Monday, December 25, 2017

Blue Zones Secrets: How to Live 100+ Years

Experts have long worked on creating a magic pill that can make you live longer. But the answer to living until you're 100 could be much simpler than a new drug.

“Blue zones” are areas of the world where people live considerably longer lives. On these territories we can find octogenarians, nonagenarians and many centenarians, and even some supercentenarians (people who have reached the age of 110).

These regions were named “blue zones” after the Belgian demographer Michel Poulain and the Italian doctor Gianni Pes discovered a population with such features in the region of Barbaglia (Sardinia, Italy), and they marked out the area with blue ink.

In the region of Barbaglia, located in the Sardinian mountain area, there is the world's largest concentration of centenarians. Okinawa Island is inhabited by the oldest women on Earth. Icaria – an island which is located in the Aegean Sea – has the long-lived population with the lowest senile dementia levels. Loma Linda is home to a community of Seventh-day Adventists whose life expectancy is 10 years over the average lifespan in the United States. And in Nicoya we can find the second-largest community of centenarians in the world.

What is the secret behind this great longevity; the mystery of the blue zones, where so many centenarians live?

A team composed of several specialists (doctors, anthropologists, demographers, nutritionists, epidemiologists) travelled many times to the different blue zones. They identified the following nine general longevity factors, which are related to diet and lifestyle:

1. Intense and regular physical activity in the performance of daily duties. The concept of a sedentary lifestyle is unknown to the people living in these regions

2. Having an “ikigai” – a Japanese word (Okinawa) which is used to define our own “reasons for being” or, more precisely, the reasons why we wake up every morning

3. Reduction of stress, a factor which is closely linked to almost all ageing-related diseases. Stress reduction means interrupting the normal pace of our daily lives in order to allow time for other activities which are part of normal social habits. For example, taking a nap in Mediterranean societies, praying in the case of Adventists, the tea ceremony of women in Okinawa, and so on.

4. “Hara hachi bu” – a Confucian teaching that means we should not continue to eat until we are full, but only until 80% of our eating capacity

5. Prioritizing a diet that is rich in plant-based products. Meat, fish and dairy products may be consumed, but in lower amounts

6. A moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages, which confirms the belief that moderate drinkers live longer lives than nondrinkers

7. Engaging in social groups that promote healthy habits

8. Engaging in religious communities with common religious practices

9. Building and maintaining solid relationships between family members: parents, siblings, grandparents and others.

To sum up, the above nine longevity factors could be synthesised in just two.

Firstly, maintaining a healthy lifestyle – which implies regular intensity exercise, including routines to “break” from daily stress, and including mainly plant-based products in our diets, eating without filling up and not drinking excessively.

Secondly, integrating in groups that promote and support those “good practices”: family, religious communities, social groups, and so on – all of which must have their own “ikigai”, that is, their own “reason to live”. There is a personal “ikigai”, but there is also a collective “ikigai” that sets the goals for each community as well as the challenges to overcome in order to achieve them.

Living this way means living better and longer. Longevity may be determined by genetics, but it is also something that can be trained, as can be seen in the example of the inhabitants of the blue zones.

Foods that are especially prominent in the diets of the blue zones include:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Herbs
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Beans and legumes
  • Quality fats like olive oil
  • High-quality dairy products, like grass-fed goat milk and homemade cheeses
  • Fermented products like yogurt, kefir, tempeh, miso and natto
  • Whole grains, such as durham wheat or locally grown (organic) corn

Eating plenty of high antioxidant foods just like people in the blue zones do — such as making them about half of your plate or more at any meal — contributes disease-fighting nutrients and naturally controls your body’s hunger signals so you know when you’re full. These types of foods lower inflammation, which is crucial because we know inflammation is at the root of most diseases.

Plant foods deliver loads of fiber, antioxidants, potential natural anti-cancer agents (insoluble fiber), cholesterol reducers and blood-clot blockers, plus essential minerals. This is likely one reason why people in the blue zone eating a healing diet suffer much less from heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, dementia and cancer than people living in the U.S.

The centenarians in the blue zones didn’t necessarily avoid meat or animal products altogether (although the Seventh-day Adventists did for religious regions); most just didn’t have access to meat very often. Meat is typically eaten only a few times a month in most of the blue zones, while sheep or goat milk, eggs, and fish are eaten more often, usually a couple of times per week. Centenarians in the blue zones usually eat animal-based meals on occasion, such as for holidays, festivals or when they have access to meat from their neighborhood farmers.

When they do have animal products, they obtain more nutrients since their food is always raised locally, grass-fed, pasture-raised, wild-caught and free from harmful substances commonly used in the U.S meat and dairy supply, like antibiotics and growth hormones.

Avoid processed, packaged foods

When researching diets of the blue zones, something that really stands out is how low in sugar, pesticides and artificial ingredients their diets are compared to the standard American diet (sometimes called SAD). Blue zone diets only use small amounts of natural sweeteners on occasion, while refined carbohydrates and artificial flavors are unheard of for the most part. Considering the high rate of diabetes in the U.S., many people can afford to adopt similar principles that can serve as a natural diabetes cure.

It’s not that those living in the blue zones never let themselves enjoy a “treat,” they just opt to have antioxidant-rich “guilty pleasures” like locally made red wine (1–2 glasses per day) or sake, small amounts of coffee or herbal tea, or simple desserts like locally made cheese and fruit. Soda, sports drinks, candy bars and packaged baked goods don’t play a part in their diet at all.

A nutritional assessment of diets in the blue zones showed a high adherence to whole foods and a nutritional profile similar to the Mediterranean diet, with foods low on the glycemic index, almost always free from added sugar and high in healthy fats and plants.

Exercise Often but Make It Enjoyable

Centenarians in the blue zones lead active lives, yet they never set foot in a gym and don’t dread exercise. Being active is just a part of their day and way of life: They walk almost everywhere (usually up to five to six miles every day), they do chores using their hands instead of machines and their errands are run on foot. They tend to be active by practicing types of exercise they enjoy, such as yoga, tai chi, or playing sports and games with friends.

Many of them also have jobs that are physically demanding, such as farming — which is a big contrast to sitting behind a desk all day. And almost all of them love to garden, which gives them some exercise; time spent de-stressing in nature; and also provides fresh vegetables, herbs and fruit. Staying active consistently in a healthy way adds to longevity by reducing inflammation, improving heart health, improving resilience to stress, and maintaining bone and muscular health.

Living a longer, healthier, more enjoyable life doesn’t come from a single practice alone, such as a good diet or even good genes, but from a combination of habits.

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Saturday, December 23, 2017

Frequent flyers age faster

If you fly a lot, I have some bad news for you. Every time you go up to those really high altitudes, it exposes you to ionizing radiation. That's the type of radiation that leads to DNA damage and aging. 

You might guess that a frequent flyer’s radiation dose is coming from the airport security checkpoints, with their whole-body scanners and baggage x-ray machines, but you’d be wrong. The radiation doses to passengers from these security procedures are trivial.

The major source of radiation exposure from air travel comes from the flight itself. 

Earth’s atmosphere protects us from solar, stellar, and magnetic radiation from the cosmos and is less dense the further we get from the surface. The logic goes that the higher up we are, the more radiation we are exposed to, damaging our cells and ultimately aging our bodies.

Frequent travelers are exposed to more radiation than is considered healthy. Radiation exposure is hundreds of times higher at high altitude than at ground.

According to Scott Cohen, deputy director of research of the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at the University of Surrey:

“there have been calls to classify frequent business travelers as ‘radiation workers,’” he says, and notes that just seven round-trip flights a year from New York to Tokyo (about 85,000 miles) exceeds the limit for public exposure to radiation. As Cohen notes in his paper, “radiation exposure amongst commercial aircrew even exceeds that of nuclear power workers".

A Pilot's risk of Cancer

Airline pilots are at risk of deadly skin cancer because they are exposed to cockpit radiation similar to levels from tanning beds.

Pilots flying for an hour at 30,000ft get the same amount of radiation as 20 minutes on a tanning bed. And researchers believe the levels could be higher when pilots are flying over thick clouds and snow fields, which can reflect UV radiation

A team from the University of California measured the amount of UV radiation in airplane cockpits during flights.

The cockpit radiation was measured in the pilot seat of a general aviation turboprop airplane through the acrylic plastic windshield at ground level and at various heights above sea level.

Sun exposures were measured in San Jose, California, and in Las Vegas around midday in April.

They then compared them with measurements taken in tanning beds.

While short-wave UV-B ultraviolet radiation cannot easily penetrate glass and plastic windows, long-wave UV-A is much more likely to get through.

Both kinds of UV can cause skin aging and cancer.

However, there is some good news.

A study says there's an easy way to protect yourself.

In this study, researchers followed 82 male pilots. They studied the pilots for chromosomal translocations. That's a biomarker for cumulative DNA damage. The researchers found that the pilots consuming the highest levels of fruit and veggies didn't suffer as much damage.

They looked specifically at high vitamin C and E, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, and lutein-zeaxanthin from food sources, such as citrus fruit and green leafy veggies. The pilots eating a high (but not the highest) quantity of these food had about 40% less damage to their DNA. Those consuming the highest level of these foods had way less damage — 73% less.

Other negative effects

Academics have warned there is “a darker side of hypermobility”, which means frequent flyers are at risk from serious physiological, psychological, emotional and social damage.

The most obvious consequence is jetlag, which affects sleep times and gastro-intestinal patterns. The condition is caused as the brain struggles to adjust to a new time zone, and affects mood, judgement and the ability to concentrate.

Many report feeling the effects even six days after flying, although the researchers say it can take up to 11 days for the body to return to its usual rhythm following a transmeridian flight.

Frequent flying can lead to chronic jet lag, which can cause memory impairment and has been linked in studies to disrupting gene expression that influences aging and the immune system, and increased risk of heart attack or stroke.

As with occasional flyers, frequent travellers are at risk of developing deep-vein thrombosis and subtle discomforts such as dry eyes and dehydrated skin.

Pilots, flight attendants, and others who work for extend periods in the air may be adversely affected by increased oxidation.

Flying at high altitudes results in less cabin oxygen and pressure which does increase oxidative stress in the human body, the Journal of Nature found. 

The effects were measured on athletes training at moderate altitudes of 3,000 feet for 2 weeks. Although there was a measurable increase in free radicals, the test subjects who were given antioxidants were less effected.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Eating salad every day may keep your brain a decade younger

Eating greens or salad every day boosts our memory, according to new research.

The findings suggest that eating about one serving per day of green, leafy vegetables may be linked to a slower rate of brain aging - the equivalent of keeping our brain 11 years younger.

The Rush University study found that people who ate at least one serving of green, leafy vegetables a day had a slower rate of decline on tests of memory and thinking skills than people who never or rarely ate such vegetables.

Salad eaters' brains functioned as though they were more than a decade younger than those of people who did not eat their greens, according to the research team.   

Study author Professor Martha Clare Morris, of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, said: 'Adding a daily serving of green, leafy vegetables to your diet may be a simple way to foster your brain health.

'Projections show sharp increases in the percentage of people with dementia as the oldest age groups continue to grow in number, so effective strategies to prevent dementia are critical,' she said. 

The study, published online by the journal Neurology, involved 960 people with an average age of 81 who did not have dementia and were followed for an average of 4.7 years.

The participants completed a questionnaire about how often they ate certain foods and had their thinking and memory skills tested yearly during that time.

The survey asked how often and how many servings they ate of three green, leafy vegetables: spinach, with a serving being a half cup of cooked spinach; kale, collards or greens, half cup cooked; and lettuce salad, with a serving of one cup raw.

The participants were divided into five equal groups based on how often they ate green, leafy vegetables.

The people in the top serving group ate an average of about 1.3 servings of greens per day. Those in the lowest serving group ate on average 0.1 servings per day.

Overall, the participants' scores on the thinking and memory tests declined over time at a rate of 0.08 standardized units per year.

Over 10 years of follow-up, the rate of decline for those who ate the most leafy greens was slower by 0.05 standardized units per year than the rate for those who ate the least leafy greens.

That is the difference of about 11 years worth of change, according to the study authors. 

They said the results remained valid after accounting for other factors that could affect brain health such as smoking, high blood pressure, obesity, education level and amount of physical and cognitive activities.

But Professor Morris noted that the study doesn't prove that eating green, leafy vegetables slows brain aging, it only shows an association.

She also warned that the study cannot rule out other possible reasons for the link.

Professor Morris added that because the study focused on older adults and the majority of participants were white, the results may not apply to younger adults and people of other races. 


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Saturday, December 16, 2017

California makes official warning about the radiation dangers of cell phone use

The California Department of Health warned that people need to keep their cell phones several feet away from them to reduce radiation exposure and health risks.

California released guidance for reducing exposure to cell phone radiation on Thursday, amid mounting evidence that cell phone use may be linked to cancer, attention, mental health and reproductive health issues.  

Cell phones transmit information using low frequency radio signals, which may expose us to unhealthy radiation, especially when streaming or downloading large files.

Research has not been able to prove definitively that cell phone radiation is dangerous, but there have been enough studies linking the two to warrant caution, especially for children, according to the health department press release. 

The statewide notice comes after several cities, including Berkeley and San Francisco, issued local warnings that their citizens should make some distance between their phones and their bodies.

The radiofrequency (RF) energy cell phones use to transmit information are at the bottom of the radiation totem poll, but research suggests that our frequent, close-range exposure to cell phones may be enough to endanger us. 

'Keeping a phone directly on the body has never been a good idea,' says Dr Devra Davis of the Environmental Health Trust. 

In fact, cell phone makers themselves seem to agree. Apple, for example, includes an 'RF exposure' notice in the iPhone's settings. 

The notice explains that the iPhone's RF emissions were tested at 5 mm - about the thickness of a fine point pen - from the body, and fall within the US standards of safety. 

But it also includes advice for reducing exposure - not unlike California's new guidance - by using speakerphone or hands free accessories. 

'Most people are not aware that there is a clear warning to keep the phone off the body embedded in the phone,' says Dr Davis. 

This is particularly worrisome because most parents aren't aware of these warnings are are not managing their children's exposure to phones. 

The California guidance notes that RF may more easily penetrate the brain matter of children than that of adults. The exposure may also be more damaging and have more lasting effects on the developing brain. 

Studies have shown evidence that cell phone exposure may cause tumors in the brain or ears, where the body is frequently in contact with the device.  

Though research on RF's effects on children specifically is fairly scarce, many psychologists have already warned that cell phone use may be linked to poorer attention, mental health and sleep for adolescents. 

Less than a week ago, France banned cell phones from primary and middle schools. Though the ban's goal was primarily related to mental health, it has drawn praise from experts worried about radiation exposure. 

The country has also been at the forefront of research on the physical health effects of cell phone exposure. 

'The French have tested the phones the way they are used' - touching  the body - 'and RF exposure exceeds the French standards by four more times, and apply that to the US standards, and it's even much more than that - about seven times [the recommended levels],' says Dr Davis. 

Other research has shown strong links between RF and male sperm counts and sperm quality. 

Studies in multiple countries 'have show that men who keep phone in their pockets the longest have lowest sperm count, with most damage,' says Dr Davis. 

'Many people keep their phones in their pockets for hours a day, esp in the summer with thinner exposures will be far greater,' she adds. 

Contemporary cell phone signals use 'the weakest signals, but strength of the signals is not issue when comes to biological effect.' It's not the power, it’s the irregular nature of signal.'   

The California guidelines address this by explaining that the most dangerous exposures happen when there are surges of RF energy. This happens when, essentially, the technology has to work harder to transmit information.

The state warns against close contact when phones have two or fewer bars of signal, when you're in a moving car, or if you are trying to receive or send large quantities of data by streaming or downloading media. 

Californians, the release advises, should use headsets, sleep with their phones away from them (not under pillows or on nightstands) and carry them in a bag, instead of in a pocket, bra or belt holster. 

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Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Exercise changes gut bacteria in just six weeks, new research reveals

Previously inactive people who exercise for at least 30 minutes a day three times a week experience increased levels of gut bacteria that produce butyrate, a study found.

Butyrate is an anti-inflammatory acid that has been linked to protection against bowel cancer, as well as weight loss and stronger immunity.

The same findings were previously found in mice, who became less likely to develop the inflammatory bowel disease ulcerative colitis if they were active. 

Lead author Professor Jeffrey Woods from the University of Illinois, said: 'These are the first studies to show that exercise can have an effect on your gut independent of diet or other factors.'

Yet, the catch is exercise's positive impact on gut bacteria is reversed if people revert to being inactive.

How the research was carried out 

The researchers analyzed 18 lean and 11 obese women.

All of the study's participants were previously sedentary before undergoing six weeks of endurance-based activity for three days a week that progressed from 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day to one hour of vigorous activity.

The participants then went back to a sedentary lifestyle for six weeks.

Their diets were consistent throughout the study.  

Fecal samples were collected before and after the participants became active.

Results reveal exercise changes gut bacteria, which is largely reversed if people revert to being inactive.

In particular, species that produce an anti-inflammatory acid known as butyrate increase, which has previously been linked to bowel-cancer protection, weight loss and stronger immunity.

For unclear reasons, the findings are greater in lean people than those who are obese.

The same findings also previously occurred in mice, who become less likely to develop the inflammatory bowel condition ulcerative colitis if they exercise.

Professor Woods said: 'These are the first studies to show that exercise can have an effect on your gut independent of diet or other factors.

'The bottom line is that there are clear differences in how the microbiome of somebody who is obese versus somebody who is lean responds to exercise. We have more work to do to determine why that is.'

The current study's results were published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 

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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Key to a long life? Having good BLOOD circulation

Healthy circulation is the key to a longer life, research suggests.

People with good blood flow to their body’s smallest blood vessels live for longer, scientists found, according to

The link between longevity and ‘micro-circulation’ was uncovered by research into Italian ‘SuperAgers’ with a median age of 92.

The body’s microcirculation delivers oxygen and nutrients to cells while removing toxins and waste products.

It also controls blood pressure and body temperature by dilating or constricting the capillaries that supply the muscles, organs and skin.

Centenarians showed similar levels of a chemical called Bio-ADM that boosts blood flow in the body’s capillary networks as people 30 years their junior.

Genetics, exercise and a Mediterranean diet all play a role in living longer, but scientists have been searching for ‘biomarkers’ that indicate longevity.

Professor Salvatore Di Somma said: “Very low concentrations of this biomarker (Bio-ADM) indicate a microcirculatory system allowing good blood perfusion of organs and muscles.

“A good microcirculation is what makes marathon runners perform better than the average man or woman at the same heart rate.”

The La Sapienza University pilot study looked at residents of the Cilento region in the province of Salerno in southern Italy.

Women in the region live to an average of 92, eight years more than the Italian average, while men live to 85, six years longer than average.

The first group consisted of 29 ‘SuperAgers’. The second was made up of 52 relatives with a median age of 60 living in the same household.

These were compared with a group of 194 healthy people with a median age of 64.

Scientists found that the SuperAgers’ bio-ADM values were as low as those in both younger groups.

Andreas Bergmann, of the German diagnostic company Sphingotec which carried out blood analyses, said: “We are excited about the connection between bio-ADM levels and a good microcirculation as an indicator for good quality of life.

“If bio-ADM proves to be a reliable biomarker for longevity this will open up the avenue to a systematic analysis of the factors contributing to longevity.”

Researchers now plan to explore whether elements of the local Mediterranean diet affect bio-ADM levels.

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Thursday, November 2, 2017

Healthy gut bacteria could help protect you from almost EVERY age-related disease

Changing your diet to maintain healthy gut bacteria could help to protect you from nearly all age-related diseases, new research suggests.

Imbalanced gut bacteria may to blame for many age-related diseases, according to the new study from University Medical Center Groningen, The Netherlands.
The researchers found that the poorly balanced gut bacteria in older mice could induce ‘inflammaging’ in younger mice when it was transplanted to them.

Inflammaging is a chronic inflammation condition associated with aging, which is linked to most serious age-related health conditions, like stroke, dementia and cardiovascular disease.

Scientists know that elderly people tend to have different gut bacteria profiles from younger people. This new research suggests that this change in balance is linked to inflammaging, which is in turn related to most late-onset diseases and disorders.

In recent years, we’ve found out that the gut is at the heart of just about everything, with many calling our second brain.

Inflammaging is a catch-all term for the tendency of elderly people to have generalized inflammation. It is thought to be related to evolved changes that the immune system undergoes as a person gets older.

It isn’t clear whether aging causes inflammation or inflammation causes aging, but the two go hand-in-hand, and susceptibility to many diseases goes along with both of them.

Since they knew that the bacterial microbiome also undergoes changes with age, the researchers, led by Dr Floris Fransen, wanted to test the relationship between the three factors.

They took samples from older mice – whose gut bacteria composition, like humans’, changes with age – and introduced them to the bodies of younger mice. After the procedure, the younger mice developed chronic inflammation, like the inflammaging that would normally have struck them later in life.

The scientists also transplanted gut bacteria from one group of younger mice to another group of mice of around the same ages to see if the immune response was just to the introduction of foreign bacteria.

But only the mice with transplanted gut bacteria from older ones developed inflammaging.

The differences in the responses suggested to the researchers that aging leads to an imbalance in gut bacteria, such that there are more ‘bad’ bacteria than good in the microbiome.

The proliferation of the bad bacteria leaves the gut lining more permeable to toxins that can contaminate the bloodstream and lead to disorders like inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, diabetes, anxiety, autism and even cancer.

The study suggests a causal relationship between aged gut bacteria and inflammaging in mice, and, though the same has not been proven in humans, the researchers report that a correlation has already been observed.

Still, the findings are enough to determine that ‘strategies that alter the gut microbiota composition in the elderly,’ such as developing a good diet and taking probiotics and prebiotics, ‘reduce inflammaging and promote healthy aging,’ says Dr Fransen. 

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