Monthly Archives: May 2007

Dash Diet Improved: Now It’s Omni Heart. Part I

Dash Diet Improved: Now It’s Omni Heart.  Part I

Competency:   # 2, DASH DIET, Now DASH/OMNI Heart Diet

Reference:  Clin Trials. 2005;2(6):529-37

The best single measure of how long you live when you are in your 30s-60s is your blood pressure.  The DASH diet is named for the Dietary Alternatives to Suppress Hypertension.  The research study was a stunning success.  It’s intent was to pull together all the known pieces of “evidence” of what an integrated diet that people could follow should look like.  And its results were very reassuring.  Everyone lowered their blood pressure.  No matter how low or high, everyone got results, and in just a few days!  LDLs went down too.  That’s just about as important as blood pressure for predicting future heart disease.  The one two punch of lower BP and lower LDLs made the DASH diet THE darling of the new FDA food guidelines.   The next question was whether really low sodium would make a difference.   A project called DASH-sodium showed that it did.  Blood pressure dropped some more.  Again, remember, the lower your pressure, the longer you live.

Some questions remained.  Lots of studies have been pouring in about the Mediterranean diet.  Olive oil:  30-35% of calories from olive oil.  The results are just as good.  But that wasn’t the DASH formula.  Then there is this awkward Adkins Diet with more protein in it that also seemed to work.  The Adkins diet has so many caveats in it about saturated fat that its beneficial effect is still open to question.  But good research asks questions intelligently.

You should know the DASH Diet:  It’s the basis and foundation for the next evolutionary offspring: the Omni Heart diet.  Here is the DASH Diet.  One, start with 8-10 servings a day of fruits and vegetables.  A serving is a half a cup so a banana is two servings.  A big apple is two servings.  Two, add 2-3 servings of low fat calcium product.  Three, have 1-2 servings of WHITE meat a day for a total of 5-6 ounces.  (A big chicken breast can be 10 ounces). Four, add  a teaspoon here and there of fat (olive oil?).  Five, have a couple of servings of beans and nuts a week.  We should all be considering the DASH diet our basic diet.  In fact, reading between the lines, it’s the fundamental basis for the South Beach Diet, Weight Watchers and much of what works in many diets.  At least, that’s what we’ve been led to believe by the evidence.  Now, the evidence has advanced.

So, explain the Omni Heart Diet.  It’s variety!  And it’s good research, much too important to squeeze in this week.  Tune in next week.  We’ll talk about how DASH became Omni and how you can live a much healthier lifestyle with some variety in it.

WWW.  What Will Work for Me?  Counting Fruits and Vegetables.  Counting calcium servings.  Counting protein servings.  I’m finally good at that.  Every day, get to 9 F&Vs.  Counting motivates me to get all the way up to 9.  Ben Franklin attributed his success in life to each week taking an individual virtue and concentrating on it for a week.  Just like us, learning one tiny little change each week, I can eat better, live healthier.  So, at dinner each night, go back over your day and count.  Pick up a kiwi, a mango, an apple. Skip the ice cream.  It counts.

It’s a New AGE: How You Cook may be Deadly!

It’s a New AGE:  How You Cook may be Deadly!

Competency # 19: Food Safety

Reference: Helen Vlassara in the April 2007 issue: J Gerontology Medical Sciences

AGE: Advanced Glycation End-Products.  These are sugar and protein molecules that are made by high heat.  Grilling out on your backyard grill with lots of sweet barbeque sauce on ribs may be a formula for trouble.  “Hot off the presses”, this article has sparked a worldwide flurry of repeat articles this last weekend.  AGE products may be as deadly for you as trans fats.

AGEs are formed when you get high heat by grilling, broiling or frying food.  The amount that’s in your blood seems to be determined by how much AGE you eat, not by the total number of calories or fats you eat.  And they set off a perverse cascade of inflammation in your blood.  They have been linked to insulin resistance, diabetes, vascular disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s.  Gadzooks, that’s the gamut of what goes wrong in our aging process.

What the authors of the study also point out is that AGEs go up with your age.  Your body gets less and less able to clear them from your blood.  This is probably because our kidney function slows with aging.  But they aren’t easily removed from the body.

Dr. Vlassara took 172 healthy people and followed their diet precisely to determine how much AGE products they consumed.  What they found was that folks over age 65 had 35% more AGE products in their blood.  The higher the level of AGEs, the higher the level of CRP (and other markers of inflammation).  The AGE products they measured had exotic names like carboxymethyllysine (CML) and methylglyoxal (MG), which are the AGEs that then latch onto proteins and fats.

There is hope.  You can lower your AGE consumption dramatically.  Lower the heat, keep water content high, don’t burn, broil, sear or fry.  Soups, salads and stews are better than grilled, fried, broiled. What you eat is what you get.

Dr. Vlassara suggests that this may even turn into lifespan enhancement if you can project animal data onto humans.  We can’t be sure of that, nor can we ethically or even possibly get humans to eat a diet of low AGEs vs. high AGEs.  That’s the problem with all food research.  But the short-term data is compelling. And the historical association of eating fried, broiled and grilled foods compares directly to our epidemic of heart and vascular disease.

AGEs products may be as serious for you and me as trans fats and cigarette smoking.

WWW:  What will work for me?  Just as I took off the cover to my grill, I find out I can’t grill out as much.  This information intuitively fits with a lot of other data.  It’s the Alzheimer’s thing that spooks me.  So, more stews?  More British food?  That’s an oxymoron.  My great-great-great….grandparents left England, in part, I’m certain, because of the cuisine.  This will be tough unless I can find something I like:  Indian food!  Curries are stews.  Let’s all get on board with more vegetarian curries.

Olive Oil: Tummy Upset Antibiotic!

Olive Oil:  Tummy Upset Antibiotic!

Competency # 13 Fats

Reference: Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Feb 21, 2007

Did you know that 20-50% of us carry H. pylori in our stomachs at all times?  H. pylori causes stomach erosions and ulcers.  This happens even more so as we get older.  More if you live in poor conditions and eat lots of pure carbs like rice.  H. pylori is an interesting story you should know a little about.  It is a bacteria that lives in your stomach, and is passed from mother to child with resulting life-long infection.  In fact, enough of any given population has it that you can tell where in the world people came from by the strains of H. pylori they carry in their stomach.  For example, Amazon Indians can be proven to have come East Asia.  You can map the world’s migration patterns by the distribution of H. pylori.  Each part of the world has its own characteristic genetic strain.  (Great story in Scientific American a year or so back on this topic)

H. pylori causes the vast majority of “gastritis” and peptic ulcer disease.  I was trained to believe that stress and spicy foods made ulcers.  And to get better we had to take Tagamet, then Zantac and other acid reducing type drugs.  That was wrong.  It was only in the 1980s that  Drs. Marshall and Warren figured out that ulcers were the results of H pylori infections.  They got the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2005 for figuring that out.  We now know that we can cure those ulcers with Amoxicillin, Azithromycin and with Prilosec taken for a couple of weeks.  H. pylori can undoubtedly cause very serious disease.  In parts of remote rural India, emergency surgery for bleeding gastric ulcers is the most common surgical emergency. H. pylori at work.

But why has the human species always carried this bacteria?  It’s speculation of course, but one current theory is that H. pylori actually lowers the pH of your stomach, thus protecting you from your own acid production.  So, our bodies have tolerated it as a way of adjusting to the need to have an acid stomach.  We’ve lived in balance with H. pylori.  Some benefit, some harm.  Now, as we study it in more detail we have discovered that a variety of foods also suppress its growth and help reduce overgrowth.  For example, some studies suggest that broccoli will control it.  Green tea has been shown to control it.  Bismuth (Pepto Bismol) also certainly controls it.  Yes, Pepto Bismol kills H. pylori.  That may be how it actually helps.

This week’s “News” comes from Spain, where extra virgin olive oil was found to control it as well.  The phenols in olive oil have an antibiotic effect and were found to be able to kill 8 drug resistant strains of H. pylori.  The dilemma is as follows.  The more we use antibiotics, the more we develop resistant strains of bacteria. We take antibiotics for “bronchitis”, “sinus infections” or other low yield URI type infections, and the result is that all the bacteria in our body are affected.  That is holding for H. pylori too.  And everyone seems to have an upset tummy from time to time with a bit of heartburn.  And we try and ask for antibiotics a little less for minor conditions?  Can we alter our life styles just a bit and make our internal chemistries different, and more conducive to the natural balance that we were created to have had?  That way we don’t need to have an antibiotic.  Maybe eating more natural olive oil can help prevent getting an ulcer?  Well, that may all be conjecture.  But it lines up another reason to eat “whole foods” and more natural unprocessed oils.  But it is an interesting story that goes along with a theme that appears to have some consistency to it.

WWW: What will work for me?  One little tiny change a week.  I’m gradually adding a bit more olive oil to my diet.  My salad dressing is almost always olive oil.  And I’ve just added an olive oil jar to our dining room table.  Can I use it instead of butter?  And, Pepto Bismol is back on my shelf for the occasional tummy upset.  Now, can I resist going to the doctor when I get a simple cold and not take antibiotics until I get a fever?