Tag Archives: Tufts

Calorie Restriction May Promote Cognitive Function – Tufts

Most people have heard or read about calorie restriction being a technique for living longer. This is the first I have heard of it affecting cognition.

Several studies have reported that actively cutting down on calories – not simply “watching your weight” – might also be an effective strategy against cognitive decline, according to the Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter.

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One German study found a connection between a restricted-calorie diet and improved memory among participants divided into three groups: One aimed to reduce calorie intake by 30 percent, mostly by eating smaller portions; a second group kept calories the same while increasing intake of healthy fats by 20 percent; and a third, the control group, made no dietary changes. 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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Weight and Alzheimer’s risk – Tufts

With both Alzheimer’s and dementia in my family, I am interested in all research on the subject.

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Tufts reported the following in its Health and Nutrition Letter.

Could a trimmer waistline in middle age help you avoid Alzheimer’s later in life? That’s the suggestion of a study, published in Molecular Psychiatry, from the National Institute on Aging. Researchers analyzed data on 1,394 participants in a long-running study of aging, followed for an average of 14 years, who regularly underwent cognitive testing. A total of 142 participants developed Alz­heimer’s disease during the study.

After adjusting for other factors, each additional point of body-mass index (BMI) at age 50 was associated with an earlier onset of Alzheimer’s of 6.7 months. “Our findings clearly indicate that higher adiposity at midlife is associated with a long-lasting effect on accelerating the clinical course of Alzheimer’s disease,” Madhav Thambisetty, MD, PhD, and colleagues concluded.

The study was not designed to prove cause and effect, however, and it’s not clear whether the association between obesity and Alzheimer’s risk might begin even earlier. It’s also true that newly diagnosed Alzheimer’s patients tend to weigh less than normal, not more.

To read further on the subject, please check out my Page – Important facts about your brain – (and exercise benefits).

Tony

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Whole grains improve immune response – Studies

Consumption of fast foods and processed foods took another hit today according to a couple of studies from Tufts.

In a clinical trial, adults who consumed a diet rich in whole grains rather than refined grains had modest improvements in healthy gut microbiota and certain immune responses. The research was conducted in tandem with a study that looked at the effects of a whole-grain diet on energy metabolism. Both studies are published online today in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

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Whole grain consumption has been associated with reduced risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers. Researchers have speculated that whole grains lessen risk for diseases through reducing inflammation, but studies comparing the effects of whole grains versus refined grains consumption have not controlled the diets of study participants and have not evaluated cell-mediated immune responses to uncover the impact of whole grains on immune and inflammatory responses.

The research team analyzed the results from an eight-week randomized, controlled trial with 81 participants to see what effect a diet rich in whole grains, as opposed to a diet rich in refined grains, would have on immune and inflammatory responses, gut microbiota, and stool frequency in healthy adults. For the first two weeks, participants consumed the same weight-maintaining Western-style diet rich in refined grains. For the next six weeks, 40 of those participants stayed on that diet, while 41 participants consumed a diet rich in whole grains. Continue reading

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Activity protects seniors’ motor functions – Tufts

Because I have both Alzheimer’s and dementia in my family, I am extremely sensitive to news about the brain. Check out my Page – Important facts about your brain (and exercise benefits) to read further.

Tufts Health and Nutrition Letter reports, “Physical activity helps preserve mobility and motor skills as you age—and not just by keeping your muscles in shape. A new study suggests that activity also maintains mobility by protecting your brain. Even in people with signs of brain aging called white matter hyperintensities (WMH) associated with movement issues, being more active seemed to allow the brain to compensate.

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“Tammy Scott, PhD, a scientist at Tufts’ HNRCA Neuroscience and Aging Laboratory, says of the findings, “Although the study cannot determine causality because of its cross-sectional design, their results are consistent with a number of other studies that have shown that increased physical activity protects mobility.”“BRAIN SPOTS AND MOBILITY: The study, published in the journal Neurology, subjected 167 people without dementia, ages 60 to 96, to a battery of tests. They had MRI scans of their brains, wore activity monitors for up to 11 full days, and underwent 11 motor-performance tests, such as grip strength, finger tapping and lower-body function. Continue reading

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More Good Exercise/Brain News – now from Tufts

Just a day after my post – Vigorous exercise may restore mental health, Tufts Health & Nutrition Update comes along with the query – Are you keeping your brain in shape?

“Physical activity helps preserve mobility and motor skills as you age – and not just by keeping your muscles in shape. A new study suggests that activity also maintains mobility by protecting your brain. Even in people with signs of brain aging called white matter hyperintensities (WMH) associated with movement issues, being more active seemed to allow the brain to compensate.

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“Tammy Scott, PhD, a scientist at Tufts’ HNRCA Neuroscience and Aging Laboratory, says of the findings, “Although the study cannot determine causality because of its cross-sectional design, their results are consistent with a number of other studies that have shown that increased physical activity protects mobility.”

BRAIN SPOTS AND MOBILITY:
“The study, published in the journal Neurology, subjected 167 people without dementia, ages 60 to 96, to a battery of tests. They had MRI scans of their brains, wore activity monitors for up to 11 full days, and underwent 11 motor-performance tests, such as grip strength, finger tapping and lower-body function. Continue reading

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How Healthy is Exercise for Seniors? – Tufts

Older people who are highly fit, such as recreational cyclists, are physiologically more similar to young people than to more sedentary seniors. That’s the conclusion of a new British study that sought to explore the effect of physical activity on key indicators of aging. As one scientist put it, “Being physically active makes your body function on the inside more like a young person’s.” So reports Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter.

Must confess I feel very gratified reading these words as they confirm most of what I have written in this blog for the past five-plus years.

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My dog Gabi and me riding on Northerly Island on Chicago’s lakefront in a past summer.

Published in The Journal of Physiology, the study recruited 85 men and 41 women, ages 55 to 79, who were serious recreational cyclists. Participants were put through a battery of physical and cognitive tests, with results compared against standard benchmarks of normal aging. On most of the tests, the highly fit cyclists performed more like young adults. Even participants in their 70s scored decades “younger” in metabolic health, balance, memory and reflexes. Continue reading

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Are Pistachios Good for You?

A reader sent in a comment on the food value of pistachios and also sent me some samples. I thought it was worth looking into them.

It turns out that pistachios have super health benefits.

Fresh pistachios isolated.

Fresh pistachios isolated on white.

Here’s what the Galvin Nussingten of Streetdirectory.com says about them, “Pistachios help your cells. That’s right! Your cells get tremendous benefits from the antioxidants in these nuts. It’s one of the reasons why eating lots of chocolate isn’t all that bad. You may not be aware, however, of how helpful antioxidants can be for fighting oxidative stress, which is known to cause cell structure damage. Because of this, antioxidants are incredibly important to your overall health. Did you know that Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s have been linked with a lack of antioxidants?”

I wrote about the value of antioxidants previously.

A brochure from Orandi Ranch states that a serving of pistachios has more antioxidants than red wine and blueberries combined.
Continue reading

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Green Tea May Enhance Working Memory – Tufts

At the risk or repeating myself, I am committed to learning everything I can about my brain and keeping said brain functioning well into my senior years. At the age of 75 I consider myself to be there now.  Additionally, I am also a green tea drinker and I support your consuming it. At the end of this post I will list some links to connect with previous green tea posts.

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A small clinical trial suggests that green tea could improve the connectivity between parts of the brain involved in tasks of “working memory.” You might think of working memory as the brain’s sticky notes, where bits of information are temporarily held for manipulation before forgetting or transferring to long-term memory.

Previous studies have linked green tea – especially a polyphenol compound found in green tea called EGCG (epigallocatechin-3-gallate) – to structural benefits against the plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Green tea may also benefit neuronal plasticity – the brain’s ability to adapt to new inputs – and repair injuries to the brain’s neurons associated with aging.

Jeffrey Blumberg, PhD, director of Tufts’ HNRCA Antioxidants Research Laboratory, notes, “These findings are consistent with results from a similar clinical trial previously conducted by the same group, and also with basic research which indicates that EGCG can promote biochemical pathways in brain neurons that reduce oxidative stress and promote cell survival.”
All forms of tea have been associated with health benefits. But because green tea is minimally processed, from un-oxidized tea leaves, it is rich in certain types of antioxidant compounds.

YOUR BRAIN ON TEA: In the latest study, Swiss researchers tested the effects of a milk whey-based soft drink containing 27.5 grams of green tea extract (equivalent to about two cups of brewed green tea) against a placebo. The healthy young male volunteers were then faced with a battery of working-memory tasks. While they tackled the tasks, the men’s brains were monitored using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Participants who had been given the beverage containing green-tea extract showed increased connectivity between the brain’s right superior parietal lobe and the frontal cortex. This effect on connectivity within the brain coincided with improvements in actual cognitive performance on the working-memory exercises.

“Our findings suggest that green tea might increase the short-term synaptic plasticity of the brain,” said Stefan Borgwardt, MD, PhD, of the University of Basel. The researchers, who published their findings in the journal Psychopharmacology, added that the findings provide insights into the mechanism of how green tea might affect working-memory processing.

For more information on maintaining cognitive function, download Guide to Eating Right to Avoid Cognitive Decline from Tufts’ Health & Nutrition Letter.

Following are previous posts I have written on Green Tea:

Green Tea Boosts Your Brain

Green Tea Helps to Fight Flu

Green Tea for St. Patrick’s Day and Every day

Dr. Oz and Chia Seeds and Green Tea.

Tony

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Tufts on Exercise and Brain Health

As regular readers know I feel very strongly about the benefits of exercising, not only on the body, but equally on the brain. You can check out my Page – Important Facts About Your Brain (and Exercise Benefits) for further details. So, I was thrilled to see the latest from Tufts on that subject.

Tufts Health and Nutrition Update says, “A new study reports that the more physically fit you are when you’re younger, the more likely you are to keep your brain sharp as you get older. But there’s also good news for those who slacked off in their youth: Even starting to get more fit now might still improve your cognitive health.

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“There is growing evidence that physical exercise can benefit cognitive function in middle-aged and older adults, possibly through improved cardio- and cerebro-vascular health,” says Tammy Scott, PhD, a scientist at Tufts’ HNRCA Nutrition and Neurocognition Laboratory.

“THEN AND NOW: The new findings, published in Neurology, used data from the CARDIA (Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults) study, begun in 1985-86. Participants, originally ages 18 to 30, were tested for blood pressure, cholesterol levels and other measures, and also walked at an increasingly fast pace on a treadmill until they couldn’t continue. The young adults could stick with the treadmill test an average of 10 minutes. Continue reading

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Are You Keeping Your Brain in Shape? Tufts

It’s fascinating how ideas tend to flow in groups. All of a sudden I seem to be reading a lot about exercise having a positive affect on the brain (one of my favorite subjects). To explore further into it, check out my Page – Important Facts About Your Brain ( and Exercise Benefits).

The latest update in Tufts University’s Health and Nutrition letter said, “Physical activity helps preserve mobility and motor skills as you age – and not just by keeping your muscles in shape. A new study suggests that activity also maintains mobility by protecting your brain. Even in people with signs of brain aging called white matter hyperintensities (WMH) associated with movement issues, being more active seemed to allow the brain to compensate.

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“Tammy Scott, PhD, a scientist at Tufts’ HNRCA Neuroscience and Aging Laboratory, says of the findings, “Although the study cannot determine causality because of its cross-sectional design, their results are consistent with a number of other studies that have shown that increased physical activity protects mobility.”

“BRAIN SPOTS AND MOBILITY: The study, published in the journal Neurology, subjected 167 people without dementia, ages 60 to 96, to a battery of tests. They had MRI scans of their brains, wore activity monitors for up to 11 full days, and underwent 11 motor-performance tests, such as grip strength, finger tapping and lower-body function. Continue reading

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Active Leisure Improves Heart Health – Tufts

As the saying (here in America) goes, things happen in threes. I assume that is good things as well as bad. I think of this post as the third in a series of subtle reminders on the benefits of movement, active leisure, good posture, etc. which I have posted about in the past few days. On Sunday, I posted about The Physiologic Link Between Heart Disease and a Sedentary Lifestyle, and on Saturday, the Importance of Good Posture.

Today, Active Leisure.

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It is important to remember how much our bodies need activity.

Now comes Tufts Health and Nutrition Letter discussing how active leisure improves heart health and longevity.

“How you spend your free time may affect how much life time you have to spend. While nothing beats regular exercise, a new Swedish study reports that older adults who are more active in their leisure time were less prone to cardiovascular problems and lived longer than their sedentary peers. The benefits were seen regardless of whether the seniors also engaged in vigorous exercise. Continue reading

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Foods That Help Keep the Pounds Off as You Age

While men and women who ate lots of nuts, peanut butter, fish, yogurt and low-fat cheese tended to lose weight, other foods commonly seen as “unhealthy” — such as eggs, full-fat cheese and whole milk — did not seem to make a difference in weight.

This is a nice rundown on the foods we choose and their impact on us as we age. Let us not forget that eating is only half the battle on weight control and aging. There is also exercise. Everyone must exercise regularly; daily if possible.

Eat less; move more; live longer.

Tony

Cooking with Kathy Man

Study found it’s not just about calories; some foods not as bad for waistline as thought.

A new look at what kinds of foods might help people keep their weight in check as they age found that not all calories are created equal and some foods are not as bad for the middle-aged waistline as many believe.

While men and women who ate lots of nuts, peanut butter, fish, yogurt and low-fat cheese tended to lose weight, other foods commonly seen as “unhealthy” — such as eggs, full-fat cheese and whole milk — did not seem to make a difference in weight.

On the other hand, sugary drinks and refined or starchy carbohydrates — including white bread, potatoes and white rice — had the opposite effect.

“The idea that the human body is just a bucket for calories is too simplistic. It’s not just a matter of thinking about calories…

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Super Weight Loss Tips from Tufts

Regular readers know that I used to be overweight with a lot of bad eating habits. At my worst, I weighed over 220 pounds with a waistline of at least 44 inches. You can read how I made my first big successful swipe at that problem in How I lost 50 pounds in 52 weeks.

The past nearly eight years of writing this blog has raised my level of awareness into the stratosphere as far as weight control and healthy eating are concerned. But I always go back to the first principles of portion control and serving size. Tufts offers some super suggestions that will bolster your weight loss efforts going forward.

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Below are a few tips to ensure that you’re eating the right portion amounts:

– Most restaurant portion sizes are at least double or triple the portion you should be eating. As soon as your meal arrives, cut it in half and box up the other half. Take it home to have for lunch the next day.

– Serve food on small plates. Instead of using a dinner plate, substitute a luncheon plate or a salad plate.

- When eating at home, put a small portion of food on your plate, and keep the rest of the food in the kitchen. Then, if you want to eat more, you’ll have to get up to get it.

– Read food labels. When a package says that it contains more than one serving, measure out one serving into a separate dish.

- Avoid eating in front of the TV or while reading. Instead, focus on the tastes, textures, and aromas of your food. This can keep you from mindlessly munching your way to the bottom of a bowl of popcorn or bag of chips.

– Listen to your body’s hunger cues. Pay attention to feelings of hunger and fullness.

This last point is excellent. Don’t eat for reasons other than hunger. A pint or Rocky Road ice cream will not solve your emotional turmoil.

For more information on the connection between the heart and brain, consider purchasing  Heart-Brain Diet: Essential Nutrition for Healthy Longevity by Tufts Medical Report.

I have written further on portion control: A fresh look at portion control and portion distortion, How to Use Portion Control in Weight Loss and Maintenance, Get A Food Scale for Portion Control, Dining Out Portion Control Tricks from Weight Watchers, From “The Portion Teller.”

Tony

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