Food & Fitness After 50: The Scoop on Collagen

Bob bike 2
Dr. Bob enjoying his just desserts after a long bike ride

Survey data from the Council for Responsible Nutrition (a trade association for dietary supplements) shows that 78% of adults over the age of 55 take supplements. Reasons for supplement use include overall wellness and healthy aging. It is no surprise that people are asking about one of the hottest supplements…collagen. I reached out to my friend and co-author of Food & Fitness After 50 to ask him some of your top questions about collagen. Dr. Bob Murray is an exercise physiologist and is passionate about exercise and health. He consults with many companies on hydration, protein, and supplement use in active populations, including older adults.

Let’s start with the basics. What is collagen and are there different types of collagen in the body?

Collagen-structure.800x345-wWe can think of collagen as the glue that holds us together. Collagen is the name for a large family of proteins found in the body.  In fact, there are so many types of collagen proteins that collagen turns out to be the most abundant protein in the body. Collagen proteins make up connective tissues throughout the body.  The term “connective tissues,” makes many people immediately think of tendons, ligaments, and cartilage, three good examples of connective tissues.  Muscles, skin, and bones also contain large amounts of connective tissues and therefore large amounts of the collagen proteins that intertwine to give those tissues the structure, strength, and elasticity required for the many different roles required of connective tissues. It should be obvious that the connective tissue in bone has a different role to play compared to the connective tissue in muscles or skin. That’s why so many different kinds of collagen proteins are needed throughout our bodies.

When I was younger, I remember my friends dissolving Knox gelatin in water and drinking it to strengthen their nails. Is gelatin the same as collagen?

The connective tissues of cows, pigs, and chickens are the primary source of gelatin produced for human consumption.  As a result, gelatin is rich in collagen proteins.

Is collagen a complete protein, that is one that contains all the essential amino acids needed by the body?

Collagen is an incomplete protein and is low in the amino acids that are associated with building muscle mass and strength.  However, collagen proteins are high in two amino acids—glycine and proline—that appear important in stimulating the growth of connective tissues in physically active people.

There are many claims for collagen supplements…from preventing wrinkles and strengthening skin to improving joint flexibility and strengthening muscles and bone. Is there any good human evidence that collagen supplements will help with any of those body systems?

The best way to sum up the current state of affairs is that the benefit claims for consuming collagen are long on theory and short on evidence.  That’s not to say that there isn’t some evidence suggesting benefits to skin, joints and muscles, but that evidence has yet to reach the levels of quality and quantity required to draw comfortable conclusions about the magnitude and reproducibility of the benefits associated with consuming collagen proteins on a regular basis.

It is well known and accepted that protein is needed for muscle protein synthesis, is collagen any better than simply getting more protein from whey protein or other protein-rich sources?

iStock Older man lifting weights smallMaybe, but much more research is needed to either confirm or deny that consuming collagen benefits muscle mass and strength beyond what we know occurs by increasing dietary protein intake. There are a growing number of studies that report benefits to muscle strength, joint pain, and repair of connective tissue, but there are a greater number of studies that report no benefits.  The unsatisfying answer to your question is that we’re going to have to wait and see what future research has to say,

Do you think older adults need to use collagen as a supplement?

Collagen production does naturally decline with age and there are studies that report benefits of collagen consumption in older adults.  Maybe the best news is that there is little to no risk of trying collagen supplements, aside from the possibility of spending money on something that does not work.

There are so many forms of collagen being sold…hydrolyzed, peptides, raw, undenatured and found in various forms from liquids, powders, tablets, chews and even gummies….if someone wanted to take collagen what is the form and dose that is currently recommended?

The current research indicates that the effective dose seems to be 15-20 grams of collagen per day, along with 200-250 mg of vitamin C to aid in collagen synthesis. The body seems to respond best to the presence of collagen peptides—short chains of a few amino acids—and most forms of dietary collagen contain such peptides. Look for products containing hydrolyzed collagen or collagen peptides on the label.

1800ss_getty_rf_vitamin_cI’m glad that Dr. Bob mentioned vitamin C and its role in collagen production. Vitamin C is most frequently thought of a nutrient that helps our immune system, especially fighting the dreaded winter cold, but it has a fascinating history (well, fascinating to most dietitians!). At the end of the 15th century, a disease called scurvy was the major cause of disability and death of sailors undergoing long sea voyages. Without access to fruits or vegetables, sailors developed bleeding gums, lost their teeth, had poor wound healing, and frequently old wounds would open up (called dehiscence). All because they were deficient in vitamin C and its important role in collagen production. Collagen helps anchor teeth in our gums and jawbone, as well as helping to keep skin healthy and elastic. It wasn’t until the 1930s that a Hungarian scientist, Dr. Albert-Szent-Gyorgyi, discovered and isolated ascorbic acid (a contraction of anti-scorbutic), better known as vitamin C.

Dr. Christine Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a nutrition professor emerita at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Along with Dr. Bob Murray, she is the author of Food & Fitness After 50.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved

Food & Fitness After 50: Fun with An Air Fryer

It all started at the beginning of the stay-at-home orders. Like a good dietitian, I took stock of what was in my freezer, fridge, and pantry and planned meals around what was on hand. I mentioned to my husband that we had some Wild Alaska Pollock and Wild Caught Cod filets in the freezer. His response? “I wish I could have fried fish. I love fried fish.” I don’t fry foods and when it comes to fish, I prefer grilling. But it made me think of air frying and with one click, the Ninja AF 101 Air Fryer was in my cart and ready to be shipped.

I have no affiliation with Ninja products but after reading some reviews on consumer websites, the product looked good and the price was right. Once it arrived, it was love at first bite. Using the cooking guide that came with the book I found coating almost anything in flour, egg, and panko breadcrumbs is delicious.

Air Fryer Cookbook for Dummies

514G1VUZdAL._SX397_BO1,204,203,200_Then, serendipity! One of my colleagues, Elizabeth Shaw (@ShawSimpleSwaps), posed a question on social media asking about favorite kitchen appliances and I didn’t think twice as I typed in “air fryer.” She had just published a book with, Wendy Jo Peterson (@Just_WendyJo) called, Air Fryer Cookbook for Dummies (John Wiley & Sons, 2020) and offered to send me a press copy.

So, disclosure, the press copy was free, and I wanted to share my thoughts on the book and the recipes. First, a brief introduction to Wendy Jo and Liz. Wendy Jo is a culinary dietitian, a writer, speaker, and recipe developer. Her clients range from military to musicians and she is known as the “Fuelin’ Roadie” for innovation with recipes. She is the author of numerous books. Liz Shaw is also a registered dietitian and her brand is Shaw Simple Swaps. She is a culinary expert and her mission is getting people to enjoy food and make small changes to reap big rewards. Please visit their websites for amazing recipes and other great food and nutrition information.

Too Many Great Recipes to Choose From!

But, back to the book. The first thing I liked about the recipes is the use of ingredients you are likely to have in your kitchen…important in a pandemic when we are not out shopping in specialty grocery stores and online delivery is hit or miss. You won’t find cold-pressed, double-filtered organic grapeseed oil or any other hard to find (and expensive to buy) ingredient in any of the recipes….thank you Liz and Wendy Jo.

I flipped through the recipes and truly I wanted to try them all, but I settled on one from each section and using ingredients I had in my house. First up was “Crispy Fried Chicken,” and it didn’t disappoint. I had thinly sliced chicken breasts in the freezer, so I cut them into strips for chicken tenders. I found that my 4-quart air fryer cooks a bit faster than the recipe times call for, so some trial to adjust cooking times is in order. I loved how crispy and golden brown the chicken turned out. Each recipe has notes, tips, and suggestion on how to vary it. We made a dipping sauce with honey and mustard, using one of the tips.

fishingOn to that “fried” fish my husband was craving. I got lucky because my brother-in-law hired a fishing guide to take them out on our lake to hook some fresh fish. As you can see in the photo, the trip was a success and we had bass filets ready for the Air Fryer. I tried the recipe, “Lightened Up Breaded-Fish Filets.” It was equally as good as the fresh salmon I had in Alaska last summer. Can’t wait to try it with my frozen filets, too.

AF FD - Tuna Melt 2
Tuna Melt

Next up was another of my husband’s favorite dishes, Eggplant Parmesan, and he declared it excellent, although he suggested we add some gooey, melty fresh mozzarella cheese next time we make it. Last night, for a quick dinner we tried the Tuna Melt and it was grilled to perfection.

Side dishes are a snap in the Air Fryer and there are plenty of recipes for veggies. The Crispy Herb Potatoes beats French Fries any day and I love the chapter on “Ten (or so) No-Recipe Recipes that Make Perfect Sides.” From Brussels Sprout to Zucchini, you can quickly make a tasty side dish to accompany any entrée. I tried the Brussels Sprouts with Bacon this past weekend and I could have eaten the entire dish by myself!

My only “fail” was in the baking section. I tried Cinnamon Sugar Donut Holes, but they were dry. Good flavor, but crumbly texture. I know I will need to adjust temperatures and times to fit my Air Fryer when baking.

Tips and Tricks

In addition to the recipes, the authors give loads of tips and tricks for using an Air Fryer. As a newbie to this device, I found helpful information to get the best results from my Air Fryer. For example, they suggest coating the basket with olive oil instead of using popular cooking sprays. Commercial cooking sprays contain chemicals that can corrode the basket, so I ordered an inexpensive mister and filled it with olive oil to keep foods from sticking.

They also recommend using a meat thermometer to insure proper cooking temperatures. I always recommend using a meat thermometer instead of guessing if the food is done. Not only does using a meat thermometer help you avoid under-cooked food, but it also prevents over cooking.

Additional Benefits for Older Adults

As many older adults find themselves empty-nesters, I think an Air Fryer is a perfect appliance for healthy, quick meals for one or two people Using it for delicious veggie sides or dehydrating veggies for chips (I have not tried the dehydration setting yet!), it is easy to use and easy to clean.

Some people describe an Air Fryer as just another convection oven, but I find it easier to use than the convection oven setting. Cooking times in the Air Fryer are faster than the oven and the food comes out crispy on the outside but tender on the inside.

I live in the south where there is an affinity for fried foods. An Air Fryer gives you the taste of fried food without the excess calories and saturated fat. Another plus is that cooking with an Air Fryer keeps the kitchen cool. No one wants to turn on a hot oven or sweat over a greasy frying pan on a summer day in Georgia.

While I am not an RVer, many of my friends are, and in the Air Fryer Cheat Sheet for Dummies the authors suggest it is a great appliance for the RV lifestyle.

If you’ve got an Air Fryer hiding in a closet, dig it out and try some of these great recipes. And, if you are like me and looking to try something new, I recommend an Air Fryer and Liz and Wendy Jo’s cookbook! A big thanks to Wendy Jo and Liz for showing me all the ways to use my favorite new purchase.

Dr. Christine Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a nutrition professor emerita at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Along with Dr. Bob Murray, she is the author of Food & Fitness After 50.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved

 

Food & Fitness After 50: Finding the Silver Lining for Active Older Adults During the Pandemic

Food & Fitness After 50 is built on the pillars of eating well, moving well, and being well. So, when Tivity Health, the parent company of of SilverSneakers™, invited me to be a member of their scientific advisory board, I enthusiastically agreed. SilverSneakers embraces the same principles that I hold and while most people think of it as an exercise program, they have an equal emphasis on health, wellness, nutrition and connectivity.

iStock-Older couple runningNow with in-person group exercise classes on pause to stop the spread of COVID-19, how has the change affected SilverSneakers members? Researchers at Tivity Health conducted a number of surveys through the SilverSneakers newsletter on social connections, exercise, and nutrition to understand the concerns of newsletter readers. The survey provides a snapshot of an engaged community and their changing health habits. The infographic shown below (Source: Tivity Health) shows the highligts of the survey conducted between March 26-April 16, 2020. Let’s take a look at how sheltering at home is affecting older adult’s activity, nutrition, and social connections and provide tips on how to make the best of a bad situation…sort of the silver lining for SilverSneakers members.

Being Well and the Power of Social Connection

SilverSneakers Pulse Survey

Let’s start with the loss of social connection. Not surprisingly, ranked as the number one disruptor is the inability to visit with family and friends. I’m sure my SilverSneakers friends miss their coffee corner at our local gym as much as they miss the opportunity to exercise at the facility. The survey also found that limited social interaction contributed to feelings of stress and anxiety.

iStock-Older friends enjoying meal smallSocial support is big part of being well. Research from the Harvard Study of Adult Development found that participants derived their greatest happiness and joy in life from relationships. Men who were socially connected to family, friends, and community were healthier and happier, and they lived longer, than those who had less social connection. Tivity Health’s own research backs up that finding. A study published in 2018 in the Journal of Applied Gerontology found that membership in SilverSneakers not only increased physical activity but also improved health through decreased social isolation and loneliness.

The Silver Lining? Learning how to stay in touch using video chats, live streaming, or social media sites, such as Facebook Live. About 75% of survey respondents say that using various technology tools to stay in contact with friends and family members has helped bridge the physical distance. And with more use comes more confidence in using technology. Everything from religious services, to virtual bridge clubs, to reading stories to their grandchildren, older adults are embracing video capabilities and becoming more comfortable and proficient. That proves that you can teach new skills at any age.

Moving Well: Staying Active in Creative Ways

A big part of SilverSneakers is exercise, and with fitness facilities temporarily shuttered, how do older adults stay active? Survey results show that 93% of all members are still engaging is some form of exercise. Spring brings people out of doors and many find that they can still walk or bike, even with social distancing. And they recognize that activity of any kind is also exercise; from gardening to completing home projects keeps people moving.

iStock Older man lifting weights smallWhile walking is a wonderful fitness activity, we still need to balance our exercise plate with strength training and the ABCs (agility, balance, and coordination). Keeping muscles strong is always important but even more so now. Between the ages of 20 and 90, we can lose over 50% of our muscle mass due to sedentary lifestyle and sarcopenia (which means “vanishing flesh.”) For those who get ill and are confined to bed, a loss of 1% of muscle mass per day compounds the situation. The good news is that strength training just 2 days per week for about 30 minutes per session can reverse muscle loss.

older-adults-tai-chi-outside-e1505160556655Agility, balance, and coordination helps older adults stay active, reduces musculoskeletal injuries, and reduces the risk of falling. While we may never be as agile and coordinated in our body movements at 70 as we were at 20, simple exercises can help improve the ABCs. Yoga, Tai Chi, stretching, balancing on one foot, all can help improve balance.

For those who have replaced their exercise routine with only walking during this time, be sure to start slow when you do return to your pre-COVID-19 workout to avoid injury. In the nutrition world when refeeding a malnourished patient, we use the phrase, “make haste slowly,” and that applies to kick-starting your exercise routine.

The Silver Lining? SilverSneakers offers video home workouts with over 200 videos on demand, so no chance for boredom! There is also the SilverSneakers GO fitness app for smart phones, so workouts are portable. And, with Facebook Live exercise classes offered multiple times per week, activity is possible for these times. Don’t have Facebook but would still love to take part in live classes? Tivity Health recently launched SilverSneakers LIVE, where members can enjoy full-length, live classes and workshops directly through the SilverSneakers website. Create or log in to your account to see the class schedule.

Even without videos, much can be done with exercise bands. I have a set of three bands…light, medium, and heavy resistance that I use for bicep curls, triceps extensions, and shoulder exercises. I hang them on a doorknob as a visual reminder to use them every day.

Eating Well: Get Creative

iStock-Older couple making salad smallSurvey results for nutrition habits show a mixed bag. 56% of respondents report eating more home-cooked meals. Generally, cooking results in healthier meals, so that is a good thing. However, about 25% report making less healthy choices and 30% are eating out of boredom. Comfort foods are definitely “in” right now, but comfort food doesn’t have to be unhealthy food. This might be the right time to lighten up an old family favorite and there are plenty of recipe sites online to help you make substitutions, not sacrifices. Keep healthy snacks on hand so when boredom has you heading to the kitchen choose a snack of fresh fruit, yogurt, or a handful of nuts.

refrigerator-22592466The bad news is that about 1 in 5 people worry about having enough food or being able to restock their supplies. With disruptions in the food supply chain and home delivery of groceries hit or miss (or delayed) it can be a good time to do an inventory of everything in your freezer, fridge, and pantry and plan creative meals around what you have on hand. (For more on this strategy, click here and here.)

The Silver Lining? Many home delivery meal systems are offering significant discounts for meal and snack delivery. And while you may think of meal delivery such as Nutrisystem* as “diet” food, the meals are healthful and could be used to supplement what you have on hand. This is also a good time to dig out appliances hiding in a closet…a George Foreman grill, an Air Fryer, or Crockpot can be used for easy to prepare meals without a lot of fuss. Crockpot cooking can be  an especially affordable and easy way to r batch prep meals, so you can cook once and eat two or three times.

These unprecedented times have us moving in new directions, but the survey results clearly showed that older adults are resilient. We are strong and creative in finding new ways to eat well, move well, and be well. We might just find that we like those Zoom happy hours with our friends and exercising online!

*Nutrisystem is part of the Tivity Health portfolio of products.

Thanks to Tivity Health researchers Dr. Justin Barclay and Lisa Jameson, and Janna Lacatell, Executive Director of Social Determinants Solutions for Tivity Health for providing information about the SilverSneakers survey.

Dr. Christine Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a nutrition professor emerita at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Along with Dr. Bob Murray, she is the author of Food & Fitness After 50.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved.

 

Food & Fitness After 50: Life is a Balancing Act

Food & Fitness After 50: Life is a Balancing Act

I completed this interview with Becky Dorner before COVID-19 changed our lives. Her work in long-term care is well known in the nutrition community and she has developed a web page with free information on what we need to know about food safety and the virus. While we hear about the caring nurses, doctors, and health professionals during this pandemic, there are thousands of food service workers who make sure people in places like hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities are well fed. Becky provides training for facilities to ensure they are safe, as are the people they care for.

Becky and family 2Running three businesses, caring for aging parents, parenting three children, doting over one precious grandchild, and volunteering for her professional organization, Becky does it all with grace and good humor.

Becky and I met years ago, sharing a cab on a cold, rainy Chicago day and we bonded over a mutual interest in healthy aging. But, while I came late to my interest in aging, Becky’s love of working with older adults started early. After graduating from the University of Akron in 1981, she did a clinical rotation in a nursing facility and fell in love with the residents. “I never had the opportunity to get to know my grandparents. This experience filled that void and I was able to help improve their health through better nutrition.”

A Novel Career Choice

Becky caught the entrepreneurial spirit when she was 11 years old, selling hand crafted dolls. “It was rewarding to create something that people valued. I realized early on that I wanted to work for myself, and was driven enough to make it happen.” A family history of heart disease led her to study nutrition and fitness.

When she finished school, Becky did two things that were not very common for dietitians in the early 1980s: she started her own nutrition business and focused on wellness. (Click here to visit her website, Becky Dorner & Associates.) “I’m inspired by young professionals who start new ventures – it’s not easy, but there is a lot of support available. When I started, we were non-traditional – and we were on our own. I learned a lot by trial and error, and found others who were willing to network, provide mentoring and support. It was tough, but what a great way to learn!”

Starting Small and Growing a Big Business

Becky and dogAfter starting her business, she discovered consulting in long-term care (LTC) facilities was stable, steady work. Within 6 months she had enough business to hire other dietitians. Thirty-seven years later, she employs 35 people, mostly registered dietitian nutritionists. Part of her business was developing materials and training for her clients. One day, her business coach suggested she sell these to other health professionals and her second business was born, publishing manuals and providing continuing education courses for health professionals. To date she has presented more than 500 programs for local, national, and international professional meetings in 5 countries and all 50 states, hosted more than 140  continuing education webinars, and published more than 300 health care articles, clinical manuals, and continuing education self-study courses. Her free monthly electronic newsletter goes out to over 35,000 health professionals.

Becky embraced Food & Fitness After 50 when it was published by inviting me to do a webinar, and has since developed a continuing education course on the book’s content.

Creating Balance

This leads us back to the title of this post…. balance. Since she has spent almost 40 years taking care of others, how does she take care of herself?

“Daily exercise is my go-to for stress relief and life balance,” she says. Diagnosed with high blood pressure at the age of 42, exercise, especially walking, helps control my blood pressure and provides some quiet time.” As for her diet, she is careful about monitoring sodium and saturated fat, and she embraced pescatarianism about 10 years ago. (Pescatarians eat a plant-based diet that includes fish.)

Becky defines healthy aging as “being able to do the things I want to do, including the work I love, but also making time for exercise, relaxation and fun. To find balance, I’ve cut back on my work travel and put more time in to developing online webinars and courses that I can do from home.”

Becky and familyAs we age, we all face challenges and when I asked Becky about her biggest challenge, she replied “Caring for the needs of elderly parents who have cognitive issues. It can be a long journey, but we try to provide as many moments of happiness as we can; and make sure that our parents get the best possible care.”

Becky’s 3 tips for healthy aging?

  • Create balance in your life and find joy every day.
  • Eat a plant-based diet; make vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, and beans the center of your plate.
  • Keep an eye on your numbers. Know your blood pressure, blood lipids, and blood sugar levels and do all you can to keep them in an optimal range.

Balance can be thought of in the physical sense, which is important to healthy aging, but balance in the psychological sense is just as essential.

Chris Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a nutrition professor emerita at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Along with Dr. Bob Murray, she is the author of Food & Fitness After 50.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved.

Food & Fitness After 50: Tai Chi for Your Knees

Last year I interviewed Chris Cinnamon, owner and head instructor of Chicago Tai Chi™ and an American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) certified exercise physiologist about the benefits of Tai Chi for older adults.  In the post, Chris answered your questions about Tai Chi for overall health, and we explored his path from Navy flyer to lawyer to Tai Chi expert and healthy aging advocate. To read the post, click here.

Tai Chi book coverToday I want to talk about his new book, Tai Chi for Knee Health, available at Amazon as a softback or E-book by clicking here.

The book is a comprehensive, step-by-step guide to performing this low impact exercise for preventing knee problems, treating knee issues, or recovering after a knee injury or surgery. Since knee osteoarthritis affects about 14 million adults it is likely that you, a family member, or friend have some issues with knee pain. Let’s start with a few observations about the book and then ask the author to elaborate.

The book is divided into 4 parts and 18 chapters, loaded with illustrations to make the content relatable.

The first part is devoted to getting to know your knees and establishing the reasons why Tai Chi is beneficial for knee health. This part is replete with illustrations of the knee and the many structures that support your knee…. bones, ligaments, tendons, cartilage, muscles, and the inner working of the knee itself. I’m sure you’ve all heard of people (or perhaps yourself) who have meniscus tears or ACL repairs. Chris’s clear explanations and accompanying illustrations will help you understand what these structures are, where they are located, and the functions they serve.

The second part focuses on the first three movements of the seven movement Tai Chi for Knee Health exercise system. The basic elements of the movements are discussed, and each step is illustrated, along with practice exercises to make sure you are doing the exercises in a manner that promotes knee health.

Part three presents the next two movements, reinforcing and building upon the lessons in Parts one and two. Part four guides you through the final two movements, then a complete set of movements 1 through 7.

Each chapter ends with a bulleted list of the content wrap up; I found it helpful to read this first and then read the chapter and ending with a review of the wrap up. (I like the bottom-line up-front approach to learning!)

The book includes links to online practice videos where Chris leads you through the exercises, providing helpful cues.  In addition, the book provides a wealth of references for further reading.

What I like most about the book is that is great for beginners, but also a useful tool for seasoned pros to take their practice to the next level.

Question: Can you explain your 3 objectives for writing this book?

I wrote the book for 3 main reasons:

  1. To help more people discover how Tai Chi-based exercises, when properly taught and practiced, can restore knee health, and improve, even eliminate, knee pain.
  2. To guide readers through a gentle exercise program, anchored in solid science, that gives people an alternative, or compliment, to more invasive, and risky, interventions for knee osteoarthritis and other conditions.
  3. To provide a clear, practical, no nonsense guide for knee pain sufferers so they can accomplish the 3 main objectives of the Tai Chi for Knee Health System because until now, these skills have rarely been taught in the west. The skills are to:
    • develop the sensitivity to feel inside your knees
    • develop the skill to precisely align your knees during dynamic movement, so you stop hurting them
    • learn to move in ways that stimulate physiological mechanisms that can restore knee health.

Question: You make a pretty bold claim that Tai Chi can eliminate knee pain. How do you support this claim?

I appreciate your question. That may seem like a bold claim, but when you dig into the science, it’s entirely supportable.

Let me start with my own experience. In my late 40s, after a lifetime of high impact athletics, multiple knee injuries, and surgery, I endured chronic knee pain. It hurt to climb or descend stairs. It hurt to kneel. It hurt to sit at a desk. I took lots of ibuprofen and worried about my ability to stay active.

Then I received a diagnosis of osteoarthritis (OA) in both knees. Knee OA is typically degenerative, meaning it keeps getting worse. I didn’t like that. About that time, I discovered Tai Chi. I was soon hooked by its graceful, powerful, yet low-impact movements. Soon my knees began to feel better. As I continued to practice Tai Chi, my knees continued to improve. Today, my knees are virtually pain-free. And as the Head Instructor of the leading Tai Chi school in Chicago, I lead an active life.

I’ve guided hundreds of students and clients through my Tai Chi for Knee Health system. They learn the material, practice it, and consistently report a reduction in knee pain. All that is anecdotal, I recognize. But there is solid science to back it up.

Multiple research studies have tested Tai Chi as an intervention for knee OA. All of the studies show significant improvements in pain. Most of the studies show significant improvements in function. All without drugs or surgery. In short, Tai Chi for Knee Health works. (Note, there is a comprehensive list of references in the book.)

Question: How long and how many times a week should Tai Chi be practiced for knee health?

I recommend people practice my Tai Chi for Knee Health exercises 15 – 20 minutes per day for 4-6 days per week. A small investment of time for a big payoff in healthier knees and a more active life.

With one important qualification, however. If that amount of exercise causes discomfort, then the person needs to back off and do a lower volume and duration of exercise. Say 3 days per week for 10 minutes per day. Then gradually build from there.

As I explain in the book, you can’t reduce knee pain by moving in a way that hurts your knees. Especially when dealing with knee OA.

Question: You talk about the 70% rule…please explain that because everyone thinks you must give 100% to anything to make it successful.

The 70% Rule holds that we perform no movement or practice greater than 70% of our maximum.

For people like me, raised in a “No Pain, No Gain” society, that may initially seem bizarre.

But when it comes to healing your knees, the 70% Rule makes total sense. By moving within your 70% range, you reduce tension, allowing chronically tense tissue to relax. Relaxation of tissue improves circulation of fluids, which promotes healing. So, when healing is the goal, the 70% rules applies.

In the same vein, by moving within your 70% range (or less depending on your circumstances), you avoid a range of motion that irritates arthritic tissue and triggers pain. Viewed in this way, the 70% Rule helps you avoid hurting your knees while the gentle movements of Tai Chi for Knee Health promote healing.

Question: If you could explain the book in a tweet of 240 characters, what would you say?

My book Tai Chi for Knee Health will guide you, step-by-step, through a low-impact Tai Chi-based exercise system that will:

  • Transform your knee health
  • Eliminate pain
  • Get you moving again

Beyond the limit of 240 characters, The Tai Chi for Knee Health System provides an ideal exercise program for adults experiencing chronic knee pain from knee osteoarthritis, tendonitis, bursitis, patellofemoral syndrome, and other causes. It can be incorporated into prehab and rehab for knee surgery and knee replacement.

The Tai Chi for Knee Health System combines time-tested Tai Chi principles with cutting edge scientific research to deliver a step-by-step program that anyone can do. Richly illustrated, with access to online videos, Tai Chi for Knee Health delivers an ideal resource to help you take charge of your knee health, eliminate pain, and enjoy moving again.

Question: Would you like to add anything else?

I developed the Tai Chi for Knee Health System to help millions of knee pain sufferers experience the transformation I and hundreds of my students have experienced—from chronic knee pain to virtually pain free knees.

The response to the book has been outstanding. Readers across the US and 8 other countries are enjoying the program, checking in with questions, and reporting their progress.

There are lots of sore knees out there. Tai Chi for Knee Health can help many of them.

Chris Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a nutrition professor emerita at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Along with Dr. Bob Murray, she is the author of Food & Fitness After 50.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved.

Food & Fitness After 50: Lessons from a Late Blooming Ballroom Dancer

FoxtrotNYDF20
Chandra and Ian Folker doing Foxtrot

At the age of 55, Chandra did something that not many of us would do. Sure, we might take up weight training or pickleball, but ballroom dancing? That is exactly what Chandra did and ten years later she is competing in smooth ballroom dances…waltz, foxtrot, tango, and quick step. “Ballroom dancing is the ultimate full body and mind exercise,” she says.

A Valentine’s Day Surprise

It started with social dancing with her husband and he surprised her with ballroom dance lessons one Valentine’s Day. While he “retired” from dancing, she went full steam ahead. After working with a few different dance teachers, she found the ideal teacher, Ian Folker, and they have been dancing together for the past three years. “Ian has helped me meet my goals and competing was one of those goals. Ballroom dancing is like other sports…first you have to learn the fundamentals and then improve on that skill set with practice and repetition.”

FoxtrotNYDF20bJPG
Foxtrot

Chandra practices 4 to 5 times each week and competes on a regular basis. “Competing is intense, as intense as any sport!”  She also practices restorative yoga to help her dance movement and finds it mentally and physically therapeutic.

Functional and Integrative Nutrition

Least you think that this is her full-time job, it is not. Chandra has a private nutrition practice and has gravitated toward functional and integrative nutrition as a wholistic way to help clients reach their goals. (To learn about her nutrition practice, click here for her website, Nutrition in the Now. Prior to starting her business, she worked in clinical nutrition research at Emory University. “While running clinical trials on the role of different diets in treating breast, lung and colorectal cancer, the medical director wanted everyone working on the project to try the diets. I did and found the lower fat diet felt good for me.” The goal of functional nutrition is to identify the foods and nutrients that function to keep your body healthiest.  Chandra reminds her clients that “Food Is Your Medicine.”

Using Foods to Manage Disease

TangoNYDF20c
Tango

Chandra, the mom of 2 girls, was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia during her first pregnancy which is a form of high blood pressure. “I basically had pre-hypertension.  I was later diagnosed with Mitral Valve Prolapse.  Given these pre-cardiovascular disease conditions, I understood how important lifestyle was in managing my disease risks. I have learned to understand the way sodium and salt affect me and I am very attuned to reading labels to look for the hidden salt.” She eats a whole foods diet with minimal processing, as salt is a main ingredient used to process and preserve foods. Her favorite meal is fresh seafood; something she can readily find when she spends time in Florida or California. “Walking to the docks and buying fresh seafood as it comes off the boat makes for the perfect meal.”

She has also learned to appreciate the role of nutrition in treating disease through her yearly visits to Germany. Her daughter, a neuroscientist, introduced her to a European way of treating disease. “They rely much less on medications, as we do in the U.S., but use herbs (botanicals) and spices and food as restorative, healing agents. That approach may take longer, but they use significantly less drugs than we do and have good results.” We agreed that most Americans are quick to take a drug but slow to change their lifestyle.

Challenges to optimal aging

When I asked Chandra to identify challenges to healthy aging, she said that she is trying to live a life as stress-free as possible. Spending time with her daughters and four grandchildren makes her realize that what is important is relationships, not things. “I am really trying to declutter…we have so much but want more and more and living with less can help reduce stress.”

Chandra’s tips for healthy aging include:

  • Have a vision for your life.
  • Have a support system to help you reach your vision.
  • Live the best you can live and aim for inner peace.

And, while she didn’t name laughter as a tool for healthy aging, we laughed a lot during this interview!

P.S. The photos in the post are from Chandra’s most recent ballroom competition. “The competition was so exciting as well as overwhelming.  It was the largest US Ballroom competition this year.  For a beginner, I was pleased; of course, a little nervous, however, once I began dancing, I had to remember all my coaching instructions.  I competed from 8:30 am and my last competition was at 6:30 pm.  I was completely exhausted, hungry and so out of energy. My lesson learned, I have to be sure and fuel the night before and during!”

WaltzNYDF20b (2)

 

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved.

Food & Fitness After 50: What is Clean Eating?

A funny meme circulated among my dietitian friends. The first woman says, “I can’t eat that, I’m trying to eat clean.” The second woman (probably a dietitian) replies, “It’s banana bread, Susan, not heroin.”

clean eatingIt’s funny and sad at the same time. Many people limit delicious, healthful foods (banana bread) because they don’t fit into what they consider “clean” eating. Some people rely on the front-of-pack “free-from” claims to judge if a food is worthy…. free from sugar, white flour, gluten, additives, colors, GMOs, and on and on.  Which leads us to the concept of clean eating. Most dietitians don’t like the term because the opposite of clean is dirty and no one wants to say they are eating “dirty.”  Saying you eat clean implies a certain moral superiority to the rest us who are microwaving a frozen meal.

But it doesn’t matter if I like it or not, the term clean eating is here to stay. I counted over 70 books for sale on Amazon with “clean eating” in the title.

At a recent conference, I learned from Kris Sollid, a registered dietitian and senior director of nutrition communications at the International Food Information Council, that clean eating was the the number 1 diet trend in 2019. Some people think clean eating is diet of whole, unprocessed foods. Some people are OK with processed foods if they don’t contain artificial coloring or flavors with hard to pronounce ingredients. Other think foods labeled organic tick the clean eating box, while some ascribe a vegan diet as the only way to eat clean.

2019 Diet Trend for CR

But, when it gets down to the definition of clean eating, it depends on who you ask. “The bottom line is that while the definition isn’t clear, ‘clean’ is often used as a proxy for ‘healthy’” adds Sollid.

Hand-in-hand with clean eating is a trend in the food industry to develop “clean” labels. Many food manufacturers are reformulating products to limit the number of ingredients to satisfy consumer demand.  In many cases this is a good thing; finding ways to reduce salt by using fewer sodium-based ingredients or lowering sugar by finding the sweet spot of less sugar without changing taste are all good moves. But, when a product simply replaces sugar from sugar beets with “pure cane sugar” and makes you think it is healthier, well, sugar is sugar and just because the word “pure” is front of cane sugar it doesn’t make it a healthy ingredient.

So, instead of focusing on eating clean, let’s just focus on healthy eating. Some ways to do that are:

  • Focus on the positives in a food, not the negatives. Choose foods with nutrients that you need, like vitamins, minerals and fiber instead of focusing on sugar or fat content. Sugar and fat are important but take a wider view when choosing foods. For example, as we age, we still need bone building nutrients: calcium, vitamin D, vitamin K, and magnesium. Look for foods with those nutrients and keep in mind that not all dairy foods or plant-based alternatives to dairy contain vitamin D.
  • Ignore the buzz words like “all natural,” “real ingredients,” or “minimally processed.” They don’t mean anything.
  • Recognize the value of processed foods, like frozen berries, canned tomatoes, or ready to eat breakfast cereal. These foods provide big nutrition for little money. Amy Cohn, a registered dietitian with General Mills reminds us that cereal is the number 1 source of whole grains, fiber, B-vitamins, iron and zinc for all Americans at breakfast. And, when paired with milk, the “average bowl of a Big G cereal is about fifty cents.”
  • Don’t be afraid of words you can’t pronounce on list of food ingredients: pyridoxine hydrochloride may sound strange, but it just the chemical name for vitamin B6.

For more tips on healthy eating, check out Food & Fitness After 50, available at Amazon and other booksellers.

Disclosure: I attended a sponsored conference where both Kris Sollid and Amy Cohn spoke, but I was not asked to or compensated to write this post.

Food & Fitness After 50: Recovery After Hard Exercise

iStock-Older couple runningMany folks over the age of 50 are incredibility active: pickleball, tennis, swimming, running, hiking, and cycling are all popular with the 50+ crowd. I am often asked about hydration and recovery strategies and sometimes I hear some crazy things. So, what do you really need to help your body recover after a long, hard work out or competition? First let’s talk about two things you don’t need.

One, a new fad called “dry fasting,” or in other words, starvation and dehydration. The idea of dry fasting (no food or water) for a set period (anywhere from 3 days to a couple of weeks) is just plain dumb for everyone, but especially for older, active adults. We’ve talked about the important of hydration in previous posts, so click here for more information on the importance of hydration for older, active people. Just say no when you come across the YouTube videos of dry fasting enthusiastic followers and stick to your tried and true fueling and hydration strategies.

Another thing you don’t need is expensive waters that claim to be “smart” by changing the acidity and alkalinity (pH) of your blood. Organs, like lungs and kidneys, tightly control our blood pH in the range of 7.35 to 7.45; if gets higher it is called respiratory or metabolic alkalosis and if it is lower it is respiratory or metabolic acidosis and both are life threatening. There is no need to try to acidify or alkalize your body because your lungs and kidneys won’t let you do it anyway. The only thing “smart” about these waters is the money they are making for their promoters.

blood ph

For real recovery and hydration, here is what we know:

  • Fluids help restore body water.
  • Carbohydrates replenish muscle carbohydrate stores (glycogen).
  • High quality protein provides key amino acids for repairing muscles.
  • Antioxidant-rich beverages like tart cherry or blueberry juice provide plant compounds that can reduce inflammation and help with muscle soreness after a hard workout.
  • Omega-3s (often called fish oils) are also anti-inflammatory and most Americans don’t get enough of these healthy fats in their diets.

ERSA Norwegian food scientist, Janne Sande Mathisen, has combined all these ingredients into a new recovery beverage called Enhanced Recovery Sports Drink. The beverage contains 20 grams of whey protein with 2 grams of leucine (an amino acid referred to as the anabolic trigger), and 1600 milligrams of omega-3s. It was tricky to find a form of omega-3s that worked in solution that didn’t taste fishy.

The carbohydrate source is from fruit juices (apple, pear, and black current) to give both rapidly absorbed carbs and polyphenol-rich fruits (those antioxidant healthy plant compounds).

I was sent some samples to try and I shared them with some very active friends. The overwhelming consensus is that it is a tasty drink, not too sweet, and serving size of just a little over 8-ounces is the right amount to drink after a workout without bloating, aftertaste, or too much volume. I think it tastes like kefir; others say it tastes like a yogurt smoothie.

I like the food forward approach of this recovery drink and think it might be a good solution for combining recovery elements in to one simple-to-drink beverage. For competitive athletes who may have to undergo drug tests, the product is certified by Informed Sport to contain no banned substances that could disqualify an athlete from competition.

Disclosure: I was sent free samples of the product to try, but I was not asked to or compensated to write this post. I have no connection to the company.

For more tips on staying healthy while being active, check out Food & Fitness After 50, available on Amazon or other booksellers.

 

Food & Fitness After 50: Good Bones

A recent article in the Washington Post caught my attention because it related to an issue that older adults frequently ask about….how to protect their bones as they age.

Hip-Fracture-Surgery-Infection-640x444According to the study published in JAMA vitamin D supplements showed no effect on reducing hip fractures where as vitamin D plus calcium had about a 16% reduction in the risk of breaking a hip. Hip fracture is one of the most serious threats to health as we age. Here’s a few facts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  • Each year over 300,000 older people—those 65 and older—are hospitalized for hip fractures.
  • More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling, usually by falling sideways.
  • Women experience three-quarters of all hip fractures.
    • Women fall more often than men.
    • Women more often have osteoporosis, a disease that weakens bones and makes them more likely to break.

Dietary Supplement Use for Bone Health

A recent survey from the Council on Responsible Medicine, a leading trade association for dietary supplements, shows that among consumers over 55 years of age who take dietary supplements, 31% cite bone health as a reason for supplementation. For younger age groups, bone health is not mentioned as a reason for supplementation. That is too bad because the time to build bone is when we are young! Peak bone mass is achieved somewhere around the age of 30 or 35 so waiting until you are 60 to start worrying about bone health is a bit too late. It’s like getting concerned about your cholesterol level after you’ve had a heart attack. (Side note to my older readers…encourage your grandchildren and great grandchildren to get plenty of bone building nutrients now!)

boneMass35Anthony Thomas, Director of Scientific Affairs for Jarrow Formulas puts it this way, “Maximizing peak bone mass is important when we are young to protect against age-related bone loss.  A 10% increase in peak bone mass is estimated to reduce the risk of osteoporotic fracture later in life by 50%, so early life deserves more attention to ensure sufficient nutrient intake and status to support bone health across the lifespan.”

It Takes More Than Calcium and Vitamin D to Make a Healthy Bone

natto
Natto

While the media focuses on calcium and vitamin D, Dr. Thomas reminds us that bone is more than those two nutrients. Healthy bones need the minerals magnesium, potassium, copper, manganese, silicon, boron, and zinc. Two underappreciated vitamins are also key, vitamins C and K. Vitamin C is needed to produce collagen, the most abundant protein in the body and building block of bone. Vitamin K helps calcium get deposited into bones. There are two forms of vitamin K, referred to as K1 and K2. K1 is most well-known for its role in blood clotting. But the K2 form promotes bone building. It is hard to get sufficient K2 from foods. Dr. Thomas points out that “vitamin K2 is from bacterial origin, so it is found in fermented foods in which bacteria are used as starter cultures in cheeses and sauerkraut.  The best dietary source of vitamin K2 in the form of MK-7 is the traditional Japanese dish natto, cooked soybeans fermented by the bacteria Bacillus subtilis subspecies natto, that while popular in Japan, is not much appreciated in the U.S.“ The best way to get this form of the vitamin is with supplements sold as MK-7.

“Based on emerging research, the supplemental doses used in research is a daily dose of vitamin K2 as MK-7 is 45 micrograms upwards of 360 micrograms is recommended,” adds Dr. Thomas.

Fall Protection

While foods and supplementation can help provide nutrients for healthy bones, don’t forget the ABCs (agility, balance, and coordination) as keys to help preventing falls. We’ve written about this before (click here for the post), but it pays to work on your balance with activities like yoga, Tai Chi, or simple exercises such as balancing on one foot when you brush your teeth. When it comes to balance, we can use it….or, we can lose it!

Check out this video from Silver Sneakers for easy exercises to improve your balance

For more information on foods and supplements for bone health and tips to improve your agility, balance, and coordination, see Food & Fitness After 50, available at Amazon and other booksellers.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved.