Worried About Food Costs? Switch to the Mediterranean Diet and Save Money

•March 21, 2013 • 1 Comment
Olive oil from Imperia in Liguria, Italy.

Olive oil from Imperia in Liguria, Italy. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You’ve heard that the Mediterranean Diet is a healthy way of eating, but did you know that it can also save you money?  Researchers from The Miriam Hospital and the Rhode Island Community Food Bank found that following a plant-based diet, like one patterned after the Mediterranean Diet, helps you make better food choices and cuts your grocery bill by about $40.00 a week.

The researchers recruited 83 clients from emergency food pantries and low-income housing sites for the 34 week study. The participants took part in six weeks of cooking classes where instructors showed then how to prepare easy plant-based recipes that used ingredients like olive oil, whole grain pasta, brown rice and fruits and vegetables. All of the  participants were given a bag of groceries that contained most of the ingredients to make three of the recipes they were shown during the six weeks of the cooking classes.

The researchers collected the participants’ grocery store receipts during the six weeks and they found that the amount of meat, carbonated beverages, desserts and snacks dropped, even though the participants were never told to stop buying these items. In addition, the participants started buying more vegetables and fruits.

Here’s what else resulted from the switch in diet:

  • Reliance on a food pantry declined from 68 percent at the start of the study to 54 percent
  • About one half of the participants lossed weight and there was general decline in BMI

Want the Secret to Long Life? Think Greek – Coffee, That Is

•March 19, 2013 • Leave a Comment
GR Ikaria.PNG (Greek island)

GR Ikaria.PNG (Greek island) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just 0.1 percent of Europeans live to be older than 90 years old;  however, on the Greek island of Ikaria, one percent of the population lives to past 90 and is healthy. What is the difference between the Greeks and their European counterparts? The boiled coffee they drink.

A group of Greek researchers studied 142 residents of island of Ikaria between the ages of 66-91 years old. They wanted to look at the association between the islanders continued coffee consumption and endothelium function. The endothelium is the layer of cells that line blood vessels. When these cells are working properly, they regulate blood clotting, help with immune system response, control the amount of fluid that passes into the tissues, and regulate dilation or constriction of blood vessels. When the endothelium cells stop working, the individual is at risk for cardiovascular disease.

The researchers measured endothelium function using an ultrasound and they measured coffee consumption with a food frequency questionnaire. Low consumption was:

  • Low if less than 200 milliliters daily
  • Moderate if between 200-450 milliliters daily
  • High if greater than 450 milliliters daily

Here’s what they found:

  • Eighty-seven percent drank boiled Greek coffee
  • Forty percent had low consumption,  48 percent had moderate consumption, and 13 percent had high consumption
  • There was an increase in endothelium function in proportion to the increase in boiled Greek coffee consumption
  • Those who primarily drank boiled Greek coffee had better endothelium function than those who drank other beverages







Your College Student Better Get Milk

•March 18, 2013 • Leave a Comment

If your 18 to 25- year-old son or daughter thinks drinking milk is for kids, you had better tell them that they are literally dead wrong. Young adults in that age group that don’t consume a minimum of three servings of milk daily are at risk for developing metabolic disease, a condition that exists when three of the following exist:

Milk and cooky

Milk and cooky (Photo credit: Salim Virji)

Abdominal obesity (a lot of belly fat)

  • High blood pressure
  • High blood sugar
  • High cholesterol and lipid (level of fats in the blood) levels

Metabolic disease leads to heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Researchers from the University of Illinois analyzed responses from a food frequency questionnaire completed by 339 Mexican college applicants in addition to evaluating the students for metabolic disease risk factors. Here’s what they found:

  • Seventy-six percent of the students were not drinking three glasses of milk daily
  • approximately 10 percent had metabolic disease
  • The prevalence of metabolic disease and individual risk factors for the condition between individuals who were not meeting the daily recommendations was 2.6 to 4.1 times higher compared to those meeting the recommendations

History Tells Us Hardening of the Arteries Is Only Human

•March 11, 2013 • Leave a Comment
English: The illustration shows a normal arter...

English: The illustration shows a normal artery with normal blood flow (figure A) and an artery containing plaque buildup (figure B). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My Mom always said that death needs a reason to come. It seems that some of those reasons may be thousands of years old, like atherosclerosis, or what is commonly known as hardening of the arteries.

A group of cardiologists called the Horus Group  have gotten together to examine ancient mummies spanning about 4000 years. The populations they analyzed included ancient Egypt, ancient Peru, the Ancestral Puebloans of southwest America, and the Unangan of the Aleutian Islands. They took whole body CT scans of 137 mummies looking for atherosclerosis, which they identified as calcified plaque in the wall of an artery. They also took into consideration probable atherosclerosis as evidenced by clacifications along the course of an artery.

Here’s what they found:

  • Probable or definite atherosclerosis was found in 47  of the mummies and in all four populations
  • Atherosclerosis was present in the aorta in 28  mummies, iliac or femoral arteries in 25 mummies, popliteal or tibial arteries in 25 mummies, carotid arteries in 17 mummies and coronary arteries in six mummies
  • Age at time of death was positively associated with atherosclerosis
  • Average age at death was 43 years old for mummies with atherosclerosis as compared with 32 years old for those without, indicating the longer these people lived, the better the chance of developing atherosclerosis
  • Diet and level of physical activity did not appear to be risk factors. “The ancient Egyptians and Peruvians were farmers with domesticated animals, the Ancestral Puebloans forager-farmers, and the Unangans hunter-gatherers without agriculture. . . None of the cultures were known to be vegetarian. Physical activity was probably prominent in all of these civilisations without animal or vehicle transport.”

Eating Too Much Red and Processed Meats May Get You an Express Ticket to the Bone Yard

•March 7, 2013 • 1 Comment
Roast beef cooked under high heat

Roast beef cooked under high heat (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Step away from the hot dog cart and put down that bologna sandwich because you just may be taking years off your life.  A team of Swiss researchers have found that eating processed meat increases the risk of an early death by 44 percent. They also found that eating a large amount of red meat in general increased the risk of death from any cause by 14 percent.

They analyzed 448,568 men and women between 35 and 69 years old who participated in the  European Prospective Investigation  into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study. None of the participants had had cancer, stroke, or a heart attack at the beginning of the study. The researchers had full information on diet, smoking, physical  activity and BMI for each participant. The goal of the analysis was to evaluate the association between meat consumption and death from any cause as well as death from specific causes.

There were 26,344 deaths as of June 2009. Here’s what the researchers observed:

  • Men and women who ate the most red or processed meat consumed fewer fruits and vegetables than those with low meat intake.
  • The participants who ate the most red/processed meat were more likely to be current smokers and less likely to have a college degree
  • Men with high red meat consumption drank more alcohol than men with a low consumption
  • Participants with an intake of 160 grams or more of red meat each day had a 14 percent higher risk of death from any cause than those who ate 10 to 19.9 grams each day
  • Participants with an intake of 160 grams or more of processed meat each day had a 44 percent higher risk of death from any cause than those who ate 10 to 19.9 grams each day
  • 3.3 percent of deaths could have been prevented if all participants had a processed meat consumption of less than 20 grams each day

When It Comes to Lowering Blood Pressure, Choose Fish Over Fish Oil Supplements

•March 6, 2013 • 2 Comments
Vascular smooth muscle cells

Vascular smooth muscle cells (Photo credit: TheJCB)

It is well known that omega-3 fatty acids found in fish have a number of health benefits. However, the way in which docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) , one of the omega-3s known for controlling blood pressure, works has not been clearly understood. Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania have been able to shed light on that mystery.

In the smooth cells that line blood vessels, there are channels that cover the outer membrane of the cells that let ions like sodium, calcium, and potassium in and out. This regulation of which ions come and go is of major importance in maintaining the correct pressure level inside the blood vessels.

Using two groups of wild mice, one group with the ion channels and one group that had been genetically engineered not to have them, the researchers found that DHA activates these channels by increasing currents by up to 20 fold. They also found that a dietary supplement contained in most fish oil pills known as DHA ethyl ester doesn’t activate the ion channels. In fact, because the DHA ethyl ester competes with DHA for binding sites on the ion channel, the DHA ethyl ester actually fights the positive effect of DHA.

The findings are important in terms of patients who receive omega-3 supplementation. Physicians need to be aware of whether the supplements contain natural DHA or DHA ethyl ester.

Tips For Properly Preparing Eggs

•March 5, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Eggs (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

HealthDay has put together this reminder about how to prepare eggs: click here