I’ve published over 150 blog posts on this site but today I’m asking YOU to help me on what you most want to know on all things seafood. I want to know your questions about fish!
In less than one month I will be on 7-day immersion trip to Alaska to learn all about salmon and seafood. The trip is build on 4 pillars of education, fishing, Alaska, and fellowship.
I’m preparing my list of questions, but I want to know what is of most interest to you so I can write about any or all of the following:
Wild-caught vs. farm-raised salmon nutritional differences
Fresh, frozen, or canned salmon? Which is best?
How to choose a fish oil supplement
Which fish is the richest on omega-3 fatty acids?
Does the preparation method (frying vs. grilling) alter the good fats?
So, please hit me up with your questions and I promise to come back with great information, amazing photos, and some interesting tales of being on a trawler in Bristol Bay (think “Deadliest Catch,” on second thought, I hope not too dangerous), sport fishing, touring the world’s largest floating seafood plant, hiking in Katmai National Parkto watch bears catching salmon, and much more.
You can send questions by commenting at the bottom of this post, by email at email@example.com or on twitter @chrisrosenbloom
How many of you enjoyed a cookout over the Memorial Day weekend? With summer right around the corner, grilling becomes even more popular. But, how many of you know that much of what you do to protect yourself, family, and friends from food poisoning begins and ends with what you do in your own kitchen? Food poisoning is more prevalent in the summer because bacteria multiply fast when the weather is warm and cooking outdoors means many food safety rules are view as suggestions that are easily ignored.
Food recalls seem to be everyday news, with the latest being 62,000 pounds of ground beef recalled and when you hear about these recalls it means that our food safety system is working. But, no one is going to recall Uncle Bob’s famous BBQ chicken or yummy guacamole if he makes some common mistakes in the kitchen or at the grill. Let’s see how well you spot Uncle Bob’s food safety no-nos. (Hint: there are 8 food safety rules broken and possibly 4 more!)
Uncle Bob buys cut up chicken parts at the grocery store and being an environmentally conscious consumer, brings his own reusable cloth bags. To save space when packing his groceries at checkout he packs the heavy melons on the bottom of the bag and puts the chicken on top, placing lighter items, like avocados and tomatoes in the top of the bag.
After shopping, Uncle Bob passes his golf club and decides to make a last-minute stop at the driving range to hit a few balls. An hour later, he heads home and unpacks his groceries, placing the chicken on the top shelf of the fridge.
To prepare for the BBQ, he washes the chicken in the kitchen sink and puts the washed pieces in a large bowl and pours his special BBQ sauce over chicken. As the meat marinates, he slices the melon using the same knife he used to trim the chicken. He cuts the avocados (using the same cutting board and knife) to make guacamole.
As his guests arrive, he turns on the gas to preheat the grill and slaps the chicken on the grates. While cooking, he uses some of the BBQ marinade to baste the chicken. To check for doneness, he cuts into a piece to visually judge it. Satisfied the chicken is thoroughly cooked, he puts the pieces back in the bowl with the remaining marinade and dinner is served!
Uncle Bob may have served up more than BBQ chicken; from grocery store to the dinner table, this meal was a recipe for disaster.
Mistake #1: Raw chicken should never be placed on top of other foods, especially fruits and veggies. Juices can drip down contaminating any food that it touches.
Mistake #2: It’s a big no-no to leave raw chicken in a hot car. Bacteria thrive in warm environments and a hot car is the perfect incubator for growing nasty bugs. In the summer, remember the 2-hour rule…never keep food out on a counter (or a hot car!) for more than 2 hours, and when the temps soar, the 2-hour rule becomes the 1-hour rule.
Mistake #3: Don’t store raw poultry on the top shelf of the fridge unless you put it on a plate to catch the juices (same idea as in mistake #1).
Mistake #4: Stop washing raw chicken! Washing it in the sink or rinsing in a colander can spread the raw juices around sink, counter tops, and other foods that might be near by (like the melon or avocados that Uncle Bob is prepping for dinner). Cross contamination is never good!
Mistake #5: Speaking of cross contamination, always wash the cutting board and knife in hot soapy water before using it to cut veggies or fruits. Better yet, have separate cutting boards for produce and raw meats.
Mistake #6: Reusing the marinade on the chicken could spread bacteria lingering in the sauce from the raw chicken. It is better to have some extra sauce in a separate dish that hasn’t been in contact with raw poultry.
Mistake # 7: Give Uncle Bob a food thermometer as a host gift! Chicken should be cooked to an internal temperature of a 165 degrees F. as measured with a thermometer, not Uncle Bob’s eyes. Need another good reason to use a thermometer? There will be no danger of overcooking! Moist and tender chicken is the goal, not an overdone, tough bird.
Mistake #8: More cross contamination going on by putting the cooked chicken in the same unwashed bowl used to marinate the raw chicken. Once the chicken goes on the grill, take the used bowl or plate back to the kitchen sink for a thorough washing before reusing.
How many mistakes did you spot? And, what about the 4 possible infractions?
#1: Using cloth reusable bags is becoming more popular as we consider the environmental impact of plastic grocery bags, but did you know they can harbor bacteria if not washed? Toss bags in the laundry to keep them clean. In other words, “keep them clean while going green.”
#2: Did Uncle Bob wash his hands before starting the food preparation? Let’s hope so because the dirtiest piece of equipment in your kitchen is your hands.
#3: Always wash melons or avocados under running water and use a scrub brush to wash the rind or peel. Why you ask, since you only eat what is on the inside? Dirt can harbor bacteria and when you slice through the rind, bacteria can be transferred to the flesh. So, wash first, cut second, then eat and enjoy.
#4: How clean is the grill? Keeping the grill clean makes the food taste better by removing grease (which can hold on to bacteria) and carbon deposits which can cause uneven heating. For tips on how to keep your grill in top shape, click here.
So, now you are prepared for a summer time full of great cookouts with good food and no bad bugs! For more information on home food safety click here and here.
Strategies for losing weight and maintaining weight are not the same!
Weight loss is a national obsession and even older women are seeking the perfect weight loss plan (one that usually promises quick weight loss without cutting calories or being active!) We are bombarded with social media images (thanks, Instagram) of flawless women of all ages and magazine covers of swimsuit clad celebrities who never age (thanks, Botox, professional make up artists, and Photoshop). So, it is no surprise that the number one question I’m asked is about weight loss.
As women age, biology works against us to lose or even maintain our weight. As estrogen levels decline body fat stores increase and more fat is stored in the abdomen (the dreaded “belly fat”) and we have less fat in the periphery (arms and legs) as it migrates to the middle. And, if we do manage to lose weight, biology gives us another punch by slowing metabolism and ramping up hunger hormones (for a great overview of the biology of weight loss check out this link.)
So, what’s a woman to do? Let’s give three tips for losing weight and three more for keeping it off.
#1: Move the focus off weight and onto health. A quick weight loss plan might make a visible change on the number on the scale but could have lasting negative consequences for your muscle and bone. A focus on body composition management (as we talked about in this post ) instead of weight loss is the better goal. Make changes that you can live with for the rest of your life. You may think, “I can give up carbs forever,” but, trust me, you can’t, and you don’t have to.
#2: Stop thinking you can out exercise a poor diet. Exercise during a weight loss plan is important to preserve muscle mass and bone, but by itself it won’t do much for weight loss unless you are an ultra-marathoner. Every year, the Kiwanis Club in my town sponsors a 2-day bike ride, Challenge of the Centuries, comprised of rides of 30, 60, and 100 miles. Following the ride, most visit the street festival to celebrate. So, if a 170-pound man cycles 14-15 miles per hour for 2 hours (about a 30-mile bike ride) he will burn about 1500 calories; sounds great but if after the end of the ride he eats BBQ pork sandwich with a side of coleslaw, fries and sweet tea he has consumed about 1500 calories and I’ll bet it won’t him 2 hours to eat the meal.
#3: If you need structure instead of a short-term fix, take the long view and consider a plan like The State of Slim. The program was developed by weight loss researchers at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Center. It’s called State of Slim because Colorado has the fittest and leanest population in the U.S. This 16-week program can help you lose weight and provides the tools you need to keep the weight off. One of the program developers and currently Chairman of Nutrition Sciences and Director of the Nutrition Obesity Research Center at the University of Alabama, Birmingham , Dr. James O. Hill, says that program provides what people are looking for in a program. “In the short term, it provides satiety to keep hunger down, in the long-term it provides not only satiety but weight maintenance, and the lasting legacy is that improves overall health, specifically cardiometabolic health.”
When it comes to weight maintenance, a new set of tactics are needed.
#1: “Diet drives the bus in weight loss, but in weight maintenance diet goes in the back seat and physical activity drives the bus,” is how Dr. Hill and his colleague, Dr. Holly Wyatt sum it up. A recent study published in the journal Obesityshowed that high levels of physical activity are found in individuals who maintain their weight after a substantial weight loss. To avoid regaining weight, exercise is paramount.
#2: Eat high quality protein foods to help suppress hunger and preserve muscle mass. With higher levels of physical activity, protein can help repair muscle damage after exercise and provide the building blocks for muscle protein synthesis. High quality protein choices include lean beef or pork, poultry, fish and seafood, and for the vegetarians, soy protein.
#3: Take a page from those who have lost weight and maintained the weight loss. They self-monitor, practice dietary restraint, eat breakfast, and as stated in #1, have high levels of physical activity. Dietary restraint isn’t the same as dieting; but it helps to be mindful of your food choices and when you overindulge don’t wait until Monday or January 2 to start back on eating healthfully.
For more insights into weight loss for those over 50 years, see our chapter on weight maintenance inFood & Fitness After 50. And, if you want to take a quick assessment on learning more about your weight, click here.
Alice, in her early 60s, talks the talk and walks the walk when it comes to understanding the connection between diet and cancer. I interviewed her about her personal journey to optimal aging and what we should all know about diet and cancer. She is the Senior Director for Nutrition Programs for the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) and for the past 10 years, she has developed and coordinated nutrition programming and communicators for the Institute.
Tell me about your path to your current work with AICR.
For many years I worked in college health, first at Stanford and then for 16 years at the University of Georgia. In my role as the Health Center nutrition provider, I was a staff of one, so I learned to do everything, from student counseling to communications to working with a team of health professionals to keep the students as healthy possible. When my husband took a job in the Washington DC area I wasn’t sure what direction I wanted to go. I knew about AICR and when a position came available for nutrition communications, it turned out to be the right job at the right time for me. An important part of my job is keeping health professionals up to date on the evidence surrounding diet and cancer and that really appealed to me. Doctors, nurses, physical therapists, and other health professionals spend a lot of time with patients, but they don’t have adequate nutrition training. By helping them understand evidenced-based information we hope they pass along sound nutrition information when they talk to people.
Has working with AICR changed the eating habits of your family?
We’ve always eaten healthfully but we made some changes when I learned more about the diet-cancer connection. We were always a brown-bag lunch family, but I stopped making sandwiches with processed deli meats as our guidelines suggest eating less red and processed meat to reduce cancer risk. We adopted AICR’s simple rule: the 2/3 and 1/3 plate rule, that is to make 2/3 or more of your plate whole grains, beans, fruits, and veggies and 1/3 or less animal protein. That is a simple rule that is easily followed. My daughters are now in the thirties with their own families and they are proud of their nutrition savvy as they plan meals for their families.
I hear many older adults say, “it’s too late for me to prevent cancer, the damage is done, so why bother?” What would you say to that idea?
It is simply not true….it is never too late, or too early, to lower your risk for cancer. It is our choices over time that matter most. When you start choosing healthier foods, like a black bean, tuna or salmon burger instead of a bacon cheeseburger, you will reap health benefits. Lowering blood pressure, reducing blood sugar and insulin levels, losing a few pounds, and decreasing inflammation changes your body’s environment and that can reduce cancer risk. You will put yourself in a better position to remain healthy through the foods you choose.
The AICR has so much helpful information on the website, but is there one site that you think everyone should know about?
Complement your current healthy weight/ lifestyle program
When you sign up you’ll receive a weekly challenge for 12 weeks, with support emails for motivation, along with tips, tools, and recipes to help you meet the challenge. There is also support from a private Facebook community. We’ve reached thousands of people with the challenge. Instead of celebrity challenges to give up carbs for a month, why not challenge yourself with something that will benefit you for a lifetime?
We’ve been talking about cancer prevention, but there is also a wealth of information for cancer survivors on your website. As a 13-year breast cancer survivor, I appreciate the science-based information on your website as compared to the science fiction that is circulating on the Internet.
We are learning so much about nutrition for cancer survivors. We encourage survivors to follow the same cancer prevention guidelines for everyone. Emerging research shows that mortality rates are lower for cancer survivors when they follow our guidelines. We have a program, AICR iTHRIVE for cancer survivors that provides helpful information and specific, doable steps to take related to all dimensions of wellness.
What are your keys for wellness as you age?
Besides eating healthfully, I’m physically active and my activity has evolved over the years. When I was on a college campus it was easy to exercise by taking advantage of the student and staff fitness facilities and I played a lot of tennis on UGA’s courts. When I moved to DC a big part of my daily physical activity came from using public transportation on my commute. Walking to bus or train stations adds activity every day. And, DC is such a great walking city.
My husband is a bird watcher, so we love to hike. And, we discovered Park Run USA, free, weekly timed 5K (3.1 miles) walk/run events. We love spending Saturdays with this great community and I just completed by 50th park run. It is more than exercise…it is fun, and we’ve bonded with many others who show up each week to participate.
The community aspect of the weekly run is another important part of aging well. Finding your tribe, be it community, church, political, or otherwise, contributes to the social support that we all need as we age.
And, lastly, I maintain an intellectual curiosity to learn new things. In the field of nutrition there is always something new to learn and I’m also intrigued by technology and how to use the many tools to communicate health, nutrition, and fitness information in as many ways as I can.
What challenges have you faced as you’ve aged?
Probably the biggest personal challenge is time to do everything I want to do! I work full-time and have a 45 minute to an hour commute to and from work, am inclined to want to be involved in many things, but find I tire a bit more easily. That could be related to over-committing. I certainly don’t stay up as late as I used to!
A professional challenge is the amount of information, and much of it is misinformation, about nutrition. At AICR I hear so many myths that just won’t die! We have a section on our website Healthy or Harmful to help dispel the most common myths, such as soy is harmful for cancer survivors.
Any words of wisdom for others?
I encourage people to get out of their echo chambers and spend time with people of all ages. I love seeing how my daughters navigate the world for their children; it is so different than when I was their age. Many of my co-workers are younger and I do enjoy both learning from them. I feel younger when I can work effectively with people of different generations.
I also think that although many people know what healthy food choices are, we, as dietitians, need to understand the behavioral issues at play that influence people to make the choices they make. I want to better understand how we can tap into behavioral strategies to keep us all healthy for as long as possible.
I originally wrote this post for the Grain Foods Foundation and I thought the information was valuable for my readers. I hope you think so, too.
Most likely you’ve heard someone say, “I’ve cut all refined and processed foods, including white bread, from my diet.” Considering the definition of refined means “free from impurities, fastidious, or cultivated,” it’s curious that refined grains have taken on a negative connotation. What if removing refined grains was not necessary for good health and could contribute to having fewer healthful nutrients in your diet?
Dr. Glenn Gaesser, Professor of Exercise Science and Health Promotion and Director of the Healthy Lifestyles Research Center, Arizona State University, wanted to find out why refined grains are viewed as unhealthy by so many people, including recommendations from the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans Committee (DGAC). In a recent paper, Professor Gaesser uncovered several noteworthy facts and posed several questions:
Recommendations to increase whole grain intake to reduce risk of many chronic diseases, including obesity, is clear. “There is rock solid evidence for the benefits of eating whole grains,” says Dr. Gaesser, yet only 2% to 7% of Americans meet the recommendation to consume at least one-half of grains from whole grains.
While the DGAC recommends consuming half of grains from whole grains and reducing the intake of refined grains, the committee only reviewed evidence that looked at dietary patterns, not refined grains specifically.
An “unhealthy dietary pattern” as defined in the research studies evaluated by the DGAC included red and processed meat, sugar-laden foods and drinks, French fries, full-fat dairy foods, and refined grains. What if refined grains are guilty by association with the other foods in this unhealthful dietary pattern?
Refined grains include not only staple foods, like bread, rice, cereal, and pasta, but also cookies, cakes, doughnuts, brownies, muffins, sweet rolls, and even pizza! Are all refined grains created equal when it comes to health effects?
Untangling the evidence
Looking at multiple studies, called meta-analyses, that included 32 publications with 24 distinct groups of people, refined grain intake was not linked to an increase risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, type 2 diabetes, cancer, or obesity. In fact, one meta-analysis reported that higher consumption of refined grain was associated with a 5% lower risk of death from any cause. But you wouldn’t know that from the headlines blaming refined grains on all the world’s ills.
The “eat-only-whole-grains” message has become predominant in nutrition reporting. It is typical to pit foods against each other, to crown one food as good and healthful and another food as bad and unhealthy. However, the evidence to support that dichotomy for whole and refined grains doesn’t hold up upon further scrutiny. Dr. Gaesser’s investigation found that eating up to six or seven serving of refined grains does not increase the risk for many of the chronic disease affecting Americans.
An unintended consequence
While refined grains have been demonized, it is useful to remember that refined grains contribute more than just energy (calories) to our diets. Refined grains are enriched or fortified (see sidebar for definitions) with B-vitamins and iron. Eating refined grains can alleviate shortfalls of thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and iron. Folic acid, a B-vitamin needed for healthy nerve and spinal cord development for babies, is found in refined grains and these grains are the largest contributor of folic acid in the diet. Refined grains also contribute dietary fiber, a nutrient sorely lacking in the diets of most Americans. “Grain foods contribute about 55% of all fiber in the American diet and about 40% of fiber intake comes from refined grains,” says Professor Gaesser.
Putting it all together
What does this research mean for you? First, it is helpful to realize that you should know your stuff before you cut. There is no reason to cut refined grains from your diet. Enjoying up to seven servings a day will contribute to nutrient intakes of several vitamins and minerals, and dietary fiber, and will not up your risk of disease.
It is also useful to think about refined grains in two distinct categories:
Staple grains, such as bread, rolls, rice, and pasta
Indulgent grains, such as cakes, cookies, pies, doughnuts, and other sweet desserts
Eat more grains from the staple category and less from the indulgent group. The sweet, indulgent group of grain foods contain higher levels of fat and sugar than the staple grains.
Continue to include whole grains in your diet, but there is no need to eliminate the refined, staple grains.
Whole grains: A grain containing all three parts of the grain: the bran, germ, and the endosperm. Whole grains contain fiber, antioxidants, the mineral magnesium, B vitamins, and plant compounds called phytonutrients that have many healthful properties.
Enriched grains: Enrichment is the process of replacing nutrients that were removed when the whole grain was processed. Enriched grains have B-vitamins niacin, riboflavin, and thiamin, and the mineral iron added back to the grain at levels similar to the original whole grain. About 95% of white flour is enriched; therefore breads, pastas, cereals, rolls, tortillas, and pretzels made from white flour are enriched with nutrients.
Fortified grains: Fortification is the addition of nutrients to a food where they are not naturally occurring. Milk is fortified with vitamin D to help the naturally occurring calcium be better absorbed. Grains are fortified with the B-vitamin folic acid at two to three times the levels found in the whole grain to help reduce birth defects.
Refined grains: Grains that have been processed to remove the bran. In the U.S. the terms refined, enriched, and fortified grains are used interchangeably.
The Grain Foods Foundation has website devoted to Healthy Aging, so check it out!
“The human body is basically a leaky bag of water with legs.”
Dr. Bob Murray
April is National Pickleball Month! Did you know it is one of the fastest growing sports in America? Pickleballhas been described as mashup of ping pong, tennis, and racquetball. If you’ve never seen pickleball in action, here is a clip to introduce you to the sport.
Because so many older adults have taken up the sport (it is so popular at my YMCA the parking lot is often overflowing!) we’ve been asked about hydration strategies. To answer your questions, I turned to hydration expert, friend, and co-author of Food & Fitness After 50, Dr. Bob Murray. Dr. Bob was the director of the Gatorade Sports Science Institute for over 20 years, so he knows a thing or two (or maybe a hundred) about hydration.
I’m a recreational pickleball player who plays for 1-2 hours with plenty of breaks, but my husband is a competitive player and may play 3-4 hours a day, several times a week. How do our hydration needs differ?
The volume of fluid we need to drink each day varies widely due to several factors. Body size, the environment in which we live, our natural predisposition to sweating, and how much physical activity we do help determine how much fluid we need to stay well hydrated. For example, a large person who works up a sweat in a warm environment might need to drink two gallons of fluid (256 oz) over the course of a day to stay hydrated whereas a small individual who stays indoors and just putters around during the day might require only two quarts of fluid (64 oz). As a rule of thumb, we all need to consume at least 2 to 4 quarts of fluid each day and for those who sweat a lot, that volume can sometimes exceed 10 quarts each day. Another rule of thumb is that about 20% of our daily fluid needs comes from the foods we eat (most fruits and vegetables have especially high water content), while the remaining 80% comes from the various beverages we drink. In that regard, all beverages count toward our hydration. Colas, coffees, teas, and yes, even beers and wines, can contribute to keeping us hydrated (although beer or wine might affect the hand-eye coordination needed for pickleball, so save that beverage for post-play.) The only exception is shots of alcohol because the high alcohol content promotes the loss of urine. During physical activity, the loss of sweat can range from as little as 8 ounces each hour to over 60 ounces per hour in those who sweat heavily. That’s a lot of fluid and it is best replaced during physical activity by drinking at regular intervals.
I play both indoors and outdoors, any difference in hydration advice?
The best advice is to drink enough during physical activity to minimize dehydration because from both a health and a performance standpoint, it is always better to be well hydrated than even slightly dehydrated. Depending on conditions, we can lose a lot of sweat during indoor or outdoor exercise, so it’s wise to keep fluid nearby anytime we work up a sweat.
I play outdoors and just drink water and then when I got home I drink diluted fruit juice. Is that a good hydration strategy?
The best hydration strategy is to drink enough to minimize weight loss during physical activity, without over-drinking. If the combination of water and diluted fruit juice accomplishes that, then that’s a good hydration strategy. How do we know how much to drink during exercise? On days when you know you are going to be sweating, weigh yourself just before exercise and then again soon after. If you’ve lost more than a pound or two, that’s a pretty good sign that you need to drink more to prevent performance-sapping dehydration. If you’ve gained weight, that’s a clear indication that you drank too much and can do with less.
When I play in pickleball tournaments, and I win, I continue to play. My first match is at 8 AM and it may last 45 minutes or so. If I keep winning, I may play 5-6 matches. Often, I will sit out for extended periods of time waiting for a court or for a match to end, so may not end up playing my last match until late afternoon. Any advice for staying hydrated during the long tournament days?
This is a great example of conditions where daily fluid needs will be very high. Drinking during the games to minimize dehydration will be vital to staying hydrated, as will drinking enough between games to ensure that you begin the next game well hydrated. Under these kinds of circumstances, it is best to rely on a variety of fluids including water, sports drinks, and juices to help you stay hydrated.
Can I over-consume electrolyte drinks? How do I how much is too much?
Typical sports drinks do not contain enough electrolytes (minerals) to pose a risk of over consumption. Some athletes have overdone electrolyte supplements such as salt tablets or electrolyte powders and, in those cases, upset stomachs and nausea can result and those symptoms are usually enough to make people stop taking them before serious medical problems can occur. One of the benefits of relying on sports drinks rather than just plain water is that the electrolytes in sports drink aid hydration by helping us drink more and lose less (as urine). The electrolytes in sports drinks promote the drive to drink and we retain the fluid more than when we drink plain water.
Seems like pickle juice was made for pickleball….is it a hydrating beverage? I heard the acid in the pickle juice can stop cramps. True?
Pickle juice definitely contains electrolytes, but most people can’t drink enough pickle juice to stay well hydrated. It is true that pickle juice has been shown to reduce the duration of muscle cramps, so if you are prone to cramping, you might give a shot of straight pickle juice a try the next time you feel a cramp coming on.
I open a mustard packet and squirt it my mouth when I start to get cramps…I’ve heard the turmeric in the mustard stops cramps. Is that true?
There are lots of “cures’ for muscle cramps that include everything from eating a packet of mustard to pinching your top lip. The latest research shows that cramps can be stopped or reduced by stimulating receptors in the mouth, throat, and stomach that in turn reduce the excess nerve activity that causes cramping. Pickle juice and mustard both fit that description, although stronger spices such as capsaicin, ginger, and cinnamon might be more effective. Turmeric is an anti-inflammatory that gives mustard the yellow color, but it is not known to halt exercise-induced muscle cramps.
For more on hydration strategies, see our chapter on staying well hydrated in Food & Fitness After 50, sold at Amazon and other booksellers.
Poly means many and polypharmacy refers to taking many drugs, prescription as well as over the counter, that can bring unwanted problems for older adults. Some people have shoe boxes full of prescription medicines, vitamin supplements, pain relievers, and other dietary supplements claiming to cure all ills. But, what if there was a polypill; one pill that could help us all improve our healthspan? In today’s post, Dr. Bob Murray, co-author of Food & Fitness After 50,lets us in on the secret of a polypill.
This post was written by Dr. Bob Murray
There is little doubt that regular physical activity lengthens our healthspan—the number of years when we are in good health. Lots of research has made it clear that no medication is more effective than physical activity in helping us stay as healthy as possible for as long as possible. For that reason, exercise has been referred to as a pollypill —a medication with multiple benefits.
A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) concluded that all the physical activity we encounter during the course of a normal day has a role in preventing heart disease. The researchers looked at the daily physical activity habits of 5,861 older women (average age was 78) over a 5-year period and found that even light activity reduced the chances of death from heart disease.
Only about 25% of adults in the U.S. achieve the current recommendations for physical activity of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity (or 75 minutes of high-intensity activity) each week. For anyone who is intimidated by the prospect of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week, the notion that all movement counts may well promote more light physical activity during the day. Let’s hope that’s the case.
Walking, dusting, vacuuming, climbing stairs at home, gardening and lawn work, playing with children and pets, and similar low-intensity activities are part of everyday life for most Americans. In the JAMA study, the older women engaged in a total of 3 to over 6 hours of light physical activity each day. Not surprisingly, more physical activity was associated with lower risk of heart disease, a finding that is likely also true for older men, although that likelihood awaits confirmation.
Any time we get our heart, lungs, and muscles out of their comfort zones—even for a little bit—our bodies benefit. A quick look at the list of health benefits of physical activity should be enough to convince even the most sedentary person to move more.
Lower deaths from all causes
Lower risk of heart disease
Lower risk of hypertension
Lower risk of stroke
Lower risk of Type 2 Diabetes
Lower risk of breast, colon, and prostate cancers
Lower risk of serious falls
Lower risk of complications after surgery
Lower risk of metabolic syndrome (includes obesity)
Lower risk of depression (and reduces the severity of depression)
Better memory and cognitive function
Better bone health
Improved quality of life
Greater life expectancy
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if even light physical activity conferred all those same benefits, even if to a lesser extent than more vigorous physical activity? There is a strong possibility that is the case, although much more research is needed to confirm that educated guess. What is known is that moving more during the day is a goal we all should embrace.
In general, Americans sit too often for too long. Research has shown that prolonged sitting increases the risk of heart disease, type 2 Diabetes, and cancer. Even if we exercise during the day, sitting for hours on end increases our risk of those disorders. Happily, interrupting prolonged sitting with periodic 5-minute physical activity “snacks” counters the negative aspects of sitting. Climbing a few flights of stairs, taking a brisk walk, or doing simple calisthenics can be easily accomplished during a 5-minute break.
Physical activity is indeed a polypill that can help us lead longer, happier, healthier lives and the fact that all movement counts helps make it easier for all of us to keep moving toward a longer healthspan.
Dr. Bob Murray is an exercise physiologist and managing principal of a sports science consulting company. His passion for exercise and health began as a physical education teacher and coach, and continues today in his late 60s as an avid swimmer, cyclist, and fitness fan.
I recently returned from Chicago from the annual American College of Sports Medicine Health & Fitness Summit. My friend and co-author of Food & Fitness After 50 , Dr. Bob Murray, and I gave a talk titled “Is 70 the New 40?” Since Bob and I are closer to 70 than 65, we say YES to that question!
For those of you who have not yet reached 70, what does it take to feel like you are still 40? And, for those you who have reached your 70th birthday, what does it take to stay on the path to optimal aging?
Here are some key takeaways from our talk as well as some other experts who spoke at the conference, emphasizing what we’ve been saying along….eat well, move well, and be well!
#1. Lift weights. Whether you call it strength or resistance training, maintaining muscle mass is critical to healthy aging. Our muscle mass peaks around age 25 and holds steady until about 40, but then declines about 1% per year until age 65. The loss of strength is even greater…. about 2 to 4% per year. The good news is that we can easily preserve our muscle mass and strength with a couple of bouts of resistance weight training each week.
We all know the exercise guidelines call for 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise and “also” strength train two days a week. The word “also” was troubling to key note speaker Dr. Eric Rawson. Adding strength training is almost an afterthought; it would be “nice” to do it, but it doesn’t get the recognition it deserves in preserving health. “There are under-recognized benefits to strength training,” says Dr. Rawson. Strength underpins skill and if you increase strength it helps with overall physical activity. Think about the ability to climb stairs as an example. It takes leg strength to climb stairs which may be why so many people use escalators or elevators instead of stairs. Dr. Rawson says it’s not that aerobic or endurance exercise isn’t good, it’s just that both aerobic and strength are needed for optimal aging. “If exercise is medicine, then resistance exercise is a gateway drug,” claims Dr. Rawson.
#2. Weight training has more benefits than building or maintaining muscle. Dr. Stu Phillips elaborated on the health benefits of strength training in his presentation. He reviewed the most recent evidence showing that resistance training “has health-related benefits that are not dissimilar to those imbued by aerobic exercise.” Strength training reduces the risk for falls and is an effective treatment for type 2 diabetes, some cancers, anxiety and depression. Dr. Bob Murray lists many benefits from strength training in our chapter on getting and maintaining muscle and strength:
Stabilizing arthritic joints
Increasing resting metabolism
Increasing social interaction
Lowering risk of all-cause mortality
Lowering risk of osteoporosis
Lowering risk of lower back pain
Lowering risk of obesity
Accelerated recovery from illness or injury
Improved self confidence
As Dr. Bob likes to say, “The strong live long!”
#3. Maintain your body weight and if you want to lose weight, stay away from quick weight loss schemes.
I’m a big believer in monitoring your body weight so “weight creep” doesn’t happen. No one gains 30 pounds overnight, but they do gain 1 or 2 pounds a year without realizing it and as the years go by, the pounds add up. When you find yourself wanting to lose weight, the quick weight loss plan du jour seems tempting. But, as we age, weight loss should not be the goal. Instead, “body composition management is more important than weight management to enhance successful aging,” says Dr. Ellen Evans, in her special lecture, “Helping Baby Boomers Stay Functional.”
What Dr. Evans means by managing body composition is that older adults who want to lose weight really want to lose body fat while preserving lean muscle and bone. According to Dr. Evans, “regular physical activity, especially resistance training exercise, in addition to caloric restriction attenuates the loss of muscle and bone mass loss and increasing dietary protein intake enhances this effect.” The idea that we lose lean muscle during weight loss wasn’t new to me, but I never thought about the negative impact of weight loss on bone health. There is no cure for osteoporosis, so we need to do everything we can to preserve bone mass and bone strength as we age.
So, is 70 the new 40? It can be if you manage your body composition, strength train twice a week, and also keep up your aerobic exercise.
Learn more about eating well, moving well, and being well in Food & Fitness After 50,available at Amazon and other book sellers.
A friend asked a simple question, “should I take a probiotic supplement?” I wish there was a simple “yes” or “no” answer, as I’m sure that is what she wanted. But, as with many questions in nutrition, the answer is it depends. It depends on:
What is the reason for taking a probiotic supplement?
Is there a specific health problem that you are trying to alleviate by taking a probiotic supplement?
What dietary sources of probiotics are you consuming? And, is your diet rich in not only probiotics, but prebiotics and dietary fiber? Diets high in fat, sugar, and excess alcohol do not promote the good bacteria in our guts, while a diet rich in fiber, fruits, vegetables, pro-and prebiotics contribute to a healthy balance of bacteria in our guts. (For more information on dietary sources of pre-and probiotics, click here and here.)
I had the chance to ask Dr. Anthony Thomas, Director of Scientific Affairs for Jarrow Formulas* to help us navigate the landscape on probiotic supplements. First, let’s understand that probiotics won’t completely alter your gut microbiome because “probiotics do not sustainably colonize the adult gut, but should be thought of as temporary, transient residents that interact with the body and its microbial ecosystem to influence function and health,” according to Dr. Thomas.
Let’s start with the definition of probiotics:
“Live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host” (WHO/FAO definition).
The key words in that sentence, according to Dr. Thomas are live when administered, adequate amounts, and health benefit.
He explained that the probiotic has to be live when you take it. How do you know? “Choose products that include the “Best Used Before Date” date and avoid products that declare potency “at time of manufacture,” as this measurement does not reflect the amount still alive when purchased and consumed. A transparent, quality manufacturer lists the guaranteed minimum number of live cells, measured in CFUs, per serving when stored as recommended and used prior to the “best used before date.” Dr. Thomas goes on to explain that while probiotics don’t really expire, but the number of live cells may not meet label claims if not stored as stated on the label and used beyond that date. The “time at manufacture” almost certainly over represents the quantity of live cells because the normal manufacturing process results in some die-off of live probiotics.
Adequate amounts mean not only quantity of probiotics in a supplement, but quality. “Probiotics are strain, dose, and condition specific.” Strains should be designated on a supplement label, so you know what you are getting. Dr. Thomas explains, “not all strains perform equally, and more strains are not better, better strains are better.” For example, if looking for a supplement to help with bowel issues, Lactobacillus (genus) plantarum (species) 229v (strain) is clinically proven to reduce bowel discomfort at dosing of 10 to 20 billion live cells daily.” The probiotic identification chart illustrates the difference between genus, species, and strain in a way that is understandable to those of us who might have forgotten what we learned in biology!
And, that leads us to the last part of the definition, health benefits. A probiotic must be studied to know if it conveys a health benefit. If a label simply says something like 40 billion CFU with 16 probiotic strains, it may or may not be clinically relevant. “Don’t be swayed by a large number of colony forming units (CFUs is how probiotics are measured). What you really want is the right strain in the right amounts,” says Dr. Thomas.
There are a lot of resources to help consumers know if a probiotic meets the definition from the International Scientific Association of Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP). It takes some homework to take the guess work out, but if you are going to pay good money for a supplement, isn’t it worth knowing that it has evidence to support it will do what you want it to do?
I think this statement from the ISAPPsums up what we know, “probiotics are not a “cure all” and it is not necessary to take them to be healthy. But they may help you even if you are generally healthy. Probiotics will have different benefits – look for a product with studies that support the benefit you want.”
Dr. Thomas cautions us to be aware of “disingenuous marketing masquerading as education” for some probiotic supplements. A product claiming to be “ancient” might sound impressive, but if the product doesn’t list the strains, 100 billion CFUs per serving is meaningless.