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Eating a Mediterranean diet can not only prevent heart disease and lead to a longer life, but it can keep the very essence of you – your DNA- young, says a new study from the US.
The researchers from Boston followed 5000 nurses over the course of a decade and found that the mix of fresh fruit, vegetables, poultry and good fats found in olive oils protected their DNA from the usual ageing found in those eating a more western diet. Typically this includes more red meats, saturated fats and more starchy vegetables.
The vitamin and nutrient rich meteterranean foods were found to be a protective buffer against the unravelling of our DNA. The study looked at TELOMERES, tiny structures that protect the ends of our chromosomes, which store our DNA. These “caps” prevent the loss and degradation of our DNA a during cell division. Throughout the natural ageing process our cells divide and our telomeres get shorter, with structural integrity weakening. This can actually cause the cells to die. Experts believe now that telomere length is a strong indicator of cellular ageing. Coversely, short, damaged telomeres are now being linked to a range of age-related diseases, from heart disease to cancer.
In the study, those nurses who ate a Mediterranean diet had longer and healthier telomeres. The study also showed that no single food stood out as the main producer of healthier DNA, and so emphasises the need for variety and a healthy all around diet.
The British Heart Foundaion said that the results reinforced their advice that eating a balanced and healthy diet can reduce chances of heart disease. Heart disease remains the largest age-related cause of death in the UK.
By Robert Adam Atkinson
Coffee is one of the most popular drinks in the world, with a Costa or starbucks opening on every street corner it would seem. People spend time and effort trying to stay in shape bbd keeping slim by watching what they eat; often though we neglect the calories hidden in liquids that we drink so often.
That cappuccino on the way to work may well be sabotaging your weight loss. Just a single drink from Starbucks could be as much as 50% of the calorie allowance for a female trying to lose weight. Recent reports from the World cancer Research Fund says “these types of drinks as an occasional treat won’t do you much harm. But if you are having them regularly then they will increase the chances of you becoming overweight, which in turn increases your risk of developing cancer as well as other diseases such as diabetes and heart disease”.
Here are some of the worst culprits from just one chain, Starbucks, and just for interest, some fast food equivalents. It can help to reduce intake (or for you to make better choices) if you make a strong mental link with an unhealthy food that correlates with the energy in your latte.
1. Venti signature hot chocolate with whipped cream and whole milk – 690 calories (Supersize bigmac and fries)
2. Venti white chocolate mocha with whipped cream and skimmed milk – 624 calories (big mac with normal fries)
3. Venti iced hazelnut mocha with whipped cream and semi skimmed milk – 599 calories (supoersixe quarter pounder with cheese and fries)
4. Grande signature hot chocolate with whole milk – 556 calories (big mac)
5. Venti peppermint mocha with whipped cream, drizzle and whole milk – 555 calories (same as a Big Mac)
6. Venti strawberries and cream frappucino with whipped cream – 459 calories (double cheeseburger and fries)
There are of course lots of options for making healthier choices, with just as much caffeine in.
This strong after-meal beverage is traditionally served as a single shot of strong black coffee with no milk. It contains around 80 to 100mg of caffeine, no protein, and around five calories.
Dietitian Catherine Collins of London’s St George’s Hospital says: ‘An espresso has no nutritional value, but for those who want to lose weight it is low in calories. The high dose of caffeine should give you a good kick to last you throughout the afternoon.’
Our health rating: 3/5
Cappuccino is an espresso topped with a generous amount of steamed milk made from full or skimmed milk. It contains about six grammes of protein from milk, a small amount of sodium and 150 calories when made with whole milk and 95 calories when made with skimmed milk.
Although a cappuccino is not best for those looking to lose weight as it is quite calorific, the large amount of milk provides a good source of protein and calcium which is important for bone health and will also help to maintain lean muscle mass.
Our health rating: 4/5
A latte is made from an espresso and much more steamed milk than a cappuccino. Each contains around ten grammes of protein from milk, five grammes of fat – the equivalent to a single butter pack – and around 225 calories when made with whole milk and 135 when made with skimmed milk. Again the protein and calcium content will help offset any sugars.
Coffee and tea
No calories, provided that you don’t have any sugar. If you must have some sweetness then feel free to cheat and have a sweetener. Plant based ones are the least unhealthy, like Stevia based sweeteners.
Our health rating – 4/5
By Adam Atkinson
White meat is healthiest concludes new Harvard study. In a new BBC Horizon program to air this evening, DR Micheal Mosley investigates the health effects of eating meats, from white meats, to processed ones to red meat.
In the UK we eat an average of 70g of red meat per person, while 25% of men eat almost twice as much. Despite the bad press, red meat dies contain good things. It is a great source of iron, protein and vitamin B, all of which are vital for health. Red meat and in particular processed meats tend to be high in fat though.
In the new study, Harvard University followed tens of thousands of volunteers over many years. Professor Willet, who reported the findings, said: “We found that those who consumed higher amounts of red meat had a higher risk of total mortality, cardiovascular mortality and cancer mortality.”
Called “red meat consumption and mortality,” his study estimates that eating a small amount of red meat a day (around 85g) is associated with an increased mortality rate of 13%, while eating the same amount of processed meat led to a 20% increase. This means that if you eat that much processed meat a day, your chances of dying from disease are 20% higher than someone who does not.
White meats like chicken and turkey were found to pose no significant health dangers.
By Adam Atkinson
Several studies have reported that going organic has no discernible benefits for the health conscious. But a new report says that the benefits are actually huge, and organic food is better for you.
The report, by the British Journal of Nutrition reviewed 343 studies on the difference between organic foods versus normal mass produced foods, and concluded that organic foods and organic-based crop foods contained much higher levels of antioxidants than conventionally grown foods.
The researchers also found that the conventionally grown foods contained greater concentrations of pesticides and even the metal Cadmium, which is highly toxic. Despite rules against the use of synthetic pesticides the study found that conventionally grown foods, in particular vegetables and fruits, were four times more likely to contain pesticide residue.
The researchers were keen to point out that although the findings prove that organic trumps conventionally grown produce, the levels of toxins in normal foods, although higher than organic foods, was still relatively low; it was important, they said, that people were not put off eating vegetables altogether because of the findings, as all types of fruit and vegetables had huge benefits to health and longevity.
By Robert Adam Atkinson
It’s always been a comfort that some luxuries like dark chocolate (with its anti-oxidants) and red wine (with its anti-carcenogenics) are good for you. But unfortunately this may not be true. Researchers at Harvard University have studied the impact of resveratrol, the anti-oxidant in question, and have found it has no health benefits at all.
The study was based on analysis of 783 men and women all aged 65 or over and living in Italy. Although their diets were monitored, this method of study had been unreliable in the past. So they took urine samples of those taking part at regular intervals instead.
During the 9 year study just over a third of those taking part died. 27% of those who were healthy at the start of the study developed heart disease, 4.6% developed cancer. But the amount of reservatrol that they consumed had no bearing on longevity, death rates our overall health.
“This turns out to be just another case where you get a lot of hype about health benefits that doesn’t stand the test of time” said head researcher Richard Sembra.
By Robert Adam Atkinson
A new study funded by the British Heart Foundation and published in the peer journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that it’s not just olive oil that can give you a healthy heart. The study found that when combined with salads and other leafy green vegetables, olive oil creates a fatty acid that is proven to lower blood pressure. These healthy nitro fatty acids are created when nitrates and nitrites found in greens like spinach, salad leaves and broccoli combine with the healthy fats found in olives, avocado, coconut and other nuts. Nitro fatty acids appear to inhibit an enzyme known as soluble epoxide hydrolase, which regulates blood pressure.
While most dieticians and health professionals have been aware of the benefits of a healthy mediterranean diet, there has been little scientific evidence as to how or why. This study now shows the connection.
“The findings of our study help to explain why previous research has shown that a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts can reduce the incidence of cardiovascular problems like stroke, heart failure and heart attacks,” said Philip Eaton, professor of cardiovascular biochemistry at King’s College London.
For a flat tummy we need to eliminate, as much as possible, sugars and starch. Not fat. When we eat something with a high GI (glycaemic index) it is very rapidly digested by the small intestine and released into the blood stream as blood glucose, or BGL.This is sometimes also called blood sugar.
The glycaemic index, by the way, is a measure of how quickly foods are turned into blood glucose by our digestive system. It roughly equates to the amount of sugar in a food or drink. So glucose has a GI of 100 while broccoli has a GI of only 15.
Now, here’s the science. When we have something with a high GI, blood sugars rise quickly. Constantly high BGLs are bad for us, so we release a hormone (insulin) that tells the cells what to do with all that sugar. The cells open up (sort of) and, like a little fork lift truck, take the energy away for storage in the liver, muscles, and fat stores. This reaction is so reliable that a scientist in the 1930s (Willian Falta) discovered that in cattle it was impossible to fatten animals with insulin deficiency. So, when insulin is present you are storing fat.
But it gets worse. Under normal conditions we metabolise fats and blood sugars in the presence of oxygen to make energy. The oxygen is where the name “aerobic” comes from. We use this aerobic energy up to 60% of maximum heart rate or 60% of effort; so most of the time. Thus most of the time we are burning fat. HOWEVER, when insulin is present, it interrupts this chain. We stop burning fat.
Logically this makes sense; blood sugar levels are already high when insulin is present. So there is no point us metabolising fat and releasing it into the blood as BG (blood glucose). If we did it would be like putting petrol into a car that is already full.
So when we eat/drink something with a high GI it’s a double blow – we store fat but stop using the stores we have. This is why, in many cases, people may be exercising and eating perceived healthy foods, but not quite getting a flat tummy.
So the key to fat reduction (not just weight loss), is the elimination or reduction of
This is best done in 5 steps.
1. Remove the easy sugars from your diet
Don’t cry, but this means all sweets, cakes, biscuits, chocolate, fizzy drinks (except low calorie ones), fruit juices, cereal bars, most breakfast cereals and fruit yogurts, as well as sweet spreads like jam and honey, and all dried fruit. Drying fruit simply compacts its sugar into a smaller package.
Don’t view this as deprivation: look at it instead as breaking an addiction. You may suffer withdrawal symptoms for a few days to a few weeks, but substitute sweet snacks for savoury ones (see 5, below), switch to diet drinks and persevere. Eventually you will break the chain and be free.
Once this tricky bit is over, you will stop craving sugars and feel healthier, slimmer and more in control of your eating.
2. Remove the hidden sugar
Look at the label on everything: you’ll be surprised how sugary many foods are, from salad dressings and mayonnaise (especially the low-fat versions which have more sugar to compensate for the lack of fat) to balsamic vinegar and condiments such as salad cream, barbecue sauce, ketchup and hoisin sauce.
Any ready meal, pizza or packet of sausages with more than 3% sugar is also a no-no. Once you’ve followed steps 1 and 2, you will have eliminated most of the fructose you encounter in a day; it’s this fructose that is the most addictive. You’re now aiming to get to a maximum of five teaspoons of sugar a day, all in. That’s 20g.
3. Replace the sugar – with care
Those foods lowest in sugar tend to be strategically hidden at the end of the aisle in supermarkets, so start “patrolling the perimeter” for untampered meat, dairy, veg, fruit beans and pulses.
You will have to cook more meals from scratch, although you can still buy ready-packaged food – just make sure you examine the label.
If it contains more than 3g of sugar per 100g, step away. If it’s a liquid, don’t touch it if it contains any sugar at all.
Always avoid low-fat options and anything advertised as “light/lite” or “healthy options (manufacturers will have taken out the fat but added sugar to improve the taste). Some ready meals are ok, but again, read the label. M&S fuller longer are generally ok for example.
When buying fruit, go for lower-sugar but higher fibre ones: berries and kiwis are better than bananas, grapes and and oranges. Fruit juice is a big no-no. It’s all the sugar but none of the fibre.
4. Change your habits
If some routines in your life are linked to eating sugar, you may have to give them up for a while. This could be having a project go well or having a great/awful meeting, Similarly, if watching TV in the evening goes hand in hand with snacking, find another way to relax for a while: read a book, use the computer or go for a walk.
5. Come up with tasty alternatives to a sweet fix
Identify danger times and situations: when are you most tempted to snack on sugary foods? Note them all down, be honest with yourself, and think up an alternative.
If you usually have a biscuit when making a cup of coffee, move the biscuits (throw them out) and keep a jar of nuts by the kettle instead (yes, they are calorific, but not sugary).
If you get hunger cravings in the evening, drink a glass of milk and have some cheese – or some crisps if you must have a treat. The former are calorific, but will not provoke an insulin reaction.
Substitute wine and beer for low calorie mixers with a spirit and swap your mid-morning muffin for some nutty, seedy toast.
By Robert Adam Atkinson
While rummaging through a client’s fridge this morning, we found several well known branded yoghurts. Aimed at children, they contained blueberries and boasted of having no aded colour or flavourings. A healthy choice, one might think. A quick glance at the label, however, showed that it contained over 18g of sugar. That’s 4 and a 1\2 teaspoons.
In 1972 a respected UK Nutritionist, Professor John Yudkin, published a book with the title “pure, white and deadly”. In a time when the general consensus was that fats were behind the rapid rise in obesity and heart disease in the West, Yudkin reasoned that the main culprit was in fact sugar. He pointed out that pre-world war 2 diets contained large amounts of fats, whereas sugar was a relatively modern phenomenon, having only become readily available from the mid 1900s.
However, the food industry was appalled, especially as it had begin adding large amounts of sugar to low fat foods in order to improve the taste. A campaign to discredit the author was mounted and he died in 1975, his book a distant memory.
Recent research (and hands on experience from bodybuilders and athletes) has begun to show that Yudkin was right, and that consumption of large amounts of sugar in the West may be behind the obesity epidemic. We now consume an estimated 1kg a week, compared to around 300g in 1990. This in turn has led to the World Health Organisation to develop new guidelines – the recommendations will be a reduction in the amount of sugar consumed daily from 22 teaspoons to just 6 – or a third of that found in the small yoghurt in my friend’s fridge.
By Robert Atkinson
As a healthy eater you are of course trying not to eat too much refined sugar. This means that you’re carefully reading the label to make sure that any sugars have not been snuck in. But what should you be looking for?
Sugar comes in many guises. Usually sugars are labelled as part of a food’s carbohydrate content. So the label will say “carbohydrate 20g of which sugars 16g”. This shows us that sugar is a carbohydrate, but unfortunately it is the only carbohydrate containing only energy. So there are no nutrients, vitamins or indeed anything useful contained within. The less the sugar content of a food, the more complex carbohydrate it has. So a better ratio would be “carbohydrate 15g of which sugars 0.2g”. This is a similar reading to that found in chick peas and other fibre filled healthy beans and pulses.
However, sugars are not always labelled this plainly, especially in the US. If your label has a high content of fructose (fruit sugars), dextrose, maltose, molasses, corn syrup, hydrolysed starch or invert sugar then it’s the same thing.
So proceed with care and read the label!!!
There are four basic health checks that everyone can do to make sure that all is well with their general health and to have a healthy heart. The good news is that they don’t involve jumping up and down or any for of exercise!
The for areas to keep a watch on are your blood sugar levels, cholesterol, blood pressure and resting heart rate.
1 – lower your heart rate. The ideal range should be 60-60, but if you can do some regular exercise that takes you above 60% of maximum heart rate then it might get even lower. Like a car sitting at the traffic lights, your resting heart rate is the speed at which your engine has to work to keep you alive at rest, and is a true measure of your cardio-vascular health. If your arteries are clogged or your lungs inefficient at taking in oxygen, then the more beats per minute it will have to beat at rest. Over time this will all add up; if your engine is constantly having to work hard then sooner or later it will wear out.
For every 15 beats per minute that you add onto resting heart rate your chances of getting heart disease increase by 24% (American Heart Journal).
What now? Check your heart rate in the morning before getting out of bed at least 4 times a year. Keep it low by getting three lots of reasonably vigorous cardio-vascular exercise every week.
2 – Watch your blood sugar levels. Blood sugars can show if you are at risk of batting diabetes. Ask your GP for a test and do a follow up every year. Eating foods with a lower GI (glycaemic index) will ensure that you are not constantly suffering high blood sugar levels. This will cause your cells to become immune to the insulin that is being constantly released and eventually will cause insulin deficiency.
3 – Blood pressure. You should have this checked every quarter. If it is high then you need to look at your nutrition and start to get some exercise. Even small changes and short bursts of exercise will help to get you back on track. Ideally it should be 120/80
4 – Balance your cholesterol. The bas sort of cholesterol is LDL (low density lipoproteins). Ideally it should be less than 100mg/dL. Every 43mg/dL that your cholesterol goes up adds 50% to your risk of heart disease. Good cholesterol will act as a brake on the bad. So eat plenty of healthy oils, nuts and seeds.