy each day.
Thomas Kelley @thkelley
Humans (and our ancestors) have been processing food for at least 1.8 million years. Roasting, drying, grinding and other techniques made food more nutritious, durable and tasty. This helped our ancestors to colonise diverse habitats, and then develop settlements and civilisations.
Many traditional foods used in cooking today are processed in some way, such as grains, cheeses, dried fish and fermented vegetables. Processing itself is not the problem.
Only much more recently has a different type of food processing emerged: one that is more extensive, and uses new chemical and physical techniques. This is called ultra-processing, and the resulting products ultra-processed foods.
To make these foods, cheap ingredients such as starches, vegetable oils and sugars, are combined with cosmetic additives like colours, flavours and emulsifiers. Think sugary drinks, confectionery, mass-produced breads, snack foods, sweetened dairy products and frozen desserts.
Unfortunately, these foods are terrible for our health. And we’re eating more of them than ever before, partially because of aggressive marketing and lobbying by “Big Food”.
Ultra-processed foods are harming our health
So concludes our recent literature review. We found that more ultra-processed foods in the diet associates with higher risks of obesity, heart disease and stroke, type-2 diabetes, cancer, frailty, depression and death.
These harms can be caused by the foods’ poor nutritional profile, as many are high in added sugars, salt and trans-fats. Also, if you tend to eat more ultra-processed foods, it means you probably eat fewer fresh and less-processed foods.
Put simply, ultra-processed foods are bad for our health and the environment. Igor Sefr/AP/AAP
Industrial processing itself can also be harmful. For example, certain food additives can disrupt our gut bacteria and trigger inflammation, while plasticisers in packaging can interfere with our hormonal system.
Certain features of ultra-processed foods also promote over-consumption. Product flavours, aromas and mouthfeel are designed to make these foods ultra-tasty, and perhaps even addictive.
Ultra-processed foods also harm the environment. For example, food packaging generates much of the plastic waste that enters marine ecosystems.
And yet, we’re eating more and more of them
In our latest study, published in August, we found ultra-processed food sales are booming nearly everywhere in the world.
Sales are highest in rich countries like Australia, the United States and Canada. They are rising rapidly in middle-income countries like China, South Africa and Brazil, which are highly populated. The scale of dietary change and harms to health are therefore likely immense.
‘Big Food’ is driving consumption
We also asked: what explains the global rise in ultra-processed food sales? Growing incomes, more people living in cities, and working families seeking convenience are a few factors that contribute.
However, it’s also clear “Big Food” corporations are driving ultra-processed food consumption globally — think Coca-Cola, Nestlé and McDonald’s. Sales growth is lower in countries where such corporations have a limited presence.
Aggressive marketing campaigns by Big Food companies are contributing to growing consumption of ultra-processed foods. Shutterstock
Globalisation has allowed these corporations to make huge investments in their overseas operations. The Coca-Cola System, for example, now includes 900 bottling plants worldwide, distributing 2 billion servings every day.
As Big Food globalises, their advertising and promotion becomes widespread. New digital technologies, such as gaming, are used to target children. By collecting large amounts of personal data online, companies can even target their advertising at us as individuals.
Supermarkets are now spreading throughout the developing world, provisioning ultra-processed foods at scale, and at low prices. Where supermarkets don’t exist, other distribution strategies are used. For example, Nestlé uses its “door-to-door” salesforce to reach thousands of poor households in Brazil’s urban slums.
Rising consumption also reflects Big Food’s political power to undermine public health policies. This includes lobbying policymakers, making political donations, funding favourable research, and partnerships with community organisations.
The evidence that ultra-processed foods are harming our health and the planet is clear. We must now consider using a variety of strategies to decrease consumption. This includes adopting new laws and regulations, for example by using taxation, marketing restrictions and removing these products from schools.
We cannot rely on industry-preferred responses such as product reformulation alone. After all, reformulated ultra-processed foods are usually still ultra-processed.
Further, simply telling individuals to “be more responsible” is unlikely to work, when Big Food spends billions every year marketing unhealthy products to undermine that responsibility.
Should dietary guidelines now strongly advise people to avoid ultra-processed foods? Brazil and other Latin American countries are already doing this.
And for us as individuals the advice is simple — avoid ultra-processed foods altogether.
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Japanese Doctor Who Lived to 105—his Spartan Diet, Views on Retirement, and Other Rare Longevity TipsPosted: September 3, 2020
Dr. Shigeaki Hinohara had an extraordinary life for many reasons. For starters, the Japanese physician and longevity expert lived until the age of 105.
When he died, in 2017, Hinohara was chairman emeritus of St. Luke’s International University and honorary president of St. Luke’s International Hospital, both in Tokyo.
Perhaps best known for his book, “Living Long, Living Good,” Hinohara offered advice that helped make Japan the world leader in longevity. Some were fairly intuitive points, while others were less obvious:
1. Don’t retire. But if you must, do so a lot later than age 65.
But Hinohara viewed things differently. “There is no need to ever retire, but if one must, it should be a lot later than 65,” he said in a 2009 interview with The Japan Times. “The current retirement age was set at 65 half a century ago, when the average life expectancy in Japan was 68 years and only 125 Japanese were over 100 years old.”
Today, he explained, people are living a lot longer. The life expectancy for U.S. in 2020, for example, is 78.93 years, a 0.08% increase from 2019. Therefore, we should be retiring much later in life, too.
Hinohara certainly practiced what he preached: Until a few months before his death, he continued to treat patients, kept an appointment book with space for five more years, and worked up to 18 hours a day.
2. Take the stairs (and keep your weight in check).
Hinohara emphasized the importance of regular exercise. “I take two stairs at a time, to get my muscles moving,” he said.
Additionally, Hinohara carried his own packages and luggage, and gave 150 lectures a year, usually speaking for 60 to 90 minutes — all done standing, he said, “to stay strong.”
He also pointed out that people who live an extremely long life have a commonality: They aren’t overweight. Indeed, obesity is widely considered one of the most significant risk factors for increased morbidity and mortality.
Hinohara’s diet was spartan: “For breakfast, I drink coffee, a glass of milk and some orange juice with a tablespoon of olive oil in it.” (Studies have found that olive oil offers numerous health benefits, such as keeping your arteries clean and lowering heart disease risk.)
“Lunch is milk and a few cookies, or nothing when I am too busy to eat,” he continued. “I never get hungry because I focus on my work. Dinner is veggies, a bit of fish and rice, and, twice a week, 100 grams of lean meat.”
3. Find a purpose that keeps you busy.
According to Hinohara, not having a full schedule is a surefire way to age faster and die sooner. However, it’s important to stay busy not just for the sake of staying busy, but to be active in activities that help serve a purpose. (The logic is that one can be busy, yet still feel empty and idle on the inside.)
Hinohara found his purpose early on, after his mother’s life was saved by the family’s doctor.
Janit Kawaguchi, a journalist who considered Hinohara a mentor, said, “He believed that life is all about contribution, so he had this incredible drive to help people, to wake up early in the morning and do something wonderful for other people. This is what was driving him and what kept him living.”
“It’s wonderful to live long,” Hinohara said in the interview. “Until one is 60 years old, it is easy to work for one’s family and to achieve one’s goals. But in our later years, we should strive to contribute to society. Since the age of 65, I have worked as a volunteer. I still put in 18 hours seven days a week and love every minute of it.”
4. Rules are stressful; try to relax them.
While he clearly promoted exercise and nutrition as pathways to a longer and healthier life, Hinohara simultaneously maintained that we need not be obsessed with restricting our behaviors.
“We all remember how, as children, when we were having fun, we would forget to eat or sleep,” he often said. “I believe we can keep that attitude as adults — it is best not to tire the body with too many rules.”
Richard Overton, one of America’s oldest-surviving World War II veterans, would have most likely agreed. Right up until his death at age 112, the supercentenarian smoked cigars, drank whisky and ate fried food and ice cream on a daily basis.
Hinohara might not have approved of Overton’s diet, but, to be fair, Overton did credit his longevity to maintaining a “stress-free life and keeping busy.”
5. Remember that doctors can’t cure everything.
Hinohara cautioned against always taking the doctor’s advice. When a test or surgery is recommended, he advised, “ask whether the doctor would suggest that his or her spouse or children go through such a procedure.”
Hinohara insisted that science alone can’t help people. It “lumps us all together, but illness is individual. Each person is unique, and diseases are connected to their hearts,” he said. “To know the illness and help people, we need liberal and visual arts, not just medical ones.”
In fact, Hinohara made sure that St. Luke’s catered to the basic need of patients: “To have fun.” The hospital provided music, animal therapy and art classes.
“Pain is mysterious, and having fun is the best way to forget it,” he said. “If a child has a toothache, and you start playing a game together, he or she immediately forgets the pain.”
6. Find inspiration, joy and peace in art.
According to The New York Times, toward the end of his life, Hinohara was unable to eat, but refused a feeding tube. He was discharged and died months later at home.
Instead of trying to fight death, Hinohara found peace in where he was through art. In fact, he credited his contentment and outlook toward life to a poem by Robert Browning, called “Abt Vogler” — especially these lines:
There shall never be one lost good! What was, shall live as before;
The evil is null, is nought, is silence implying sound;
What was good shall be good, with, for evil, so much good more;
On the earth the broken arcs; in the heaven a perfect round.
“My father used to read it to me,” Hinohara recalled. “It encourages us to make big art, not small scribbles. It says to try to draw a circle so huge that there is no way we can finish it while we are alive. All we see is an arch; the rest is beyond our vision, but it is there in the distance.”
Tom Popomaronis is a leadership researcher and vice president of innovation at Massive Alliance. His work has been featured in Forbes, Fast Company, Inc., and The Washington Post. In 2014, Tom was named one of the “40 Under 40” by the Baltimore Business Journal. Follow him on LinkedIn.
A history of increased exercise doesn’t affect the immediate physiological response (like a release of cortisol) during a stressful event, Weinshenker and Tillage explain. Instead, exercise increases behavioral resilience after stress exposure.
“This could suggest that increased exercise doesn’t impact our immediate feelings of stress, but does allow us to cope with stress in a healthier way,” the co-authors say.
In times of serious stress, people might turn to exercise to blow off steam and shake off nervous energy. However, despite anecdotal evidence, the link between working out and relieving stress isn’t well understood by scientists. Researchers haven’t yet pinned down exactly how exercise modulates stress in the brain and body, despite knowing that exercise benefits mental health.
In a recent study conducted in mice, researchers became one step closer to that understanding, discovering that exercise actually strengthens the brain’s resilience to stress. Exercise helps animals cope with stress by enabling an uptick in a crucial neural protein called galanin, the study suggests. This process influences stress levels, food consumption, cognition, and mood.
Leveraging this finding, researchers were able to genetically tweak even sedentary mice’s levels of galanin, shifts that lowered their anxious response to stress.
The study’s authors explain that this study helps pin down the biological mechanisms driving exercise’s positive effects on stress. While further human experiments are needed to confirm these findings, the researchers have practical advice for people looking to get these benefits: perform regular, aerobic exercise.
“Not exercising at all and then suddenly going for a hard 10 mile run just before a stressful event isn’t as helpful as regularly jogging 3 miles several days a week over several months,” researchers David Weinshenker and Rachel Tillage, tell Inverse by email.
That’s because, based on these results, a history of increased exercise doesn’t affect the immediate physiological response (like a release of cortisol) during a stressful event, Weinshenker and Tillage explain. Instead, exercise increases behavioral resilience after stress exposure.
“This could suggest that increased exercise doesn’t impact our immediate feelings of stress, but does allow us to cope with stress in a healthier way,” the co-authors say.
These findings were released Monday in the Journal of Neuroscience.
The search for the brain mechanisms — Research shows exercise protects against the deleterious effects of stress in both mice and humans. Galanin, that pivotal brain protein that modulates stress and mood, is expressed in similar areas of both animal’s brains.
To examine how these factors interact and influence each other, the study team turned to mice.
“Mechanistic questions are difficult to answer in humans due to ethical and technical limitations, so we used mice for this purpose,” Weinshenker and Tillage say. With these overlapping properties, the team adds that the neurobiological substrates underlying galanin’s role in physical activity-related stress resilience could occur across species.
“One of the major implications from this study in that the galanin system could be a potential target for future therapies… “
The measured mice’s anxious behavior 24 hours after a foot shock test — aka the stressful event. They also analyzed their levels of galanin and examined its source.
Half the mice had regular access to an exercise wheel in their cage, while others had no running wheel. Mice steadily increased their running distance over the first week, after which they ran approximately 10-16 kilometers per day. Researchers tracked the mice’s activity for three weeks.
Aerobic exercise, like biking, is more likely to have a greater effect on stress resilience than non-aerobic exercise.
Those who exercised showed less anxious behavior after the stressful event compared to mice that didn’t exercise. Exercising mice also had elevated galanin levels in the locus coeruleus, a cluster of neurons in the brainstem involved in the stress response.
The amount of time the mice spent exercising in the third week correlated with the amount of galanin in the locus coeruleus, which in turn correlated with their degree of stress resilience.
Based on these findings, the team then genetically increased galanin in the locus coeruleus in sedentary mice. This gave these inactive mice exercise’s beneficial stress resilience effects, without changing their physical activity patterns.
If further human experiments confirm these findings, it could mean hijacking the galanin system could help people gain exercise’s stress resilience benefits, even if they aren’t able to work out.
“These findings build on what we know by isolating a specific biological mechanism — increased galanin in the locus coeruleus— by which exercise can influence how we respond to stress,” Weinshenker and Tillage explain. “One of the major implications from this study in that the galanin system could be a potential target for future therapies to gain the positive effects of exercise on stress resilience for people who are not able to exercise.”
Interestingly, the increased galanin didn’t influence other aspects of the mice’s behavior, suggesting galanin may be recruited only during periods of high stress, the team says.
More human data is needed to figure out exactly what type or how much exercise confers this stress-resilience effect. But based on the current evidence, the researchers say they can offer some general guidance:
- Aerobic exercise (like walking, running, biking, swimming) probably has a greater effect on stress resilience than non-aerobic exercise (like weight lifting).
- Exercise probably needs to be routine; completed a few times a week. Cramming in a HIIT workout or long run right before a stressful event isn’t likely to be as helpful as regularly hiking or hitting the elliptical.
Processed Foods age the body and lead to inflammation.
As humans get older, telomeres — the protective caps on the ends of our chromosomes — naturally shorten due to oxidative stress and inflammation. As they shrink, people become more likely to get sick with certain diseases and ultimately, die younger.
Ultra-processed foods are industrial creations often devoid of nutrients and whole foods. Instead, they are complete with a long list of additives, including oils, fats, sugars, starch, protein isolates, flavorings, colorings, emulsifiers, and other cosmetic additives.
They’re also often cheap to make, convenient for consumers, and can last years on the shelf. Think sugary cereals, canned soup, and white bread — tasty foods that line our pantries, but hurt our health.
According to this study, which analyzed the diets and telomere lengths of 886 people, ultra-processed foods appear to make cells age faster. People who ate more than three servings of ultra-processed foods daily were twice as likely to have short telomeres than people who opted out of these nutrient-poor foods.
“It is not well known the effect of the cocktail of all additives included in ultra-processed food on the long-term health of the population,” study co-author Maira Bes-Rastrollo, a researcher at the University of Navarro, tells Inverse.
Still, based on these findings, people should lower the amount of ultra-processed foods below three servings per day, Bes-Rastrollo advises. To slow cellular aging, she advises adopting a Mediterranean diet, one that’s complete with a high intake of fruits, vegetables, fish, and olive oil.
Currently, ultra-processed foods make up an estimated 60 percent of the average American’s diet. While it may be challenging to limit intake, your longevity could depend on it, these findings suggest.
This research was presented at this year’s European and International Conference on Obesity (ECOICO 2020), held online between September 1-4. They were previously published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Past research links ultra-processed foods with negative health outcomes like hypertension, obesity, metabolic syndrome, depression, type 2 diabetes, and various cancers. But researchers hadn’t yet explored this type of food’s impact on telomere length, a vital metric of cellular aging.
To fill in this research gap, scientists harnessed data from the SUN Project. In 1999, the SUN Project recruited participants who had graduated from the University of Navarra and other Spanish universities. Then, scientists collected data from this cohort through self-reported questionnaires mailed out every two years.
A decade after the project kicked off, 886 participants over the age of 55 provided saliva samples for DNA analysis along with their daily food intake. The scientists extracted DNA from the saliva to measure telomere lengths.
In total 645 men and 241 women were split into four groups based on their UPF consumption. The groups included: less than 2 servings a day, 2 to 2.5 servings a day, more than 2.5 to 3 servings a day, and more than 3 servings a day.
In the group, the main contributors to ultra-processed food consumption were:
- 17 percent: dairy products (custard, ice cream, milkshake, and petit suisse)
- 15 percent: processed meat (ham, chorizo, mortadella, salami, pate, black pudding mortadella, sausages, hamburgers, and sobrasada)
- 12 percent: pastries (muffins, doughnuts, croissants, or other non-handmade pastries and confectionary)
- 9 percent: cookies
- 9 percent: sugar-sweetened beverages
The researchers found that, as ultra-processed food consumption went up, the likelihood of having shortened telomeres dramatically rose.
The quartile above the lowest category jumped 29 percent in the medium-low group, 40 percent in the medium-high group, and 82 percent in the high UPF consumption group. Participants with the highest ultra-processed food consumption had almost twice the odds of having short telomeres compared with those with the lowest consumption.
Bes-Rastrollo and her colleagues predict this troubling effect stems from higher total intakes of salt, saturated fat, and sugar, as well as inadequate intakes of fiber and micronutrients. They hope to replicate these findings with long term studies on larger populations.
Eating for cell health— A plate of cookies or sausage sandwich does not seem to acutely shorten telomeres. Instead, habitually consuming these foods seems to cause other health problems that eventually shorten them.
“Probably, the shorter telomere is a consequence of other health costs that finally produce oxidative stress and inflammation,” Bes-Rastrollo says.
Jibing with this prediction, ultra-processed food intake was also associated with increased risk of depression (especially in patients with low levels of physical activity), hypertension, being overweight or obese, and dying for any cause.
In the study, people with shorter telomeres ate higher services of ultra-processed foods and fewer servings of fruits and vegetables.
Participants who ate a diet heavy in ultra-processed foods were also more likely:
- Have a history of heart disease, diabetes, and abnormal blood fats.
- To snack more between meals, consumers more fats, salt, fast foods, and processed meat.
They were less likely to consume carbohydrates, olive oil, fiber, protein, fruits, vegetables, and other micronutrients.
Across the board, participants who ate more ultra-processed foods were less likely to adhere to the Mediterranean diet — the very diet Bes-Rastrollo recommends.
“Whole foods like fruits and vegetables, a key aspect of the Mediterranean diet, should be promoted and more education among the population on how to cook healthy and easy meals should be desirable,” Bes-Rastrollo says.
LONGEVITY HACKS is a regular series from Inverse on the science-backed strategies to live better, healthier, and longer without medicine.
HOW THIS AFFECTS LONGEVITY — Researchers discover that ultra-processed foods seem to accelerate cellular aging by shortening telomeres, the protective caps on the ends of chromosomes.
WHY IT’S A HACK — It can be hard to break eating habits, but cutting down to three servings a day of these nutrient-poor foods could help you live longer and healthier.
SCIENCE IN ACTION — On a daily basis, swap out french fries for Brussel sprouts or skip the soda and opt for green tea. You can even make your beef enchilada veggie — small tweaks can add up to meaningful health outcomes over a lifetime.
HACK SCORE OUT OF 10— (To protect telomeres, keep tasty, low nutrient foods below three servings a day, nutrition experts say)
Background: Telomere length (TL) is a marker of biological age that may be affected by dietary factors through oxidation and inflammation mechanisms. In addition, ultra-processed food (UPF) consumption has increased worldwide and it has been associated with the risk of developing several diseases.
Objectives: We aimed to evaluate the association between UPF consumption and the risk of having short telomeres in an elderly population of the Seguimiento Universidad de Navarra (SUN) Project.
Methods: This is a cross-sectional study of 886 participants (645 men and 241 women) aged 57–91 y recruited from the SUN Project (Spain, 1999–2018). TL was measured from saliva samples by real-time qPCR at baseline and UPF consumption was collected using a validated 136-item FFQ and classified according to the NOVA system. We evaluated the association between consumption of energy-adjusted UPF categorized into quartiles (low, medium-low, medium-high, and high consumption) and the risk of having short telomeres (<20th percentile) using logistic regression models.
Results: Those participants with the highest UPF consumption had almost twice the odds of having short telomeres compared with those with the lowest consumption (adjusted OR: 1.82; 95% CI: 1.05, 3.22; P-trend = 0.03).
Conclusions: A higher consumption of UPF (>3 servings/d) was associated with higher risk of having shorter telomeres in an elderly Spanish population of the SUN Project.
Millie- Even though I have always used organic or natural skin and makeup choices I have been alarmed at how many so-called natural and organic products contain silicones. Another chemical that most organic products have is Butylene glycol. It is a petroleum product that hey consider organic. The word organic means nothing more than “ noting or pertaining to a class of chemical compounds that formerly comprised only those existing in or derived from plants or animals, but that now includes all other compounds of carbon”. It has been tough finding effective skin products without these items. While I can tolerate silicones with no reaction, I do find that using products with them makes my serums and moisturizers less effective. The reason for this is that silicones sit on top of the skin and form a barrier, so that treatments aren’t effective as they do not reach the skin. So my oils and moisturizers cannot nourish the skin. Also it does not let the skin breath properly. I have spent a year experimenting with my skin care, and my skin looks far better with products that are not occlusive to his degree.
Have you ever wondered what makes your favourite moisturizer light as air and non-greasy? It’s simple: you can thank silicone for that kind of texture.
Yes, silicone – the umbrella term for a countless number of synthetic polymers whose place in clean beauty has been called into question on more than one occasion. However, silicones aren’t new to the industry.
First introduced in the ’50s, cosmetic grade synthesized silicon-carbon polymers (also known as silicones) offered companies a number of characteristics that made improving the feel, appearance, and performance of cosmetic products infinitely better.
Today, silicone compounds are being developed in many different shapes and forms, from fluids to powders. In natural products, like sunscreen, an emollient called dimethicone gives life to some of the most luxurious, desirable textures on the market.
The downside? Like any other synthetic ingredient, there have been negative effects associated with prolonged use of dimethicone on the skin. The verdict on this ingredient amongst industry professionals is truly a mixed bag, which makes forming an opinion about whether or not its a “good” or “bad” substance a bigger challenge.Though some might suggest avoiding silicones like dimethicone at all costs, it may not be necessary.
Here, you’ll discover all you need to know about dimethicone and its benefits. Plus, Sara A. Dudley, CEO of The Sunscreen Company, weighs in on dimethicone in sun care products.
What is dimethicone?
By definition, silicone is a synthetic polymer made up of silicon, oxygen, and other elements like carbon and hydrogen. Dimethicone works well with humectants – agents that help retain the skin’s moisture levels.
Found prominently in creams, lotions and primers for its ability to moisturize the skin without feeling heavy, dimethicone is frequently used as a substitute for petrolatum-based ingredients.
The silky, spreadable texture of dimethicone allows products to be applied smoothly and fills in wrinkles and fine lines, resulting in an even appearance. These properties often produce an effect that makes you think a product is “working” despite the fact that its effects are temporary.
Why use it?
Back in 2017, founder and editor of The Skincare Edit, Michelle Villett, summed up the reasons why silicones like dimethicone are used by brands in the most concise way: they’re smoothing, water resistant, and they’re inexpensive for companies to purchase and include in their formulas.
Aside from moisturizing and smoothing skin without feeling heavy, dimethicone can also be used to treat sensitive skin.
“It can actually help people with compromised skin barriers because it’s occlusive. For my infant son, for example, we use a body moisturizer that has a little dimethicone in it for his eczema because he needs the added protection,” said Dudley.
Although Dudley views the dimethicone “grey zone” in clean beauty as an interesting topic, she doesn’t believe the product is actually harmful to the skin.
“It has been overused in a lot of conventional products because it tricks consumers into thinking it’s giving extra hydration. It will make skin or hair look good in the short term but it’s not really treating or hydrating the skin in a beneficial way,” she explained. “From a sunscreen standpoint, it can help with spreadability, especially for mineral sunscreens that have really large particulates in them.”
A long-standing debate persists about whether or not silicones like dimethicone cause clogged pores, irritation and prevent other ingredients from absorbing into the skin. However, it’s been said that there’s no scientific basis for those claims, since silicones are “pure synthetics” specially formulated to avoid clogging pores and irritating the skin.
Another reason why dimethicone is viewed negatively is because of its occlusive nature, which forms a barrier on the skin that’s been said to “exacerbate acne” by trapping moisture, bacteria, sebum, and other impurities.
Dudley notes consumers concern about the bioaccumulation of particles from silicones in water systems, and for this reason, The Sunscreen Company has removed it from their products.
“I think it gets a bad rap as being not natural, although I would argue it’s just further down the chain of what is considered naturally derived,” said Dudley. “It’s considered a cheap ingredient or filler, something designed by big brands to dupe customers. I think it can have a place in clean beauty, but it just needs to be used a lot more judiciously and transparently than what has been done in the past.”
After weighing both sides of the case on dimethicone, it turns out that your judgement is the most important factor in deeming how safe or unsafe it is to use on the skin.
To learn more about the potentially adverse affects on the body and the environment related to dimethicone, EWG’s Skin Deep is a great resource. The scientific findings about dimethicone’s “harmfulness” are limited, though its been proven time and time again to serve as a less toxic alternative to pesticide-containing products.
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