Category Archives: Tufts University

What, Exactly, is a Mediterranean Diet? – Tufts

I have been hearing about and reading about the benefits of the Mediterranean Diet for as long as I have been writing this blog (10 years in case you are new here). But, I don’t know a heck of a lot about it. Here is the skinny from Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter.

More than a diet plan, this health-promoting food pattern allows room for preferences.

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A Mediterranean diet can be as varied as the countries and cultures that surround the Mediterranean Sea.

This large and diverse region includes 22 countries located within Europe, Africa, and Asia, including Greece, France, Spain, and Italy, but also Turkey, Morocco, Libya, and Egypt. “It is important to recognize that these countries encompass a wide array of cultural and culinary traditions, which means there is no single version of the ‘Mediterranean’ diet,” says Alice Lichtenstein, DSc, a professor at Tufts’ Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and executive editor of Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter. “The good news is, that means a Mediterranean-type dietary pattern can be adapted to many different tastes and preferences.” Continue reading

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Tufts on the benefits of walking

I have written repeatedly about the health benefits of walking. For a good rundown, check out my Page – Why you should walk more. Herewith further elucidation on the benefits of what I call ‘the Cinderella of the exercise world-‘ walking from Tufts Health and Nutrition Letter.

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Did you get your 10,000 steps today? Many people have adopted this daily walking goal to obtain the recommended amount of physical activity. The 10,000-steps-a-day number comes from the Japanese brand name of a pedometer manufactured in the 1960s, the “10,000 steps meter.” In the Fitbit era, counting daily steps remains appealing to many people as a source of motivation.

In the U.S., adults are urged to get the equivalent of 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity exercise. Walking is a popular way to meet those recommendations, particularly in older adults or people who are relatively physically inactive.

Although 10,000 steps is a worthy challenge, aiming for more exercise than you normally get—unless you are one of the few who regularly trains for marathons or triathlons—comes with benefits. Any amount or type of physical activity adds to your daily goal. Regularly taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or parking farther away from your destination, can make a measurable improvement in your health.

A recent study in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that the benefits of walking on longevity were equivalent whether people got their steps in one long walk, a few shorter ones, or even brief walk breaks of a few minutes—as long as the physical activity was regular.

Preserving Mobility: Among the most important benefits of walking for older adults is preserving physical mobility—the ability to walk without assistance. In 2014, a study involving Tufts researchers called Lifestyle Interventions and Independence for Elders (LIFE) trial provided evidence for the benefits of physical activity in older adults at risk of immobility and disability and other associated health problems.

“This study, for the first time, showed conclusively that a regular program of physical activity can preserve independence among older men and women,” says Roger A. Fielding, PhD, director of the HNRCA Nutrition, Exercise, Physiology and Sarcopenia Laboratory, who led the Tufts portion of the study.

The LIFE trial was designed to test the ability of physical activity to prevent major mobility disability, defined as the inability to walk for about a quarter-mile (400 meters) within 15 minutes, without sitting and without the help of another person or walker. Use of a cane was allowed. The study involved 1,635 men and women, ages 70 to 89, at 8 universities and research centers across the country, including Tufts.

On a practical level, the walking test gauges a person’s general fitness to perform ordinary activities like shopping, household chores and travel. Not being able to pass the test is a harbinger of future immobility.

Participants were relatively sedentary at the start of the study, having reported less than 20 minutes per week of physical activity in the previous month. The volunteers were randomly assigned to either weekly health education classes with 10 minutes of gentle stretching, or to a program consisting of exercises for strength, flexibility and balance, as well as walking. Participants were told to set as their goal 30 minutes a day of walking at moderate intensity.

Over the average 2.6-year study period, participants in the exercise program were 28% less likely to develop major mobility disability, compared with the control group that just received health education. Increased regular exercise was particularly potent in participants who started the study with the lowest level of physical functioning.

“We think that one of the reasons older people lose their independence is because of some problem they have with their muscle function,” Fielding explains. “Therefore, if you can design an intervention that can help slow the rate of muscle loss or restore some of the muscle function, it may help to prevent individuals from ultimately becoming disabled. We’ve shown that pretty well with exercise.”

How Many Steps to Health? More recently, Fielding used the data from the LIFE study to pin down the amount of physical activity it takes to prevent disability in the at-risk individuals who participated in the LIFE trial. Is 30 minutes a day of walking and other exercise the required buy-in to prevent immobility?

Fielding and his colleagues reanalyzed the LIFE data to see what impact incremental “doses” of physical activity over the first two years of the trial had on physical function (based on tests of balance and leg strength) and walking speed. They found that an increase in physical activity of just over 45 minutes per week reduced the chance of mobility disability by about 70%. That’s equivalent to a single session of exercise training used in the LIFE trial.

It all adds up to this: Even people who are relatively sedentary and start late in the game can benefit from increasing physical activity. Walking is a great entry-level physical activity—simple, free and safe unless you have a balance problem or other risk factor for falling. A brisk walk, combined with a light aerobic workout and strength training, can increase the odds of staying active and independent with aging.

“Understanding the minimal dose of physical activity required to improve physical function and reduce the risk of disability may inform future public health recommendations about physical activity for older adults,” Fielding says. “A reduced risk of disability can be seen with substantially less physical activity than is currently recommended for most inactive older adults.”

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Better brain aging through diet – Tufts

I have spent a lot of time writing about the benefits of exercise for the brain as well as the body. Herewith info from the Tufts Health and Nutrition Letter on what I can only call food for thought.

Currently available medical treatments for age-related cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease have had limited success. Adopting a healthy diet and lifestyle has been among the most consistent recommendations to maintain brain health over the long term. Some studies have linked an overall healthy dietary pattern to less chance of experiencing age-related decline in memory and other cognitive skills.

brain

The specifics of “brain protective” diets vary, but tend to have certain elements in common. Dietary patterns associated with lower risk of age-related cognitive decline and dementia are higher in non-starchy vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, legumes and seafood while limited in red and/or processed meats, sugar-sweetened foods and drinks, refined grains and added salt.

But there have been few long-term trials testing overall dietary patterns for protecting the aging brain. Researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health are currently conducting a clinical trial of a diet specifically optimized for brain health and mild weight loss—the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) diet.

If successful, the result of the MIND trial will provide older adults with more specific nutritional guidance to maintain their cognitive health. “What they’re doing is logical and I predict will have positive benefits for a disease for which we have few interventions,” notes Dennis Steindler, PhD, senior scientist and director of Tufts’ HNRCA Neuroscience and Aging Laboratory. “Past trials were not home runs, but this study could be it if it bears the kind of findings I think it will.” Continue reading

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What about eating French fries? – Tufts

I confess that I love french fries. I also confess that I don’t eat them very often because of their fat content and fears of what I am putting into my system. The following is from The Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.

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 Q. Potatoes are a vegetable, so why aren’t French fries good for you? Are the nutrients destroyed in the frying process?

A. “A medium baked potato (with skin) is a good source of potassium, vitamins C and B6, and fiber. But potatoes don’t contain other nutrients, such as the carotenoids and phytochemicals found in more brightly-colored vegetables,” says Helen Rasmussen, PhD, RD, a senior research dietitian at Tufts’ Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging. “Peeling to remove the skin to make fries and chips results in the loss of a large portion of the fiber, further diminishing the potato’s nutritional value. In addition, French fries are typically salted. Most of us consume more than the recommended amount of sodium, and eating highly salted foods like fries makes that situation worse.”

“Deep frying potatoes to turn them into French fries does not change them that much, but it does increase the number of calories per serving, so we get less nutrients per calorie when we eat them. We each need a particular number of calories to fuel our bodies, and we also need a sufficient intake of many different nutrients. If we choose to consume something like French fries frequently and in a large quantity, we will surpass our calorie needs before we meet all of our nutrient needs, which can impact health.”

“Enjoy potatoes sometimes as part of a balanced, healthy dietary pattern. Think of them as a substitute for grains rather than vegetables when you fill up your plate. Leave the skin on, prepare them in a variety of ways, and avoid adding a lot of butter, cream, and salt. Round out your plate with plenty of colorful vegetables and other plant foods.”

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How Much Exercise is Enough? – Tufts University

This is a good question in my estimation. It means the person wants to exercise. So, there is at least the beginning of a plan to lose weight, get healthy, build yourself up or something along those lines. This is totally in my wheelhouse of eat less; move more; live longer.

man-lifting-weights

Tufts University offers some excellent guidelines.

“Nobody questions the health benefits of even just a little exercise, but you may wonder about what might be called the “Goldilocks” question: How much physical activity is “just right”? And is it possible to get too much or to overdo the intensity? Two large new studies, both published in JAMA Internal Medicine, attempt to answer such questions and identify the “sweet spot” of the ideal amount of exercise,” according to the Tufts University Health and Nutrition Update.

“Miriam E. Nelson, PhD, associate dean of the Tisch College and a professor in Tufts’ Friedman School, author of the “Strong Women” series of books, served as vice-chair of the committee for the US government’s first-ever Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans in 2008. Those guidelines call for at least:

– 150 minutes per week of moderate activity OR

– 75 minutes per week of vigorous activity OR

– Some equivalent combination. Continue reading

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