Known Knowns


I can't tell you what to eat. Your body is your temple, not mine.

That being said, if you want to eat healthy, there is a ton of seemingly contradictory information out there about what you should eat.

Ignore it.

There is one nutritional fact that remains constant regardless of all the background noise: There has never been a scientific study that showed eating vegetables was bad for you!

Vegetables are totally healthy (allergies and sensitivities excluded) and there's enough scientific supporting evidence for this that we might as well call it a Law of human nutrition.

Make veggies a big part of your diet for optimal health. Or don't...I don't care. I'm not your keeper.

I am my own keeper, though, and I have found that getting lots of veggies in my diet isn't that hard, even for a lazy guy like me.

I buy frozen vegetables. They are quick to cook, and as it turns out, they are actually more nutritious than fresh veggies. This is because of logistics, biology, and physics. When fresh veggies are harvested, they are often stored for days in a slightly unripe state before being shipped long distances, where they then sit on store shelves for several more days to finish ripening. All this time they are slowly losing nutritional value due to the natural oxidative processes that happen in the cells of living things that are dying. Ripening is essentially a decay process in plants.

Compare that with frozen veggies. Within hours of harvest, they are chopped and flash frozen, thus locking in their nutritional value and preventing further decay. Frozen veggies remain in this state of suspended animation until you unlock their potent nutritional value by cooking them.

That's all.


Age Reversal with Nicotinamide Riboside and Resveratrol (or Pterostilbene)

The newest anti-aging fad is pretty soundly based in scientific research, albeit only if you are a mouse or a cell in a petri dish. Human studies are still wanting.

To wit, one school of thought on aging is that the mitochondria (powerhouses) in your cells gradually become sluggish with age. Your cells become energy inefficient and slow down or die. At the orgamismal level, you get old and slow and weak, even if you are otherwise healthy and have no chronic diseases. That's the natural process of aging.

But scientists can tinker with the cellular machinery of the mitochondria and they recently have, as this article in Scientific American summarizes.

Years ago, some scientists looking for an explanation for the health benefits of red wine figured out that a molecule in grapes, resveratrol, could stimulate mitochondrial activity by way of sirtuins, naturally occurring cellular enzymes that are involved in mitochondrial energy metabolism. More recently, a molecule related to resveratrol, called pterostilbene, was shown to be even more potent than resveratrol at charging up mitochondrial metabolism.

A cellular molecule called nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) has been implicated in the mechanism by which sirtuins ramp up mitochondrial function, and not surprisingly this molecule gradually decreases in cells as they age. When a precursor of NAD called nicotinamide riboside (NR) was fed to elderly mice, low and behold the NAD levels and mitochondrial function of the rodents' muscle cells increased to the level found in young mice (although an increase in muscle strength of the elderly mice was not seen).

Naturally, the promising cellular and animal studies to date have caught the attention of the nutraceuticals industry and even though there are no strong human studies on the effects of NR and resveratrol/pterostilbene on mitochondrial function and aging, several proprietary supplements are now on the market that contain various combinations of these molecules.

Following my mom's albeit inaccurate philosophy on nutritional supplements - "It can't hurt, but it might help!" - my wife and I now take a daily NR and resveratrol supplement from Life Extension, called Optimized NAD+ Cell Regenerator with Resveratrol. Does it work? That's hard to say. Thanks to a healthy lifestyle, I am quite energetic and spritely as I approach 50 years of age. I can say that it has not hurt as far as I can tell, supporting my mom's tenuous adage. 

This week I went on several long bike rides and I feel stronger than ever climbing hills and enduring long distances. This may simply be the effects of regular exercise and training. I also take another supplement containing Asian herbs that putatively boost energy. So I represent a very uncontrolled and unscientific human case study. I do trust the Life Extension brand, however, and we get most of our nutritional supplements from there.


My Blood Lipids

I'm sharing the fasting blood lipid panel results from my most recent annual health physical (end of June) because:

1. I eat a relatively high fat (mainly extra virgin olive oil), moderate protein and complex carbs, whole food diet, emphasizing vegetables, fruit, nuts, olive oil, and lean meat.

2. I do not restrict my food intake quantity at all, I simply make smart food choices whenever possible, such as avoiding refined flour and sugar.

3. I eat quite a lot of cheese sometimes, even by Wisconsin standards, but I don't consume other forms of dairy like milk or butter.*

4. I eat at least a dozen eggs each week, yolks and all.

5. I drink beer, though usually in moderation.

6. I drink coffee as needed.

7. I don't smoke (and can't believe some people still do!).

8. I don't take any prescription pharmaceuticals of any kind, only a few OTC vitamin supplements.

9. I exercise two or three times per week, but not religiously or overly intensively, and I try to stay generally active the rest of the time.

10. When I do occasionally eat junk food, I never feel guilty about it (just gross!) because it is usually driven by my achievement of specific weight loss goals (or birthdays and other "special occasions").

11. I meditate daily for 15-20 minutes, usually first thing in the morning (after drinking my coffee, so as not to cause an inadvertent power nap), though I have no strong reason to believe this is correlated with my blood lipids.**

12. I lost 35 pounds over the past year or so and kept them off by adhering to the above lifestyle guidelines.

13. My lifestyle habits are modest and achievable for most generally healthy people my age (almost 50!), and I want to help people avoid heart attacks and strokes (total cholesterol above 150 mg/dL significantly elevates a person's risk for these diseases, even though the medical establishment says less than 200 mg/dL is "desirable").

14. The conventional medical community still doesn't fully value the potency of good lifestyle as a major contributor to heart health, preferring to pump you full of powerful prescription drugs or implanting high tech devices into your circulatory system (cha-ching $$$), and that's a shame.

15. These are impressive lipid results by North American medical standards, resulting probably slightly from my good genes but mostly from an excellent lifestyle, and I'm not beneath a little bit of prideful gloating.

If you are interested in learning more specifics about my optimal lifestyle for healthy lipids, drop me a comment below, especially if you are struggling with unhealthy cholesterol levels. I promise to respond within 24 hours.

Back in the early 2000s, I co-authored and published a paper in the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine on the effects of a whole food diet plus nutritional supplements on lipid profiles in human subjects. CLICK HERE to see it.

Note that the above individual blood lipid results apply only to me and everyone is different. But I'm also just an average Joe, as they say in the vernacular, and blood lipids are closely tied to lifestyle habits in almost every scientific study on the matter.

My total cholesterol was 164 mg/dL, well within the desirable range (under 200 mg/dL). My triglycerides were ridiculously normal (less than 150 mg/dL) at 55 mg/dL. My HDL was 57 mg/dL (anything above 40 mg/dL is considered normal for this "good cholesterol"). My "bad cholesterol" or LDL came in at 96 mg/dL, admittedly too close for my comfort given the optimal maximum for this value is 100 mg/dL. But, it still counts! And my non-HDL cholesterol (any cholesterol that is not "good cholesterol") was well within the desirable range (less than 130 mg/dL) at 107 mg/dL. Boom! 

Truth be told though, in full disclosure, my blood sugar was also tested at the same time and was ever so slightly higher than desirable, in what they call pre-diabetic. That basically means I have to keep an eye on it, but I'm in no danger. This is an interesting result because this measure has always been normal in the past. I rarely eat any refined sugars or fats, other than extra virgin olive oil, dietary factors that impact this measure. So perhaps this is a fluke result. I did ride my bike to the clinic for the test, so it's possible the exercise had transiently elevated my blood sugar via my liver (since I was fasting) to feed my muscles [SOURCE]. Even so, my pancreas should have compensated by increasing insulin levels and normalizing the blood glucose.

*Note: According to the author and brainchild of the infamous China Study research project, one T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D., dairy protein, especially casein, is considered highly detrimental to health, including cardiovascular health and cholesterol levels. However, if this is true, I appear to be a statistical outlier. I love cheese! There may be some health promoting probiotic effects from the bacterial cultures used to make cheese, but it's still the fermented excretions from a cow's udder, you know?

**Note: Decreasing stress may be linked to improved blood lipid profiles, and meditation certainly helps with stress relief, but I also try to minimize external stress by limiting my exposure to stressful people and situations.


The Mediterranean Diet and Brain Shrinkage


Adhering strictly to a Mediterranean diet could prevent your brain from shrinking as you age, a new study suggests.

HERE is a detailed article about the study from the New Scientist magazine, if you want to get deep into it.

Here is my summary, if you don't.

Some Scottish researchers surveyed a cohort of 401 elderly people (who have been followed as part of a larger ongoing health study since the late 1930s) about their dietary habits and then they MRI scanned their brains. People who followed a strict Mediterranean diet, rich in fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and olive oil (and with less dairy and red meat), had 50% less brain shrinkage than people from the cohort who ate a typical Scottish diet (rich in haggis...just kidding).

Interestingly, these researchers found that fish consumption didn't necessarily correlate with bigger brains, as some previous studies have suggested.

Everyone's brain shrinks as they age. Eating a Mediterranean diet might slow that shrinkage and prevent neurological declines and pathologies like Alzheimer's disease and dementia. Tons of studies tout the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet, so it can't hurt and it might help.

That's all I have on this right now. Like I said, click the link for more.