Monthly Archives: October 2008

Walking 20 Minutes can Save Your Brain

Exercise and Memory

Competency # 4 Activity

Reference: :  JAMA Sept 3, 2008: 300 (9):1077-1079 ;  JAMA: 300:1027- 037.

Ok, ok.  So you don’t like to exercise.  Nor do I.  I’m just not very easily motivated when I’m tired and stressed out.  Well, I just found a way of breaking through my denial.   I’ve been THINKING about exercising a little bit more.  I’ve even dabbled  in an extra walk or two here and there, say, once or twice a week.  With that frequency, surely you, too, could say you exercised frequently?  It sounds like classical “Contemplation” in Prochaska’s six stages of change.  Thinking about a problem but not really changing into the next stage, which is Planning, or the next stage, Action.  Oh no, an expert “Contemplator” can sit there for years with their chin on their hand and their hand on their knee, contemplating.  To move from contemplation to planning, you need to start having a list in your head of reasons to change, and the list has to have a couple compelling issues in it.

Information is motivation to change.  Here’s the information to get you to change.

From Australia, 138 participants in the Fitness for the Aging Brain Study were asked to add 20 minutes of physical activity a day into their routine.  They were average age 69.  The controls were told to do nothing different just keep up activity as normal.  The study was very elegant and very simple.  The intent of the study was to look at memory.  The exercisers were found to have improved memory after 6 months, and it was still there 6 months later.

Now, add to that another study from the JAMA, same topic.  Take 170 men and women who answer the question, “Do you have any trouble with your memory?”  If folks answered yes, but were found not to meet criteria for dementia, they were randomized to two groups.  Each group got information about stress management, healthy diet, alcohol and smoking.  The study group got encouragement in the form of newsletters to promote brisk walking for 50 minutes three times a week.  After six months, they could tell the difference in memory ability between the two groups.  Walking helped memory and could be measured to be beneficial in just 6 months.  And the beneficial effect lasted for 18 months.

Did you get that?  Walking 20 minutes every day is enough to make your brain have better memory within just 6 months, and last for a couple of years after.  This is serious stuff.  It’s time for you to add this to your personal list that you carry around deep inside your private little denial zone.  Stop contemplating, start planning.  The scales are tipped.  It’s there.  Two studies.

WWW.  What will work for me.  I can’t plan for years of virtuous behavior.  I can plan tomorrow.  I need to do 20 minutes of walking tomorrow, extra-brisk walking. Or try for 50 minutes three times a week.   Got it?  Move it!

ED Stands for Energy Density: and How to Gain Weight

Don’t be Dense!  Energy Density Predicts Long Term Weight Gain or Loss! (or ED is a Woman’s Problem Too!)

Competency # 5 : The Way to Eat

Reference:  Savage et al. Am J Clin Nutr 2008;88:677-84 and Deierlein p 693-699.

We’ve known for quite a while that how many calories you eat in a day comes down to how efficiently you pack your calories into a certain volume.  That is energy density(ED).  How many calories in a given volume.  The more calories packed in the same space, the higher the density.  Barbara Rolls at Penn State has advocated the “Volumetrics Plan” for dieting.  It’s very simple.  Eat your volume of food, but changing the amount of calories in that volume.  There is something set in each of our heads that wants to get a certain volume of food each day.  Intriguingly simple, isn’t it?  You natural instinct and set point is to a volume.  All you have to do is lower the energy density to succeed at long term weight loss.  All this time we thought it was taste, and snacking, and how many meals a day.  Very little has been documented about what that means for the long haul.

Well, this study from Penn State gives us the long haul.  For six years, 186 women were followed with frequent assessments of their food intake.  Excluding beverages, they found a very stable pattern.  Energy density predicted weight gain over six years.  Over those 6 years, the participants didn’t change their energy density.  They continued to be very stable.  They demonstrated consistent patterns of eating.  Baked desserts, refined grains and fried vegetables predicted trouble.  Fruit, vegetables and whole grains predicted good results.

The second study, same journal says the precise same message for pregnant women from North Carolina.  They followed 1,231 pregnancies in their last trimester when most weight gain happens.  They looked at it slightly differently.  They looked at “glycemic index” versus energy density.  Energy density was what predicted weight gain, not the glycemic index.  They found that women consumed between 0.71 calories per gram of weight to 1.21 calories.  That’s about a 50% increase in energy density.  For the same volume of food, women were eating as many as 50% more calories.  Women eating the lower density diets started by weighing less and ended weighing less.  And again, they were consistent during their pregnancy.

This is a whole new way of looking at what we eat.  It simplifies everything.  Low energy dense foods have less fat in them, less sugar, less refined carbohydrates.  In other words, they are called whole fruits, whole vegetables and whole grains.  High energy density is otherwise called donuts, ice cream, cookies, french fries, fast food, milk shakes, pizza.  Your brain is set to a certain volume.  If it’s pizza you choose, you will be full when you get to that volume, 3,000 calories later.

WWW.  What Will Work for Me?  At 9 o’clock when I’m about to eat my fourth meal of the day, I’m trying to reach for that large volume apple, instead of three scoops of Greek God Honey Yogurt.  If I’m craving more food, I need to remind myself that it’s volume that will satisfy my inner elephant that’s demanding to be fed.  An apple will keep him happy.  Remember ED stands for Energy Density!

Alkaline Diet: the key to strong bones, muscles and brain

The Alkaline Diet                                                                                    Number 237

Competency # 5  The Way to Eat

Reference: Eur J Nutr 40:200 – 213 (2001)

This diet sounds like the desert salt flats of Nevada.  But it’s not.  It’s the key to your healthy survival.  If you’ve never heard of alkali, you are not alone.  But summer is a great time to eat fruits and vegetables in abundance, and that’s the key to understanding what we mean by alkali.

We know acid tasting foods.  They taste sour.  Vinegar tastes sour.  But it’s not the taste that matters.  It’s what your body does with the food as it digests it.  The end products of digestion are what get into your blood, affect your internal chemistry and have a huge impact on what you have to excrete.  The excretion of poisons is a delicate balance your kidneys and liver go through every day.   Doing this excretion process is what determines much of your overall health.   Surprisingly enough, a lemon is an alkaline food.  Despite its sour taste, the end products of its digestion are alkaline.  That’s because it breaks down into lots of basic salts like potassium and magnesium.  In fact, almost all fruits and vegetables are loaded with potassium and magnesium in combination.  And when you have digested fruits and vegetables, you have an abundance of potassium and magnesium for your kidneys to work with.  Your body uses those two minerals to keep a healthy balance of acid and base in your body.  The net effect of this is that your bones stay strong and healthy.  We talk about potassium problems all the time.  60% of Americans are magnesium deficient.  This fact is little known and not appreciated.  Blood tests don’t show the extent of your deficit.

What is new and unique in human history is the amount of processed carbohydrates and sodium that we are eating.  Foods containing processed carbs and extra salt tend to be acid producing in their net effect.  This is also true for meat and dairy.  In fact, cheese is about the most acid of all, in part because of the protein in it, and in part because of the salt.

You can reduce your acid and alkaline nutritional balance to a very simple formula.  Our kidneys are happy when our acid and base is in balance.  Here’s how you get to balance.   You should have three servings of fruits and vegetables for every serving of meat.  You need about 6 servings of fruits and veggies for every serving of cheese.  For every serving of white bread or pasta, you can make a rough guess of two fruit or veggie servings.  When you add all the acid servings you have in a day, and subtract all the alkali, you want to come up with a balance of zero.  If I eat 3.5 oz of cheese (one serving), I will need to eat two bananas and a large apple to make up for the acid load of the cheese.

Sounds simple.  It is.  The resulting abundance of fruits and veggies leads you to the diet we used to eat about 100 years ago, and prior to that throughout human history.  What is intriguing is that doing this also leads to your bones being stronger and your muscles not wasting.  In fact, new evidence shows that eating a diet of acid base balance will result in stopping the gradual loss of muscle mass we experience as we get older.   And there is a strong correlation between good muscle mass and healthy brain.  It all starts with the alkali you eat

Conclusion:  You can keep your muscles from the wasting of aging and your bones strong and dense by eating a diet filled with fruits and vegetables.  And now you know the science.  It’s the abundance of potassium and magnesium found in those fruits and vegetables that keep us well and strong.  Potassium and magnesium are not found in meat, cheese or processed carbohydrates that come in plastic packages.  Lots of fruits and vegetables are your key to healthy living.  It’s the alkali diet.

WWW:  What will work for me.  As radical as this sounds, it’s not so hard to do in summer.  The abundance of fruits and vegetables that are out there is like a symphony of opportunity.  Get out there to your farmers market and look at all the yummy stuff they have to offer.  Try and figure out how to make a new salad, a giant plate of tomatoes, a way to make pickled beets that you adore.   Cherries, apricots, peaches, plums, cabbage, Swiss chard, spinach, carrots, peppers…….   And personally, I’ve added a magnesium supplement to my daily mix.

Putting it all Together: The Formula for Healthy, Happy Living

Putting The Puzzle Together:  The Keys to Better Living

Competency # 20 Lifestyles of the Long-Lived

Date:  10/08

The Dos:

1.Exercise every day for 30 minutes.  Find a reason to walk, play, garden.  It doesn’t have to be a gym.  Getting sweaty is better.  Breathing hard is best.  Using arms, legs and back with lifting and moving is additional bonus territory.

2.  Eat Well.  A little more complex

a. Lots of vegetables and fruits.  Aim for a pound or so a day or 7-9 servings (1/2 cup each) each and every day.  (Lots of potassium and magnesium this way)  Perfection is to balance 3 servings of vegetables for each one of meat.  6 servings for each cheese serving.

b. Choose chicken and fish more than red meat.   Just 2 three ounce servings of meat will do. Lower your total animal protein sources.

c. Three servings of calcium every day: yogurt, milk, cheese

d. Add nuts to your diet three times a week.  More is better.  Almonds, walnuts are best.

e. Peas and beans a couple times of week are great.  More than meat.

f. Avoid sugar: aim to get down to less than 1oz a day total: NO sugared sodas or fruit drinks.  Become a sugar detective.  Get used to less sweet. Become a HFCS detective and ban it.

g. Avoid packaged, processed carbohydrates.  Make grain consumption from whole grains.  If it’s been made into flour, try and cut it out.

h. Drink water instead of sweetened drinks.  Enough to have clearer urine.

i.  Oils are fine if they are olive, walnut, grape seed, coconut. Avoid oils that are solid at room temperature.

j.  NO trans fats.  Become a watchdog to get rid of them.  Dairy topping, pie crusts, cookies, French fries, they are everywhere and not hard to find if you look.  “Partially hydrogenated” is code for a dangerous ingredient.

k.   Cook at lower temperatures.  Fry less.

3. Keep your weight in check.  Goal: waist size below 37 inches for men, 31.5 for women.  Or else BMI under 25.  If you follow #2 above, your weight may not matter much as long as you exercise.  The weight will gradually shed, just like it got on.  What’s key is starting.  Your internal inflammation drops quickly.

4.  Vitamin D Strategy:  You need 15 minutes of sun twice a week if you are fair skinned.  1 hour if you are darker skinned.  And you must take a supplement from Oct 1 till April 1 when there is no sun.  Or, take 2000 IU year around if you work indoors, are older than 40, are overweight, have darker skin, put sun block on, don’t get out doors, have religious reasons to cover up.  This may go higher.

5.  Get your sleep.  7 hours minimum.  Learn good sleep hygiene.  Get restful in the evening.  Stay in bed.  Naps are great too.  Don’t eat before bed.

6.  Practice Your Path.  Learn spiritual growth strategies.  Meditate, pray.  Take an “Artist’s Date” with your passion.  Learn a hobby.  Grow your soul.

7.  Practice safe sex.  Bond with one a loved one.  Work on your relationships, friends, community.

8.   Drink some wine.  Red is better.  Two drinks is not better.  Moderate

The Don’ts

1.  Don’t smoke.  Get over it.  Quit.  Best Strategy.  Stay away from second hand smoke too.  Don’t chew either.

2.  Transportation Safety.  Wear a seat belt, always, or a helmet on a bike.  Bike on bike trails.  Take pride in driving like you were in driving school.  Obey the speed limit.  Stop fully at signs. No cell phone. It’s your life, and one other’s, that gets altered with one tiny error.