Nutrition and Longevity: State of the Art 2021
Understanding Blue Zones1
Dan Buettner, a National Geographic Fellow founded Blue Zones to understand the characteristics of communities that had the largest concentration of healthy, active centenarians. The initial five zones (Okinawa, Japan, Icara, Greece, Sardinia, Italy, Nicoya, Costa Rica, and Loma Linda, California) have been studied extensively to learn what lifestyle habits have been responsible for the increased longevity and health. They identified the key commonalities in these communities.
In the article, 9 Lessons From the World’s Blue Zones on Living a Long, Healthy Life, Dan outlines these commonalities. This article is well worth the brief read because researchers estimate that the average person could increase life expectancy by 10 to 12 years by adopting a Blue Zone lifestyle.
New Strategies in Healthier Eating
Since 1977 when dietary guidelines were promoted for healthy eating, the recommended U.S. diet has been high carbohydrate, low fat, with an emphasis on breads, grains, and rice. This has been a failed dietary experiment. The CDC estimates that the U.S. obesity prevalence had increased from 30.5% in 1999 to 42.4% in 2018. U.S. obesity rates have tripled in the last 50 years. Fortunately, there are alternative recommendations that have been shown to promote fat loss, lean body weight, and maintain cardiovascular health. A few of these strategies are:
- Move away from highly processed foods and sugars
- Low carb eating2
- Restricted eating (intermittent fasting)3
- More plant-based diet
More than 55 medical schools have formal programs in culinary medicine. They have been developed to teach physicians, medical, nursing, and pharmacy students an evidence-based approach to nutrition, food, and cooking. The goal is to help people make good personal medical decisions about grocery shopping, food quality, and cooking. These programs have a significant community outreach component to help educate the public about healthier cooking and eating.
By teaching people about improving food choices and healthier eating, many of our societal diseases (obesity, diabetes, hypertension) can be reduced or prevented.
The UAMS culinary program began in 2019. Their relationship with the University of Arkansas Pulaski Tech allows them to have a state-of-the-art cooking demonstration kitchen for classes. It is encouraging that we are training new health care workers in this discipline so they can give better advice to patients.
Biohacking Your Health and Nutrition
Personalized medicine is now a reality. Many companies can help you actively focus on improving your specific health and longevity. Personal insights and actions before disease occurs are game changers. Here are three that are exciting.
This company has developed an app that uses Continuous Glucose Monitors (CGM) with AI and dietary feedback to help diabetics and others improve metabolic health and fitness by making choices that keep glucose levels in a more stable range.
Everyone reacts to specific foods differently, and by learning which foods cause abnormally high glucose spikes one can tailor eating to improve blood sugar control and overall health.
Here is a sample image of the app:
CGMs such as the Freestyle Libre by Abbott are now being used by individuals that are prediabetic. Medical professionals believe that early feedback on which foods cause abnormally high glucose spikes will allow people to avoid those foods and prevent diabetes.
This company analyzes your blood, DNA, medical history, lifestyle, and nutrition habits to give you evidence-based personal recommendations for your nutrition, supplements, and activity to help you optimize your life. The company was founded in 2009 by experts in aging, genetics, and biometric data from Harvard, MIT, and Tufts. They have developed an algorithm using current science and the data to help generate a plan for personal change. They believe a personalized plan for nutrition, exercise, and healthy habits can be an effective solution to fighting chronic disease and increasing your health span.
This company analyzes your DNA to generate a comprehensive report on your specific nutritional needs. Covering more than 20 nutrients and 100 foods, they can help you make better decisions about healthy eating.
It is an exciting time. The science of nutrition and artificial intelligence are merging to help you develop and manage a personalized nutritional plan that can improve your health and perhaps extend your healthy lifespan.
As always, we are here for you. Please email or call if you want to set up a Zoom videoconference meeting or talk by phone.
Ralph Broadwater, M.D., CFP®
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