Monday, 28 May 2018

on the Med diet and our limited time

A village feast – with dancing – on Ikaria, the Greek island with the most nongenerians in the world. Photograph: Alamy 

there is a lot of discussion on the real value of Med diet and how/why people in Spain, Italy and Greece do or do not follow it today.

Most of the points raised that people do not have time to cook is SIMPLY Rubbish!

How could people have more time 20 and 30 years ago to cook but not now in a much more technologically developed world?

I think the real reason is that people do not BOTHER to cook... It is about "convenience" and bying cheap junk food...It is not about time but about effort...

If we really want to fight obesity and cardiovascular diseases though, there is only ONE way forward.
This way is described at the last two paragraphs of this excellent article 

To solve childhood obesity will take more than fads – it will take the transformation of the whole food system. It will mean controls on advertising junk food to children and money for schools to promote exercise. It will take educating children not just to cook food but to grow food. It will mean a system of agriculture that rewards farmers for growing healthy food. It will mean creating local networks so that families can access seasonal and fresh food. It will mean examining our work culture to find time to exercise and to cook. And it will mean remembering how to eat together as families and friends.
To give children a long and healthy life, we need to teach them about more than a diet – we need to teach them how to shop, how to cook and how to live.

= = = 
 We just need Education!

Education for the farmers, education for the consumers, education for the young people...

Sounds so simple, but is so so difficult to achieve it in the era of games consoles, cheap junk food and lack of exercise...

The blue zones principles though (see below) can provide us with some great ideas for initiatives.

 = = =

Stamatis Moraitis is from Ikaria, Greece. He moved to US when he was 22 years old to pursue the “American Dream”. He was a painter and he started immediately having success, bought a house, married and had 3 kids. At the age of 66 years, he developed terminal lung cancer. However, instead of dying in US, he decided to move back to Ikaria so he moved in with his… parents!
He started breathing the Ikarian air, drinking the Ikarian wine and having a Mediterranean diet. After a few months, he planted a garden not planning, though, on ever getting to harvest the vegetables. He was so wrong! 37 years later he has a vineyard producing 200 litres of wine a year.
When asked about his secret, this is what he replies: “I just forgot to die”.
This is a real life story that has been extracted from the paper of Dan Buettner and Sam Skemp, as published in the American journal of lifestyle medicine in 2016 [1]. The paper talks about the blue zones and what can give us more years of quality living.
Our DNA can predetermine our life expectancy only in 20% of us whereas for the rest 80% of us (4 out 5 people) it is our lifestyle (and not our DNA) that predetermines how long we are going to live. The five demographically confirmed and geographically defined areas with the highest percentage of centenarians (Costa Rica: Nicoya, Greece: Ikaria, Italy: Sardinia, Japan: Okinawa and US: Loma Linda, CA) were dubbed as Blue Zones where people reach age 100 at 10 times greater than in the US [1].
The lifestyles of all Blue Zones residents share 9 specific characteristics. These characteristics are called “The Power of 9”. In order to make it to age 100, a person does not have to win any genetic lottery. Many people have the biological capacity to make it well into their early 90s and in most cases  without  chronic diseases.
Blue zones uncovered 9 evidence-based common denominations aamong the world’s centenarians that slow human aging biological processes, as follows. 

1.      Move naturally
Pumping up iron or protein powders, running marathons or sweating in a gym are not parts of the physical activities’ repertoire of the Blue Zones people. They walk and have their own gardens.   

2.     Purpose
In Okinawa, they call it “Ikigai”, whereas in Nikoya it is called “plan de vida”; they both translate to “plan of life” and it is about what makes the people get up in the morning. Having a sense of purpose and living towards this, it can increase life expectancy for uo to 7 years! 

3.      Downshift
All people, even Blue Zones people(!), we experience a degree of stress. Stress leads to chronic inflammation which in turn leads to the onset of CVDs and other chronic diseases. What Blue Zones people have that the others do not are unique and distinctive routines to minimise this stress. Ikarians follow the med habit of “siesta” or afternoon nap; Okinawans take a few moments each day to remember their ancestors; Adventists in Loma Linda pray; Sardinias do happy hour [2].

4.     The 80% rule
Blue Zones people eat their smallest meal in the late afternoon or early evening, and then they refrain from eating any more food for the rest of the evening; exactly the opposite to the average Westernised person who might have sandwich for lunch and their main meal of the day in the evening.
Hara Hacki Bu”, an Okinawan Confucian mantra that is 2,500 years old, is said before meals and reminds people in Okinawa to stop eating when their stomachs feel about full. The 20% gap between not being hungry and feeling full could be the difference between gaining weight or losing it or increasing or decreasing cardiometabolic risk factors.    

5.     Diet
Fruits, vegetables, and recipes based on these ingredients (e.g. fava and lentils soups) are a focal point of the diets of the Blue Zones people and these foods occupy the lower shelves of the Mediterranean diet pyramid as seen in Figure 5.1. Fish and seafood is eaten at least twice a week, whereas meat (mostly poultry and pork) is eaten on average 5 times a month.

6.     Wine
With the exception of the Seventh Day Adventists, everyone in the Blue Zones consume alcohol on a regular and moderate basis averaging up to 2 glasses per day. Figure 5.1, the latest version of the Mediterranean diet pyramid encourages the moderate consumption of alcohol; Blue Zones people tend to follow this guideline. Consuming 2 glasses per day or 14 glasses per week is the optimal dose, however the drinking pattern is of paramount importance. One or two glasses of red wine every day is key, whereas binge drinking should be avoided at all costs. There is no standard portion however studies have shown that 250 mL of red wine may lower inflammatory markers and reduce platelet aggregation.

7.     Belong
Denomination does not distinguish the Blue Zones people, however most belong to a faith-based community. Attending faith-based ceremonies on a weekly basis could add from 4 up to 14 years of life expectancy. This is most likely due to the sense of community.

8.     Loved ones first
Blue Zone centenarians believe in family values. Individuals tend to keep aging parents and grandparents nearby or in the home (it lowers disease and mortality rates of children in the home too!). They usually commit to a life partner (a virtue that can add up to 3 years of life expectancy) and invest in their children with time and love.

9.     Right tribe
Blue Zones people live in social communities that support healthy behaviours. In Okinawa, people have created ‘moais’, which are a group of five friends who commit to each other for life.

Further reading



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