New research out of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) wasn’t particular surprising. Researchers found that people live longer if they practice one or more healthy lifestyle behaviors, which were not smoking, eating healthily, exercising, and limiting alcohol consumption. The researchers, who analyzed data from the CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III Mortality Study, found that people who followed all four healthy behaviors were 66 percent less likely to die early from cancer, 65 percent less likely to die early from cardiovascular disease, and 57 percent less likely to die early from other causes compared to people who didn’t engage in any healthy behaviors.
So let’s focus on one of these lifestyle behaviors that often trip people up – the food that we put in our mouths. It seems like everywhere I turn, there’s a new diet being promoted as healthy. Bet you’ve heard of the Atkins Diet, the Zone Diet, and the South Beach Diet. But for those who have wanted to lose weight over the years, there were the not-so-healthy options, such as the grapefruit diet and the cabbage diet.
These diets get a lot of attention, but the main determination of what to eat should be made using one simple question – which combination of foods are the most nutritious? In a cover story for Time Magazine’s September 12 issue, Dr. Mehmet Oz wrote a very interesting story, “The Oz Diet: No more myths. No more fads. What you should eat – and why.” He really did a great job of describing what we should be eating, and what we should be leery of. For instance, he warns against eating foods labeled fat-free. “Manufacturers looking to cash in on fat-phobic consumers became very good at stripping natural fats from products; but what was lost in taste and texture had to be compensated for by adding more sodium, sugar and thickeners,” Oz wrote. “As people ate more and more fat-free goodies, they got extra-high doses of other ingredients that were bad for them. And without the filling effect of fat in food, you are left hungry and tend to eat more.”
The cardiologist also has qualms about several popular diets, including the paleo diet. Noting nutritionists’ concerns about the diet’s recommendation to eliminate whole grains and dairy products, Oz pointed out that these two food groups have been found to decrease the risk of heart disease and some types of cancer in several studies. “What’s more, it’s worth remembering that cavemen tended to be much shorter than modern people and often died in their 40s – in part because they weren’t eating a diet that left them with much ability to fight off infection (or saber-toothed tigers),” Oz explained. Oz did describe the promise of the field of nutrigenomics, which links genes and diet. This field, which is focused on individualized nutrition, is just emerging as scientists carry out studies on mice.
The doctor also noted that much we eat is only part of the battle of the bulge. Oz pointed to a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine that found that your choice of foods was equally as important as the quantity of foods you eat in maintaining a healthy weight. For instance, eating French fries, potato chips, sugary drinks, meats, sweets and refined grains over a four-year period was associated with weight gain. Meanwhile, consuming yogurt, nuts, whole grains, fruits and vegetables was associated with weight loss.
So what does the good cardiologist prescribe to help us through our respective food crises? Eat in moderation. Choose foods from a number of food groups. Select foods that look like they did when harvested (in other words, food that haven’t been processed). Oz also recommends getting a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise weekly. Committing to this prescription can increase the chances that you’ll live a long life free of cardiovascular disease and cancer.
P.S. - Make sure you find a copy of Time Magazine and read Oz's article - it's worth it for all of the valuable information it offers.
Published On: September 07, 2011