Category Archives: Longevity

U.S. Life Span Falling Behind Our Peer Countries

From NPR:

The average life expectancy for Americans shortened by over seven months [in 2021], according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That decrease follows an already big decline of 1.8 years in 2020. As a result, the expected life span of someone born in the U.S. is now 76.4 years — the shortest it has been in nearly two decades.

But we still have the best healthcare system in the world, right? Not if you judge it by life expectancy. From Health System Tracker:

Life expectancy in the U.S. and peer countries generally increased from 1980-2019, but decreased in most countries in 2020 due to COVID-19. From 2020 to 2021, life expectancy at birth began to rebound in most comparable countries while it continued to decline in the U.S. The CDC estimates life expectancy at birth in the U.S. decreased to 76.1 years in 2021, down 2.7 years from 78.8 years in 2019 and down 0.9 years from 2020. The average life expectancy at birth among comparable countries was 82.4 years in 2021, down 0.2 years from 2019 and up 0.4 years from 2020. 

Click the article links for potential explanations.

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: Healthy diet, exercise, and weight management improve longevity. Let me help.

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Euthanasia Soon to Be A Leading Cause of Death in Canada?

From DailyMail:

Last year, more than 10,000 people in Canada – astonishingly that’s over three percent of all deaths there – ended their lives via euthanasia, an increase of a third on the previous year. And it’s likely to keep rising: next year, Canada is set to allow people to die exclusively for mental health reasons.

Only last week, a jaw-dropping story emerged of how, five years into an infuriating battle to obtain a stairlift for her home, Canadian army veteran and Paralympian Christine Gauthier was offered an extraordinary alternative.

A Canadian official told her in 2019 that if her life was so difficult and she so ‘desperate’, the government would help her to kill herself. ‘I have a letter saying that if you’re so desperate, madam, we can offer you MAiD, medical assistance in dying,’ the paraplegic ex-army corporal testified to Canadian MP


God gave me life. It’s up to God, not me, when it’s over. Over 40 years of practicing medicine, I’ve never had an patient ask me to “put them down,” like we would a cherished pet that was suffering during impending death.

Steve Parker, M.D.

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Two Dietitians Wonder What’s the Healthiest Way of Eating

A couple of dietitians did an massive literature review looking for evidence that diet has an effect on major health conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Sounds interesting, and similar to my own obsessive review done between 1995 and 2005. It bothers me that “hypertension” is misspelled in the abstract. For the researchers’ conclusions, you have to pay $27.95 USD.

Abstract from the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:

Appropriate diet can prevent, manage, or reverse noncommunicable health conditions such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Consequently, the public’s interest in diet and nutrition has fueled the multi-billion-dollar weight loss industry and elevated its standing on social media and the internet. Although many dietary approaches are popular, their universal effectiveness and risks across overall populations are not clear. The objective of this scoping review was to identify and characterize systematic reviews (SRs) examining diet or fasting (intermittent energy restriction [IER]) interventions among adults who are healthy or may have chronic disease. An in-depth literature search of six databases was conducted for SRs published between January 2010 and February 2020. A total of 22,385 SRs were retrieved, and 1,017 full-text articles were screened for eligibility. Of these, 92 SRs met inclusion criteria. Covered diets were organized into 12 categories: high/restricted carbohydrate (n = 30), Mediterranean, Nordic, and Tibetan (n = 19), restricted or modified fat (n = 17), various vegetarian diets (n = 16), glycemic index (n = 13), high protein (n = 12), IER (n = 11), meal replacements (n = 11), paleolithic (n = 8), Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypretension (DASH; n = 6), Atkins, South Beach, and Zone (n = 5), and eight other brand diets (n = 4). Intermediate outcomes, such as body weight or composition and cardiometabolic, were commonly reported. Abundant evidence was found exploring dietary approaches in the general population. However, heterogeneity of diet definitions, focus on single macronutrients, and infrequent macronutrient subanalyses were observed. Based on this scoping review, the Evidence Analysis Center prioritized the need to collate evidence related to macronutrient modification, specifically restricted carbohydrate diets.


Steve Parker, M.D.

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Dietitian Questions Healthfulness of the Mediterranean Diet

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Shana Spence, RD, wrote at Self.com:

The Mediterranean diet is constantly lauded in the nutrition world—in fact, U.S. News has named it the “best diet overall” for five years straight—but as a registered dietitian, I think it’s time to think about it a little differently: It’s time to dethrone the Mediterranean diet as being the very best way to eat.

Now, the Mediterranean diet—which emphasizes whole grains and plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, tree nuts, seeds, and olives, and limits red meat, sugar, and saturated fat—is not the only culturally based way of eating that’s been celebrated. The Japanese diet, rich in foods such as seafood, steamed rice, tofu, natto, seaweed, and pickled fruits and vegetables, has been promoted for its longevity-promoting aspects as well. But as scrolling through social media or even many news and health websites will show, it still doesn’t come close to the Mediterranean diet in terms of widespread recognition.

As an RD, I’ve noticed an overwhelming belief in our society that eating Mediterranean-style is just the way to go. So if your cultural foods don’t hail from one of the countries that make up that area, how does this make you feel?

Spoiler: Probably not so good—and that’s why I believe we need to rethink how we talk about cultural foods and ways of eating.


You know I’m a Mediterranean diet advocate. There are other healthy ways of eating. I’m an advocate of free speech and open debate. No censorship here! Read it and see what you think. I’m not sure what the “Japanese diet” is. I’ve written good things about the Okinawan diet as discussed in Dan Buettner’s Blue Zones books. Click for my review of Blue Zones.

Steve Parker, M.D.

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“Cellular Exercise” May Promote Longevity

Photo by Fayette Reynolds M.S. on Pexels.com

London researchers introduce the concept of “cellular exercise.”

Nutritional discipline and dietary restriction result in resistance exercise for our cells. Triggered by calorie restriction or physical exercise, our cells end up producing transcription factors that lead to protection against oxidation, inflammation, atherosclerosis, and carcinogenic proliferation. In the long-term, this results in longevity and a decrease in cancer, T2DM [type 2 diabetes], myocardial infarction, and stroke. Since centuries past, studies on humans, rhesus monkeys, and multilevel organisms have demonstrated the benefits of calorie restriction without malnutrition. Periodic fasting and calorie restriction show increases in regeneration markers and decreases in biomarkers for diabetes, CVD [cardiovascular disease], cancer, and aging.

The present review concluded that longevity can be increased through moderation of diet and exercise. Research shows that a concoction of the diverse diets modernly popularized— MED [Mediterranean], DASH, high-protein diets±—tempered by overall calorie restriction through periodic fasting or chronic calorie restriction, will provide protection against CVD, cancer, and aging. Exercise has also been shown to increase longevity in the general population, lower incidence of diabetes and cancer, and produce psychological benefits.

This review of research indicates that incorporating a moderate caloric restriction or fasting regimen could provide substantial benefits at low risk. Cellular exercise through calorie restriction and physical exercise can increase longevity and prevent the greatest killers of human society today—stroke and heart disease.


Caloric restriction is a form of hormesis. If interested, read more about it in free article from Journal of Physiological Anthropology.

Steve Parker, M.D.

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Leafy Greens Can Kill You!

Not sure if this is chicken or tuna salad with walnuts and grapes

Periodically there are outbreaks of illness caused by eating contaminated leafy greens. The contaminants are usually bacteria such as E coli and Salmonella. The illness is typically diarrhea, sometimes with belly cramps, nausea, and vomiting. And rare deaths.

Cathe Friedrich published an interesting article about this phenomenon. Here are a few bullet points (I haven’t independently verified):

  • Leafy greens such as lettuce are linked to 22% of food poisoning outbreaks over over the last 10 years
  • The riskiest leafy green is bagged, ready-to-serve lettuce

A few ways to avoid foodborne illness:

  • Avoid pre-packaged leafy greens
  • Avoid sprouts
  • Keep the produce refrigerated and dry
  • Consume before the expiration date

Click for leafy green food safety tips from the Canadian government.

Click for a harrowing story at Consumer Reports about E coli poisoning from romaine lettuce.

Consumer Reports article on the safest ways to eat salad.

Steve Parker, M.D.

h/t Jan at The Low Carb Diabetic

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Mediterranean Diet Reduces Cardiovascular and All-Cause Mortality

Caprese salad: mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, basil, extra virgin olive oil

Folks with diabetes have higher-than-average risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, such as heart attacks and strokes. So it’s good to know about dietary habits that enhance longevity.

Article

ABSTRACT

Background

Examining a variety of diet quality methodologies will inform best practice use of diet quality indices for assessing all-cause and CVD [cardiovascular disease] mortality.

Objective

To examine the association between three diet quality indices (Australian Dietary Guideline Index, DGI; Dietary Inflammatory Index, DII; Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, MIND) and risk of all-cause mortality, CVD mortality and non-fatal CVD events up to 19 years later.Design

Data on 10,009 adults (51.8 years; 52% female) from the Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle study were used. A food frequency questionnaire was used to calculate DGI, DII and MIND at baseline. Cox proportional hazard models were used to estimate hazard ratios (HR) and 95% CI of all-cause mortality, CVD mortality and non-fatal CVD events (stroke; myocardial infarction) according to 1 SD increase in diet quality, adjusted for age, sex, education, smoking, physical activity, energy intake, history of stroke or heart attack, and diabetes and hypertension status.Results

Deaths due to all-cause (n = 1,955) and CVD (n = 520), and non-fatal CVD events (n = 264) were identified during mean follow-ups of 17.7, 17.4 and 9.6 years, respectively. For all-cause mortality, HRs associated with higher DGI, DII and MIND were 0.94 (95% CI: 0.89, 0.99), 1.08 (95% CI: 1.02, 1.15) and 0.93 (95% CI: 0.89, 0.98), respectively. For CVD mortality, HRs associated with higher DGI, DII and MIND were 0.93 (95% CI: 0.85, 0.99), 1.10 (95% CI: 1.00, 1.24) and 0.90 (95% CI: 0.82, 0.98), respectively. There was limited evidence of associations between diet quality and non-fatal CVD events.Conclusions

Better quality diet predicted lower risk of all-cause and CVD mortality in Australian adults, while a more inflammatory diet predicted higher mortality risk. These findings highlight the applicability of following Australian dietary guidelines, a Mediterranean style diet and a low-inflammatory diet for the reduction of all-cause and CVD mortality risk.


Steve Parker, M.D.

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Filed under coronary heart disease, Health Benefits, Heart Disease, Longevity, Mediterranean Diet, Stroke

Premature Death and Cardiovascular Disease Linked to High Glycemic Index Eating

Naan, a type of flat bread with a high glycemic index

Haven’t we know this for years? From New England Journal of Medicine:

Most data regarding the association between the glycemic index and cardiovascular disease come from high-income Western populations, with little information from non-Western countries with low or middle incomes. To fill this gap, data are needed from a large, geographically diverse population.

METHODS

This analysis includes 137,851 participants between the ages of 35 and 70 years living on five continents, with a median follow-up of 9.5 years. We used country-specific food-frequency questionnaires to determine dietary intake and estimated the glycemic index and glycemic load on the basis of the consumption of seven categories of carbohydrate foods. We calculated hazard ratios using multivariable Cox frailty models. The primary outcome was a composite of a major cardiovascular event (cardiovascular death, nonfatal myocardial infarction, stroke, and heart failure) or death from any cause.

RESULTS

In the study population, 8780 deaths and 8252 major cardiovascular events occurred during the follow-up period. After performing extensive adjustments comparing the lowest and highest glycemic-index quintiles, we found that a diet with a high glycemic index was associated with an increased risk of a major cardiovascular event or death, both among participants with preexisting cardiovascular disease (hazard ratio, 1.51; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.25 to 1.82) and among those without such disease (hazard ratio, 1.21; 95% CI, 1.11 to 1.34). Among the components of the primary outcome, a high glycemic index was also associated with an increased risk of death from cardiovascular causes. The results with respect to glycemic load were similar to the findings regarding the glycemic index among the participants with cardiovascular disease at baseline, but the association was not significant among those without preexisting cardiovascular disease.

CONCLUSIONS

In this study, a diet with a high glycemic index was associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and death.

Source: Glycemic Index, Glycemic Load, and Cardiovascular Disease and Mortality | NEJM

The Advanced Mediterranean Diet (2nd edition) is low glycemic index.

Steve Parker, M.D.

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Avoid Age-Related Frailty With the Mediterranean Diet

Winning against gravity, for now…

The opposite of vigor is frailty. Aging is a life-long fight with gravity. If you’re frail, you’ll lose the battle sooner. In the study at hand, frailty was measured by exhaustion, weakness, physical activity, walking speed, and weight loss. The Mediterranean diet is linked to decreased frailty. From the Journal of the American Medical Medical Directors Association way back in 2014:

Abstract

Background and objective: Low intake of certain micronutrients and protein has been associated with higher risk of frailty. However, very few studies have assessed the effect of global dietary patterns on frailty. This study examined the association between adherence to the Mediterranean diet (MD) and the risk of frailty in older adults.

Design, setting, and participants: Prospective cohort study with 1815 community-dwelling individuals aged ≥60 years recruited in 2008-2010 in Spain.

Measurements: At baseline, the degree of MD [Mediterranean Diet] adherence was measured with the Mediterranean Diet Adherence Screener (MEDAS) score and the Mediterranean Diet Score, also known as the Trichopoulou index. In 2012, individuals were reassessed to detect incident frailty, defined as having at least 3 of the following criteria: exhaustion, muscle weakness, low physical activity, slow walking speed, and weight loss. The study associations were summarized with odds ratios (OR) and their 95% confidence interval (CI) obtained from logistic regression, with adjustment for the main confounders.

Results: Over a mean follow-up of 3.5 years, 137 persons with incident frailty were identified. Compared with individuals in the lowest tertile of the MEDAS score (lowest MD adherence), the OR (95% CI) of frailty was 0.85 (0.54-1.36) in those in the second tertile, and 0.65 (0.40-1.04; P for trend = .07) in the third tertile. Corresponding figures for the Mediterranean Diet Score were 0.59 (0.37-0.95) and 0.48 (0.30-0.77; P for trend = .002). Being in the highest tertile of MEDAS was associated with reduced risk of slow walking (OR 0.53; 95% CI 0.35-0.79) and of weight loss (OR 0.53; 95% CI 0.36-0.80). Lastly, the risk of frailty was inversely associated with consumption of fish (OR 0.66; 95% CI 0.45-0.97) and fruit (OR 0.59; 95% CI 0.39-0.91).

Conclusions: Among community-dwelling older adults, an increasing adherence to the MD was associated with decreasing risk of frailty.

Did you notice another good reason to eat fish?

I wonder why the research was published in the Journal of the American Medical Medical Directors Association?

Steve Parker, M.D.

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Type 2 Diabetes? Drink Coffee and You May Live Longer

“Is the world shaking, or is it just me?”

Compared to no coffee-drinking, drinking four cups a day reduced overall death rate by 20%, reduced cardiovascular deaths by 40%, and reduced death rate form coronary artery disease by 30%. The study at hand was a meta-analysis involving over 80,000 folks with type 2 diabetes living in multiple studies and followed clinically for 5-20 years. “Cardiovascular deaths” are usually heart attacks, strokes, cardiac arrest, or heart failure.

I vaguely recall a study several decades ago linking coffee to pancreas cancer, one of the deadliest cancers. The research was subsequently discredited.

From Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases:

Aims

To evaluate the long-term consequences of coffee drinking in patients with type 2 diabetes.

Data synthesis

PubMed, Scopus, and Web of Sciences were searched to November 2020 for prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of coffee drinking with risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and mortality in patients with type 2 diabetes. Two reviewers extracted data and rated the certainty of evidence using GRADE approach. Random-effects models were used to estimate the hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% CIs. Dose–response associations were modeled by a one-stage mixed-effects meta-analysis. Ten prospective cohort studies with 82,270 cases were included. Compared to those with no coffee consumption, the HRs for consumption of 4 cups/d were 0.79 (95%CI: 0.72, 0.87; n = 10 studies) for all-cause mortality, 0.60 (95%CI: 0.46, 0.79; n = 4) for CVD mortality, 0.68 (95%CI: 0.51, 0.91; n = 3) for coronary heart disease (CHD) mortality, 0.72 (95%CI: 0.54, 0.98; n = 2) for CHD, and 0.77 (95%CI: 0.61, 0.98; n = 2) for total CVD events. There was no significant association for cancer mortality and stroke. There was an inverse monotonic association between coffee drinking and all-cause and CVD mortality, and inverse linear association for CHD and total CVD events. The certainty of evidence was graded moderate for all-cause mortality, and low or very low for other outcomes.

Conclusions

Drinking coffee may be inversely associated with the risk of mortality in patients with type 2 diabetes. However, more research is needed considering type of coffee, sugar and cream added to coffee, and history of CVD to present more confident results.

Citation

Steve Parker, M.D.

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