Monday, March 25, 2013

Drop Weight and Risks of Bad Cardiovascular Events

Do you like getting two for the price of one?  Here is some dietary news that is quite heartening in the battle to prevent strokes & heart attacks AND effectively pursue that healthy weight goal.  A recent study in Spain showed that the Mediterranean Diet with supplemental olive oil and/or nuts reduced cardiovascular events by 30%, while simultaneously helping participants lose weight.  All 7447 people participating in the study ranged in age from 55-80 years and had diagnosed diabetes.  The participants were divided into three groups.  The first followed the Mediterranean Diet with olive oil, the second the Mediterranean Diet with nuts, and the control group followed a restricted low-fat diet.  At the four-year mark the reduced number of heart attacks and strokes in the Mediterranean Diet groups caused the researchers to end the study.  Details on this research can be viewed here.

What is the Mediterranean Diet?  The diet has you eating more vegetables, fruits, nuts, fish, legumes, extra virgin olive oil, and red wine in moderation.  Animal-based foods, particularly dairy and red meat, are limited but not strictly prohibited (except for purists.)  And, based on an entirely different study, I would also throw the use of more vinegar (e.g. balsamic vinegar) into the daily diet for it's positive effects on blood sugar control.

There are four very important health insights I get out of this study: 
  1.  A diet (e.g. Mediterranean) with GOOD fats (i.e. vegetable/plant based fats) is a qualitatively better diet than a restrictive low-fat diet.  The reason for this is at least three-fold.  A. The people in the control group dropped out at a much higher rate than the other participants (11.3% to 4.9%.)  Low-fat, calorie-restricting diets are difficult and do not lead to long-term lifestyle changes.  B. Good fats cause a meal to feel more complete, i.e. the meal is more satisfying, satiety is increased.  C. Presence of good fats reduces the feelings of deprivation often created by a calorie-restricting low-fat diet.
  2. The Mediterranean Diet is more about healthy (largely plant-based) food content than it is about calories.  Calories were not restricted or monitored for those in the study groups.  
  3. ALL these participants had diabetes and other significant risks for cardiovascular disease.  In spite of their elevated risks, the Mediterranean diet gave the people a 30% improved chance for a longer life.
  4. This study involved no exercise of any kind and they still saw a 30% reduction in heart attack/stroke risks.  What would the reduction be if they had also been exercising - even modestly?     

Nature Words for your health--
Mark

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Another Payback from Exercise

The results of studies about Alzheimer's and older age dementia of all types have shown mixed results regarding the benefits of exercise.  The studies to date had been pretty small undertakings and had not had very long follow-ups.  A new study out -- published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, Feb. 5, 2013 --- shows that there does seem to be a significant risk reduction for developing dementia by beginning an exercise program in your later 40's.

The amount of exercise is not extreme either.  The amount used in the study was 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week, which would amount to a brisk walk for about 20 minutes every day.  If you start that in your late 40's your risk for developing any kind of dementia drops by 36% over those who aren't exercising.  So in addition to reducing your risks from heart disease and cancer you can add dementia to the growing list of chronic health problems avoided by getting off your couch and moving for 20 minutes a day.