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Save the Date: Global Employee Health and Fitness Month is May 1-31

Employers and Employees everywhere can show their support for healthy living and well-being by participating in Global Employee Health and Fitness Month (GEHFM) sponsored by the National Association for Health and Fitness (NAHF).

“This amazing, new and improved GEHFM is truly historic in the arena of workplace wellness. Business and industry can encourage positive behavior change in the supportive context of workplace policies and culture and provide support that assists today’s workforce with their daily struggles.  Through GEHFM we will achieve the optimum result of a more physically active and healthier population…one healthy moment and one healthy group at a time,” said Diane H. Hart, President and Executive Director of the National Association for Health and Fitness.

All you have to do is create and share “Moments, Groups and Projects for Health” – such as preparing a healthy meal, organizing a recurring walk or bike ride with colleagues or participating in a clean-up day in your community.  Employers will challenge their employees to continue to do so throughout the month, concluding the month with a culminating project.  It is time to make healthy the norm in America and we believe GEHFM is a powerful effort toward the realization of this goal.

Since the founding of Employee Health and Fitness celebration in May of l989, there have been significant strides in documenting the evidence of the value of investing in employee health.  Employee health is a powerful, strategic component of an organization’s human capital management.  Progressive employers understand that their greatest asset is their employees, and an investment in their employees’ health is essential to managing health care costs, improving organizational productivity and employee morale.  We hope this event plants a seed that the small choices you make each day can have a big impact on long term health.

It’s simple to show your support for a healthy, active workplace.  Sign up at healthandfitnessmonth.org

Join Diane Hart for her free webinar, “Your Voice, Capitol Hill and America’s Health”.
Click here to sign up.

Food-question

Sports Nutrition: Fads, Facts and Fallacies

The average American, spends 24 hours a week online. That includes many athletes who spend a lot of time surfing the Web, looking for answers to their nutrition questions. They generally find way too much conflicting information and end up more confused than ever. Hence, the goal of this article is to offer science-based answers to a few popular sports nutrition questions and share some food for thought.

Carbohydrates

We have all heard trendy comments about carbs: They’re a waste of calories, sugar is evil. Fact? No…

Are carbs a waste of calories, with little nutritional value?

The answer depends on your definition of “carbs.” Many athletes define carbs as sugar-filled baked goods and foods made with refined white flour, such as pasta, bagels, bread. In reality, carbohydrates include all types of sugars and starches. Carbs are in fruit, vegetables, beans (pinto, lima, garbanzo, etc.), grains (wheat, rice, barley, corn), and milk. These “quality carbs” add important nutrients to a sports diet.

Should athletes cut out sugar?

Sure, if that means cutting out EXCESS sugar. But if you plan is to cut out all sugar, technically speaking, you would need to stop eating any form of carbohydrate (fruit, veggies, grains), given those foods end up as sugar (glucose) in your body. That sugar fuels your muscles and brain. You’ll also need to cut out performance-enhancing sport drinks and gels.

Please judge a food based on all the nutrients that accompany the sugar, more so than just the sugar content. Some sugary foods are nutrient-rich. The natural and added sugar in chocolate milk, in combination with the milk’s protein, make chocolate milk an excellent recovery food. (The sugar refuels the muscles; the protein builds and repairs the muscles.)

If your goal is to cut out added sugar, you might want to think moderation, rather than all or nothing. US Dietary Guidelines say 10% of calories can come from added sugar. Eating a small sweet a day will not ruin your health forever.

Athletes who report a desire to cut out sugar commonly have a love-hate relationship with (too much) sugar. While they may believe sugar is addictive, a standard reason for overdosing on sugar relates to hunger. The body of a hungry athlete screams for quick energy: sugar. One way to curb sugar-cravings is to eat a satisfying protein-rich breakfast and lunch. By curbing hunger, you’ll enhance your chances of being able to choose quality carbs later in the day. Yes, eating enough breakfast can (and does) impact and improve your evening food choices. Give it a try?

Protein

Many of today’s athletes believe protein should dominate a sports diet. True? Not quite.

What percent of my calories should come from protein?

Dietary guidelines recommend 10% to 15% of daily calories should come from protein. In truth, athletes should base their protein needs on body weight, not percent of calories. The target for most athletes is about 0.5 to 0.75 grams of protein per pound of body weight (1.0-1.5 g pro/kg) per day. Athletes who restrict calories or are new to lifting weights might need a bit more protein—but most hungry athletes consume that much—plus more—within the context of daily food choices.

Can I get enough protein without protein shakes, bars and powders? Yes!

I rarely meet athletes who consume too little protein. Those who might benefit from a supplement include athletes with anorexia (who consume too little of most nutrients), dieting vegetarian athletes who fail to consume adequate plant protein within their restricted calorie budget. That is, for 125 calories, you can consume 25 grams of protein from a can of tuna but less than 4 g protein from the dollop (0.25 cup) of hummus on a salad.

Can vegan athletes perform as well as meat-eaters?

For certain, as long as they consume adequate protein, iron, calcium and B-12, among other nutrients. Not hard to do if the vegan is eating responsibly (i.e., not living on “vegan” Coke & potato chips). They might even perform better when they shift from a meat-based to plant-based diet. Plant proteins (such as beans, lentils, and hummus) offer both protein (to build and repair muscles) and carbohydrate (to fuel muscles).

To optimally fuel muscles, athletes who train about an hour a day need about 2.25 to 3.5 g carb/pound of body weight, depending on the intensity of the workout. For a 150-pound athlete, this comes to about 340 to 525 grams of carb a day (1,360 to 2,100 calories from carb). To hit that goal, starchy beans and grains should be the foundation of each meal and snack. Vegan athletes can easily hit that target, while many meat-focused or carb-avoidant athletes end up needlessly fatigued when meat/fish/chicken and salads displace starches and grains. No wonder many athletes report performing better when they switch to a vegan diet!

Fat

While fat has been shunned for years, it is now popular. Here’s what athletes want to know about dietary fat…

To lose undesired body fat, should I train my body to burn more fat?

Don’t bother! Burning fat differs from losing body fat. You might burn 800 calories doing two hours of fat-burning exercise, and then can easily replace it all by devouring a big meal. No fat loss there!

A wiser plan is to lose fat when you are sleeping (not when exercising), by eating less at dinner to create a calorie deficit for the day. That way, you can surround your workouts with fuel, and optimize your ability to train well. Weight is more of a calorie-game than a fat-burning game.

What about the high-fat keto diet for losing weight?

Keto advocates often rave they can lose weight without feeling hunger. True, a high fat diet is very satiating. But what happens after the diet? I’ve heard stories of keto dieters succumbing to carb-binges and rapid weight regain. My recommendation: Embark only on a food plan you want to maintain for the rest of your life. Meeting with a sports registered dietitian can help you learn effective weight management skills.

What about a keto diet for endurance athletes?

Some ultra-runners and ultra-athletes embrace a keto diet. By burning fat for fuel, they can eat less during long events and experience less intestinal distress. More research is needed on keto-athletes who have fat-adapted for several months (many studies are for less than one month): Can they perform better than carb-eaters? Current research suggests keto athletes might perform as well as carb eaters—but not better than. That’s a lot of dietary restriction for questionable performance benefits. That said, each athlete is an experiment of one and no one diet suits everyone.


Sports Nutritionist Nancy Clark, MS, RD counsels both casual and competitive athletes at her private practice in the Boston-area. Her best-selling Sports Nutrition Guidebook answers most nutrition questions and can help you eat to win. Visit NancyClarkRD.com for more information.

Split-Screen-Immunity-Nutrition

How to Eat for a Strong Immune System that Lessens Risk for the Coronavirus

The coronavirus is the #1 headline worldwide, and it is impacting all of us in many ways. For prevention and protection, the key advice is to wash our hands as often as possible, avoid touching our face, and of course, steer clear of those who are ill. All of these are smart steps; however, as smart is to proactively strengthen your immune system by including certain foods in your daily diet—and conversely, avoiding foods that weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to infection.

Here’s why a strong immune system is a major ally in thwarting illness and keeping us healthy.

The bottom line: Your immune system fights off pathogens such as viruses and bacteria that can cause infection or disease. The “internal warrior” in your immune system is antibodies, which your immune system releases to fight against infection and viruses. And it is the nutrients (vitamins and minerals) in real foods that keep your immune system balanced and poised to ward off unwelcome pathogens.

In other words, we don’t have control over other risk factors such as age and existing conditions that make us more vulnerable to the virus, but we can choose foods that cultivate a healthy gut, and in this way, build our immune system and make ourselves less vulnerable to illness.

Rx: Fresh, Whole, Plant-Based Foods

There’s a simple way to eat to strengthen your immune system. It’s a time- and science-tested guideline that has nourished humankind for millennia. The secret of eating to ward off illness is to eat fresh, whole food in its natural state as often as possible. This means eating organic, plant-based foods—fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and peas, and nuts and seeds—because they are packed with the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytonutrients, and more, you need for healthy immune function.

Fresh, whole, plant-based foods—especially fruits and veggies—have the whole package of nutrients needed for optimal health and well-being and to boost the immune system. Here’s a sampling of some immune-boosting foods, and an example of the “natural-pharmacy” nutrients they contain that can keep you healthy.

A caveat: Healing is more likely when you consume lots of plant-based foods because they contain a cornucopia of health-filled nutrients. Targeting a single nutrient or taking a supplement isn’t the goal.

Here are some immune-boosting foods and beverages that can truly make a difference to the “inner health” of your immune system. Consider including them along with other fruits, veggies, and spices you consume each day.

  • Blueberries. Recent research reveals that a particular flavonoid in blueberries, called anthocyanin, plays an essential role in boosting the immune defense system in the respiratory tract. The bottom line: Flavonoid-rich foods may reduce the odds of getting an upper respiratory tract infection or the common cold.
  • Dark chocolate. Chocolate with a cocoa content of 70% or higher is rich in an antioxidant called theobromine. And theobromine may boost the immune system by protecting the body against free radicals that can damage cells and weaken the immune system. About an ounce—think, about the size of a credit card—is enough to reap the rewards.
  • Spinach. Some essential nutrients and antioxidants in spinach—such as flavonoids, carotenoids, and vitamins C and E—can help support the immune system. Include spinach and other nutrient-dense greens, such as kale and collards, in salads and smoothies.
  • Green tea. As with blueberries, the high flavonoid content in green tea may strengthen the immune system and reduce the risk of a cold.
  • Kefir. A fermented drink filled with many beneficial live cultures of “good” bacteria, regular consumption of kefir may boost the immune system in three ways. It fights bacteria, reduces inflammation, and enhances antioxidants.
  • Specific spices.
    • Garlic. The allicin in garlic reduces odds of getting a cold.
    • Tumeric. A yellow-red spice abundant in antioxidants, the curcumin in turmeric may improve your immune response and be anti-inflammatory.
    • Ginger. Abundant in antioxidants, ginger is an anti-inflammatory that may boost the immune system.

The Takeaway: Lifestyle, Lifestyle, Lifestyle

Consuming an abundance of fresh, whole fruits and veggies and other plant-based foods—and avoiding their opposite: processed, fried, de-natured, sugar-and-chemical laden foods—is critical to boosting your immune system, and lessening your risk for viral infections. In other words, you are fully armed to fight the coronavirus and other infectious agents if you integrate eating well into your everyday lifestyle—along with de-stressing, restorative sleep, regular physical activity, and social support. The bottom line: Your everyday lifestyle is the answer to a strong immune system and staying healthy.


Deborah Kesten, M.P.H., is an award-winning author, specializing in preventing and reversing obesity and heart disease. Her expertise includes the influence of epigenetics and diet on health, Lifestyle Medicine, and research on the Whole Person Integrative Eating dietary lifestyle to treat overeating, overweight, and obesity. She and her husband, behavioral scientist Larry Scherwitz, Ph.D., collaborate on research and writing projects. Her latest book, “Whole Person Integrative Eating” was named the “Winner” in the Health category by the 2020 Book Excellence Awards.

Article originally printed on integrativeeating.com. Reprinted with permission from Deborah Kesten. 

breakfast 3

Why is Breakfast Really That Important?

There are so many misconceptions and misinformation about nutrition. Everyone wants to believe they are eating to properly fuel their body and prevent disease. There is one clear path to learn how to separate fact from fiction when it comes to nutrition information. For some reason, many people prefer to follow the nutrition fads, instead of trying to understand how the body works.

scale

The Dangers of Weight Cycling (Yo-Yo Dieting)

Regaining weight after losing it on a diet is much more common than keeping the weight off. Often dieters gain back more than they lost, and it’s a common experience to have an even harder time losing weight the next time. “Weight cycling” is the term for these repeating episodes of intentional weight loss followed by unintentional regain, also often called “yo-yo dieting.”

Research reveals health dangers of weight cycling

In addition to making the next attempt at weight loss more difficult, repeated cycles of weight loss and gain have damaging effects on the body.

A study presented at the American Heart Association’s March 2019 Scientific Sessions reported that weight cycling was associated with poorer cardiovascular health parameters. Women were assigned a cardiovascular risk score based on 7 factors: smoking, diet, physical activity, BMI, blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood glucose. Women with a history of weight cycling were less likely to have a favorable BMI and less likely to have a favorable overall cardiovascular health score.1 Previous research also linked bouts of weight cycling to a greater risk of endometrial cancer.2 It is also worth noting that in the cardiovascular study, over 70% of the 485 women reported having a history of weight cycling (at least one instance of weight loss and regain), highlighting how common this issue is.1

One of the most important messages about weight loss is this: change your diet, lose the weight and keep your new, healthier way of eating forever.

Dump the Dieting Mentality

The human body responds to weight loss the same way it would respond to starvation – by conserving energy. The brain uses information about calorie intake and the body’s amount of stored energy to determine whether to release appetite-enhancing or appetite-suppressing hormones. One way the body adapts to weight loss is by altering the production of appetite-regulating hormones such as ghrelin and leptin, favoring weight regain by increasing appetite and promoting fat storage. Another way is by decreasing resting energy expenditure.1

These compensatory systems make going back to one’s old unhealthy diet even more weight gain-promoting. The highly palatable low nutrient foods, which stimulate cravings via the dopamine reward system, are even more dangerous for someone whose calorie expenditure has fallen. Also, when you lose weight, some loss of muscle is unavoidable, and strength exercise helps to limit muscle loss. However, when someone gains weight back after dieting, that weight is fat, potentially leaving the dieter with a greater body fat percentage than before.

Studies have linked weight cycling to a greater risk of diabetes, hypertension, gallbladder stones, and shorter telomere length.2-6 Shorter telomeres mean rapid aging. Weight cycling women were also found to have a greater waist circumference, and seem to gain more weight over time than “non-cyclers” who start off at the same BMI.7,8

The bottom line is that making changes to your diet to improve your health and your weight need to be permanent changes, not temporary.

Body fat is not just stored energy

Why is gaining back body fat harmful? Adipose (fat) tissue is more than a vessel for storing excess energy. In addition to storing fat, adipose tissue acts as an endocrine organ: it contains macrophages (a type of white blood cell) in addition to adipocytes; it produces and secretes compounds that affect the function of other types of cells. Obesity is accompanied by a systemic low-grade inflammation.9,10 Adipose releases compounds that can induce negative consequences such as insulin resistance, higher triglycerides, and reduced immune function, and even growth promoters that can increase risk of cancer. As fat tissue grows, more of these pro-inflammatory compounds are produced, leading to chronic inflammation, which increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer.11

How to avoid weight cycling

The key to losing weight and keeping it off forever is changing your diet forever. Stay away from extreme fad diets; they are not sustainable long-term. About 80 percent of dieters are unable to keep 10 percent of their original body weight off for more than one year.12 Feeling deprived and going back to your old diet is almost inevitable. However, if you use high-nutrient foods to resolve toxic hunger and achieve greater meal satisfaction with a smaller number of calories, it will be much easier to stick with your new way of eating and prevent future weight regain.

A recent study published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine analyzed and reported weight loss results provided by 75 obese patients who had switched to a Nutritiarian diet. The average weight loss was 55 pounds after three years, which means they kept the weight off long-term. Compare these results to most weight loss intervention studies, which report average losses of only 6-13 pounds maintained after two years.13 One reason for the remarkable effects on permanent weight reduction with a Nutritarian diet is that the users are more fully educated regarding the long-term health and longevity benefits and it is adopted not merely for its weight loss benefits. Additionally, it has been demonstrated that this nutrient dense, plant-rich diet can suppress appetite and resolve food cravings and food addictions.14

My book The End of Dieting explains exactly how to break out of the cycle of physical and emotional addiction and overeating – how to keep the weight off permanently.

Originally printed on DrFuhrman.com. Reprinted with permission.


Joel Fuhrman, M.D. is a board-certified family physician, six-time New York Times bestselling author and internationally recognized expert on nutrition and natural healing, who specializes in preventing and reversing disease through nutritional methods. Dr. Fuhrman coined the term “Nutritarian” to describe his longevity-promoting, nutrient dense, plant-rich eating style.
 
For over 25 years, Dr. Fuhrman has shown that it is possible to achieve sustainable weight loss and reverse heart disease, diabetes and many other illnesses using smart nutrition. In his medical practice, and through his books and PBS television specials, he continues to bring this life-saving message to hundreds of thousands of people around the world.

References

  1. Byun SS, Bello NA, Liao M, Makarem N, Aggarwal B: Weight Cycling is Associated With Poorer Cardiovascular Health Assessed Using AHA’s Life’s Simple 7 in a Diverse Sample of Women Encompassing Different Life Stages. In American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health Scientific Sessions 2019.
  2. Welti LM, Beavers DP, Caan BJ, Sangi-Haghpeykar H, Vitolins MZ, Beavers KM. Weight Fluctuation and Cancer Risk in Postmenopausal Women: The Women’s Health Initiative. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2017, 26:779-786.
  3. Greenway FL. Physiological adaptations to weight loss and factors favouring weight regain. Int J Obes (Lond) 2015, 39:1188-1196.
  4. Delahanty LM, Pan Q, Jablonski KA, et al. Effects of weight loss, weight cycling, and weight loss maintenance on diabetes incidence and change in cardiometabolic traits in the Diabetes Prevention Program. Diabetes Care 2014, 37:2738-2745.
  5.  Guagnano MT, Ballone E, Pace-Palitti V, et al. Risk factors for hypertension in obese women. The role of weight cycling. Eur J Clin Nutr 2000, 54:356-360.
  6.   Tsai CJ, Leitzmann MF, Willett WC, Giovannucci EL. Weight cycling and risk of gallstone disease in men. Arch Intern Med 2006, 166:2369-2374.
  7. Syngal S, Coakley EH, Willett WC, et al. Long-term weight patterns and risk for cholecystectomy in women. Ann Intern Med 1999, 130:471-477.
  8. Mehta T, Smith DL, Jr., Muhammad J, Casazza K. Impact of weight cycling on risk of morbidity and mortality. Obes Rev 2014, 15:870-881.
  9. Field AE, Manson JE, Taylor CB, et al. Association of weight change, weight control practices, and weight cycling among women in the Nurses’ Health Study II. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord 2004, 28:1134-1142.
  10. Strychar I, Lavoie ME, Messier L, et al. Anthropometric, metabolic, psychosocial, and dietary characteristics of overweight/obese postmenopausal women with a history of weight cycling: a MONET (Montreal Ottawa New Emerging Team) study. J Am Diet Assoc 2009, 109:718-724.
  11.  Coelho M, Oliveira T, Fernandes R. Biochemistry of adipose tissue: an endocrine organ. Arch Med Sci 2013, 9:191-200.
  12.  Strohacker K, Carpenter KC, McFarlin BK. Consequences of Weight Cycling: An Increase in Disease Risk? Int J Exerc Sci 2009, 2:191-201.
  13.  Strohacker K, McFarlin BK. Influence of obesity, physical inactivity, and weight cycling on chronic inflammation. Front Biosci (Elite Ed) 2010, 2:98-104.
  14.  Wing RR, Phelan S. Long-term weight loss maintenance. Am J Clin Nutr 2005, 82:222S-225S.
  15.  Franz MJ, VanWormer JJ, Crain AL, et al. Weight-loss outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis of weight-loss clinical trials with a minimum 1-year follow-up. J Am Diet Assoc 2007, 107:1755-1767.
  16.   Fuhrman J, Sarter B, Glaser D, Acocella S. Changing perceptions of hunger on a high nutrient density diet. Nutr J 2010, 9:51.
tina-marchrecipe

The Naturopathic Chef: Asparagus Quinoa with Lemony Dressing

Adding vegetables to whole grains always makes for a hearty side dish that can easily double as an entree. This is an easy way to start the transition to a plant-based diet, too. It’s one of my personal go-to’s when I’m tight on time, or when I feel like something a little lighter in the evening. You know spring has sprung when you see asparagus! As we move closer to summer, serve this chilled, over tender lettuce.

Asparagus Flavored Quinoa

  • 1/2 lb Asparagus
  • 1 1/2 cups Vegetable Broth
  • 1 cup Quinoa, toasted
  • Cheesecloth or light kitchen towel

Dressing

  • 1 tsp Lemon zest
  • 1 tbls Lemon juice
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsps Olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper to taste (I like white pepper for this recipe)
  • 2 Tbls Pine nuts

Wash and dry asparagus. Nature will tell you where to remove the fibrous part of the spear. By holding the spear, one end in each hand, begin to bend the asparagus into an arch. The spear will snap at just the right spot; no guesswork involved. Do this until all spears are free of these inedible ends.

Chefs, you know we don’t throw anything away! Let’s infuse our broth with delicious and nutritious asparagus flavor. Pour broth into a medium saucepan. Add the fibrous ends, and bring to a boil. While infusing your broth, cut the remaining asparagus into 1-inch pieces. Set aside.

Rinse quinoa thoroughly. Once you can smell the aroma of asparagus, remove ends from broth with a slotted spoon and discard. Whisk Quinoa and Asparagus pieces into the infused broth. Bring back to a boil. Reduce heat, cook uncovered 15 minutes. Turn off heat, drape towel over pan, cover with tight-fitting lid. This technique keeps condensation from falling onto our cooked grains and making them mushy. Allow to rest for 5 minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk together lemon zest through salt and pepper. Warm a serving bowl and fluff quinoa with a fork. Gently pour finished quinoa into serving bowl. Drizzle with dressing and fluff lightly. Sprinkle with pine nuts and some beautiful asparagus tips.

Phyto Facts

To date, asparagus is our greatest hope in finding the cure for ALS, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. The phytonutrient, Sarsasapogenin, prevents motor-neuron cell death. It’s also housed in inulin. A fibrous carbohydrate, it lowers blood sugar due to the small intestines inability to break it down. This allows the nutrients to make their way to the large intestines, where it feeds good bacteria, making it a very effective probiotic. This combination of natural activity makes it very effective in treating degenerative disease, i.e., ALS, Type 2 Diabetes, and Crohn’s Disease.

The presence of four other phytonutrients, known as anti-inflammatory powerhouses: Kaempferol, Quercitin, Rutin, and Isorhamnetin, give it major cancer-killing abilities. I have used asparagus, with great success, in the treatment and complete eradication of melanoma. Being very high in minerals, and antioxidants like Vitamins C and E, it is, generally speaking, a great way to prevent nutrient deficiency overall.

Asparagus also contains a good amount of Glutathione — a combination of three amino acids combined into one molecule. This, many researchers believe, will eventually be the cure for Parkinson’s disease. Rich in soluble and insoluble fiber, asparagus not only breeds good bacteria in the digestive/intestinal tracts, it’s also a vegan’s best friend, as it is one of the richest sources of veggie protein.

The odor when one urinates after eating asparagus: sulfuric compounds. This group of phytonutrients prevents hormone and digestive based cancers better than any other group of phytos. This odor lets you know you are digesting the nutrients effectively. This is about the only time stinky pee is a sign of good health! So, enjoy… the asparagus, not the odor.


Get more great recipes from Tina Martini — her book, Delicious Medicine: The Healing Power of Food is available to purchase on Amazon. More than a cookbook, combining 20+ years of experience, along with her love of coaching, cooking and teaching, Tina offers unexpected insights into the history and healing power of clean eating, along with recipes to help reduce your risk of disease and improve overall wellness so you can enjoy life!

Affectionately referred to as The Walking Encyclopedia of Human Wellness, Fitness Coach, Strength Competitor and Powerlifting pioneer, Tina “The Medicine Chef” Martini is an internationally recognized Naturopathic Chef and star of the cooking show, Tina’s Ageless Kitchen. Tina’s cooking and lifestyle show has reached millions of food and fitness lovers all over the globe. Over the last 30 years, Tina has assisted celebrities, gold-medal athletes and over-scheduled executives naturally achieve radiant health using The Pyramid of Power: balancing Healthy Nutrition and the healing power of food, with Active Fitness and Body Alignment techniques. Working with those who have late-stage cancer, advanced diabetes, cardiovascular and other illnesses, Tina’s clients are astounded at the ease and speed with which they are able to restore their radiant health. Tina believes that maintaining balance in our diet, physical activity, and in our work and spiritual life is the key to our good health, happiness and overall well being. Visit her website, themedicinechef.com

 

healthy-eating-path

Reducing Calories May Help You Live Longer

Mounting evidence suggests that we may be able to live a longer, healthier life by strategically restricting our energy intake. For many years the scientific community has known that a surplus of energy intake results in the storage of fat, which is linked to chronic disease, and premature death. However, now emerging evidence suggests that restricting calories may be able to slow the rate in which we age. Aging can be categorized as either primary or secondary. Primary aging is considered inevitable at the date of this publishing and is the biological maturing and eventual breakdown that accompanies the years of age beyond 30.  Secondary aging comes from external influences such as obesity and lifestyle factors that cause cellular damage and is not part of the natural aging process. (2)

What is calorie restriction? Calorie restriction describes a process where one limits the amount of food they consume. The term calorie is a shortened term originating from kilocalorie and is used as a measurement of food energy. When the body has an excess of calories beyond what it needs to function it stores those calories in our body as fat. Despite the diet industry’s most sincere efforts and propaganda, studies still do not support the effectiveness of one fad diet over another for weight loss. (13) This means, weight gain, and weight loss are ultimately determined by the number of calories consumed, and the number of calories expended.

Earlier we identified obesity as contributing to secondary aging. The scientific community has established that being overweight, or obese dramatically increases your risk of cancer, heart disease, and type II diabetes, among other chronic disease, thereby reducing life expectancy. In fact, people that are 100 pounds or more overweight can expect a life expectancy that is nearly 14 years less than the national average. This is a shorter life expectancy than that of someone who is of a healthy weight and smokes cigarettes. (3, 12) A calorie reduction below what your body is expending results in weight loss, and for those who have a higher than healthy level of body fat, can expect a reduction in not just their weight but in secondary and primary aging.

There are many misconceptions of what constitutes being overweight or obese.  A person is classified as being overweight if they have a BMI (body mass index) of 25 or higher, and obese if they have a BMI of 30 or higher. BMI is calculated by dividing your weight in kilograms by your squared height in meters. BMI is likely a fair indicator if you are relatively inactive. If you are engaged in a fitness program or are an athlete, an alternative approach to determining healthy weight is by determining percentage of body fat. A healthy body fat is typically considered to be between 8-22% for men and 20-35% for women (aged 18-34).  A classification of obese may be assigned if someone has a body fat percentage of 26% or higher for men and a body fat of 39% or higher for women. (7) As always if you’re not sure where you fit into these metrics see a credentialed fitness professional or consult with your primary care provider.

It is estimated a calorie deficit of 200-500 calories daily is required to achieve healthy weight loss. Two ways to achieve this deficit are to reduce calorie consumption and increase calorie burn (expenditure). Calorie burn can be increased through additional physical activity; however, it should be cautioned that one can consume calories at a far faster rate than physical activity can burn them. As an example, it is estimated that a 180-pound man burns approximately 14 calories per minute jogging (1). As a point of reference, a single Hershey kiss contains 22 calories.  The lesson here is to use physical activity in addition to a nutritious diet, not in place of a nutritious diet.  (For more information on a nutritious diet visit choosemyplate.gov.) Give special attention to the section on vegetables, especially non-starchy vegetables as they are high in vitamins and minerals and low in calories.

For persons of a healthy weight, calorie restriction appears to offer slowed primary aging. The current school of thought is that primary aging is slowed as a result of a protective cellular reaction triggered by the calorie restriction. There is still much we do not know about the mechanisms responsible for this anti-aging phenomenon and some debate among scientists exists. However, the most common consensus among scientists is that this reaction collectively comes from activating sirtuins, increasing AMPK, impacting MTOR, and an improvement in blood sugar. (8,10,15,16,17,18) If you do not know what any of that means here’s a quick break down but don’t fret if you are not familiar with the lingo.

  • Sirtuins are responsible for DNA expression and control acetyl groups, as well as activate the mitochondrial antioxidant function. (8,16,17) Oxidative damage is believed to play a role in primary aging. Acetyl groups are important because they control the energy that proteins use during cell replication.
  • AMPK (Adenosine Monophosphate Protein-activated Kinase) detects the presence of nutrients or prolonged absence of nutrients, which then triggers the fragmentation/breakdown of damaged mitochondrial components (mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell) that need to be rebuilt, increasing mitochondrial health and efficiency. (4,16,17)
  • MTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin), specifically TORC1 regulates protein building and cell growth. It is theorized a reduction in TORC1 and in turn a reduction of cellular division results in reduced DNA damage, and less inflammation. (11,17)
  • In terms of handling blood sugar, there are two important molecules at work. These proteins are Thioredoxin-interacting protein (TXNIP), and Thioredoxin-1. When TXNIP is stimulated by insulin (which results when we eat) cell stress resistance is reduced resulting in increased oxidative damage to DNA. It is theorized that during calorie restriction, Thioredoxin-1 increases which increases oxidative stress resistance, increases nonoxidative glucose disposal, and increases insulin sensitivity (improves use of insulin and absorption of sugar) as well as reduces damage to DNA (and thus slowed DNA aging) (10,15).

Regardless of how precisely these mechanisms work or interact what we currently believe and have pieced together is a reduction in calories likely:

  • Triggers a protective response in the body that helps:
    • Protect mitochondria from free radical damage (mitochondria are the energy makers of the cells)
    • Increases cell sensitivity to insulin and in turn increases absorption of blood sugar into the muscle
    • Induces cellular stress resistance and cell cleansing, which shuts off cell replication. Think of cell replication like a copy machine, if you do not use the original for each copy, but instead use a copy to make a copy, each time the copy gets blurrier. This is thought to also occur in our cells, therefore the less copies we make or the slower we make them the slower the aging process occurs.
  • Appears to reduce risk of age-related diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
  • Begins at 10%-40% reduction in calories per day (from normal)
  • Starvation is too far! You still need to get the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients required to aid your body in recovery, and immune function otherwise your efforts will be counterproductive, which can be done by increasing your consumption of non-starchy vegetables.
  • Calorie restriction can be accomplished by all types of fasting schemes. For example, fasting can take place daily for 12-16 hours, every other day, or over the weekends only. The important thing is achieving that 10%-40% reduction while still getting the proper nutrition necessary. (5)

The takeaway here is achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is the first step to a healthy lifespan and the incorporation of strategically fasting, may bring additional health and longevity. Fasting has been embedded in our culture in many ways from traditional religious observances as well in the fitness industry, but the question is what scheme and plan will work best for you. Most would agree it’s the health span (length of superior quality of life attributed to good health) more than the lifespan that’s important, and while there is currently no fountain of youth this appears to be a good place to start.

Remember, of course, to consult with your primary care provider before undergoing dietary changes.


Jeremy Kring, holds a Master’s degree in Exercise Science from the California University of Pennsylvania, and a Bachelor’s degree from Duquesne University. He is a college instructor where he teaches the science of exercise and personal training. He is a certified and practicing personal/fitness trainer, and got his start in the field of fitness training in the United States Marine Corps in 1998. You can visit his website at jumping-jacs.com

References

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(-) “When and+ accumulates, such as during scarcity of nutrients especially glucose, sirtuins are activated….”

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