Reverse Aging News 05-06/10

Nearly Half of US Adults Have Major Risk Factors for Heart Disease

Forty-five percent of American adults have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes according to the ongoing National Health and Nutrition Study. One in eight American adults has at least two of the conditions. One in 33 has all three. All are considered risk factors for cardiovascular disease, the biggest killer in the industrialized world. Fully 15% of people with these conditions have not been diagnosed with them. African Americans are more likely to have high blood pressure and two or three of these issues. Caucasians are more likely to have high cholesterol while Latinos tend to have more diabetes. More significantly, these problems can be largely prevented by quitting smoking, not eating junk food, getting regular exercise and losing weight, all strategies outlined in the anti-aging documentary "Reverse Aging Now."

"The main thing here is for people to be aware that they have these conditions and know that lifestyle modifications and medications can control them and reduce their risk factor for heart disease," said Cheryl D. Fryar, MSPH, of the Centers for Disease Control, one of the authors of the study.

Sugar Blamed for Cholesterol and Triglyceride Elevation

According to an April study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, people who get at least 25% of their calories from sugar are three times more likely to have low levels of good cholesterol compared to people who get only 5% of their calories from sugar. The effect does not depend on the type of sugar eaten. Those who consume more than 17.5% of their calories from sugar also have elevated triglycerides, fat that circulates in the blood, another contributing cause of heart disease. The metabolic problems caused by sugar are independent of other risk factors like a sedentary lifestyle, smoking and heavy drinking. "There is a specific added sugar effect," said Miriam Vos, MD, of Emory University, the lead researcher on the study. The study also estimates that Americans now consume an average of 21.4 teaspoons of sugar each day, much of it hidden in processed foods for an intake of 359 calories. The American Heart Association lowered its recommendations last year that men eat no more than 150 calories a day from sugar and women top out at 100.

High Fructose Corn Syrup Weight Gain

In an intriguing Princeton University study of lab rats, high fructose corn syrup proved to produce more weight gain compared table sugar despite the fact that rats consuming HFCS actually ate fewer calories than those with their diet supplemented by sucrose alone. In a startling result, rats consistently packed on more excess ounces than they had in prior studies with high fat diets. Over a six month period, rats on HFCS showed more than abnormal weight gain. They also had increases in triglycerides and belly fat, the worst place to store it.

HFCS is a common sweetener in processed food and soft drinks because it is very soluble, cheaper to produce than table sugar and extends the shelf life of prepared foods. If you read the ingredients label you'll find it in a surprising number of foods like bread, luncheon meats and tomato paste. Until the 1970s, most of the sugar Americans consumed was from sugar beets. Today the average American eats more than 41 pounds of HFCS each year. In fast food restaurants it is found in most sauces, almost all sodas, in potato salad, McRib sandwiches and more. Health conscious eaters should cut their intake of high fructose corn syrup by consuming fruit instead of fruit flavored drinks, drinking less soda sweetened with HFCS, and cutting consumption of processed foods.

Salt Limits Urged

Last month the Food and Drug Administration asked that American food processors start to cut back the salt they add to their products. Excess salt in a diet is a recognized cause of high blood pressure. Most of this salt is hidden in processed food. According to Walter Willett, MD, Chairman of the Department of Nutrition of the Harvard School of Public Health (featured in the anti-aging documentary "Reverse Aging Now") "There is now overwhelming evidence that we must treat sodium reduction as a critical health priority." Dr. Willett is a major mover in the effort to purge trans fats from the US food supply

The FDA's persuasion effort stands in contrast to an April report release by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences that calls for mandatory regulations because efforts to educate the public on the dangers of excessive salt consumption have failed. On the average, Americans consume 50% more than the single teaspoon of salt recommended as part of the government's official dietary health guidelines.

Chocolate and Depression

Heavy chocolate eaters also tend to wrestle with depression, according to research at UC Davis and UC San Diego. In the study, those who tested positive for depression tend to consume 50% more chocolate than those who don't. Chocolate produces dopamine, a neurotransmitter that creates feelings of pleasure, although a prior study found that the effect lasts for just a few minutes.

When eaten in moderation, chocolate can be good for you, relaxing blood vessels.The healthiest is dark, rich and mildly sweetened. Be wary of any that has hydrogenated fat, commonly labeled milk chocolate flavored. Milk chocolate is chocolate with added milk solids, which raise the percentage of saturated fat in the candy, another ingredient you can do without.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids Differ in Effect

In the anti-aging documentary "Reverse Aging Now," the experts interviewed consistently urged the consumption of Omega-3 fatty acids for heart and brain health, yet differences in their efficacy are emerging. Omega-3s are a class of foods. Humans consume five forms of the oils. Three matter the most, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). ALA is the only one specific mentioned in US official dietary guidelines. They are found in canola oil, flax seed, soybeans and walnuts. Most Americans do get the 1.6 grams a day recommended for men an the 1.1 grams urged for women. ALA is converted by humans to DHA and EPA, but there is increasing evidence that consuming DHA and EPA directly would help with a range of conditions. Salmon, herring, and sardines are rich in these oils, flax seed less so. In the anti-aging documentary "Reverse Aging Now," Dean Ornish, MD urges that people eat three grams of fish oil a day. This dose can be reduced when fish is eaten.

Recent studies have shown that fish oil consumption can lower blood pressure, reduce triglycerides, slow blood clot development, lower cholesterol, reduce the incidence of major heart attacks, and abnormal heart rhythms. They've been shown to reduce morning joint stiffness in arthritis patients. Adults with Alzheimer's Disease, and children with attention deficit disorder typically have lower blood levels of Omega-3s than those without these conditions.

This Month's Health Recipe: Ham and Pea Cinnamon Apple Stew

Ham is an Easter tradition, but what should we do with the leftovers? A little experimentation produced this delightful spring dish that takes the chill off brisk evenings Although the recipe was whipped up from the remains of an Easter dinner, it can be created from scratch. Just remember to use ham as an accent and flavor source, rather than main portion of the dish. As tasty as ham can be, it can have a lot of saturated fat and salt.

To see how one middle-aged man is applying anti-aging precepts to his own life, go to Anti-AgingDiary.com. To embrace anti-aging you need to make a mental as well as physical journey. It's not always easy, but well worth the effort. Remember to watch our anti-aging documentary, “Reverse Aging Now.

Reverse Aging News c. 2009 Checkmate Pictures - Paul M. J. Suchecki, Editor

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