Team McCallum

R&D for Lifetime of Life

Eating well?

Two stories published today illustrate the difference between how well people think they eat and how well they really eat.

In Ecuador, Dr Simin Nikbin Meydani examined the diet and health of 350 men and women aged 65+ living in 3 poor neighbourhoods around the capital, Quito. Despite being poor, these people seemed to be eating well, with 33% of the men overweight and 55% of the women overweight.

In reality, their diet was heavily based on white rice, potatoes, sugar and white bread. Foods to provide micronutrients, such as chicken, legumes, fruit and vegetables, were sparse.

Using standard definitions, the team found that 19% of the men and 81% of the women had metabolic syndrome. High levels of C-reactive protein, a marker associated with cardiovascular disease risk, were found in 50% of the population. By analysing diet components, the team was able to tie risk of metabolic syndrome to under-consumption of vitamin C and vitamin E in this population.

The research was published in Public Health Nutrition.

Meanwhile, in the US, a survey of over 1,200 people found that many thought they were eating better than they really were.

53% thought their diet was somewhat healthy, 32% thought very healthy and 6% thought extremely healthy.

However, only 30% ate their 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day, only half watched how many sweets they ate and 43% drank at least one can of sugar-sweetened beverage each day.

Of those who said they were at a healthy weight, 30% were clinically in the overweight range, and 35% were obese.

While 81% claimed to be active, the average amount of time spent moderately active was one hour, with a large chunk clocking up 5 hours per day sitting down.

The study was conducted by Consumer Reports.


January 4, 2011 Posted by | Activity, CVD - cardiovascular disease, Diet, Fruit, Gender, Health, Metabolic syndrome, Obesity, Soft drinks, Success, Sugar, United States, Vegetables, Vitamin C - ascorbic acid, Vitamin E, Weight management | Leave a comment

Antioxidants v stroke.

The Italian segment of EPIC (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition) has reported on how consumption of antioxidants relates to stroke risk.

Dr Nicoletta Pellegrini of the University of Parma analysed data on roughly 42,000 men and women who were free from stroke and heart attacks at the start of the study, and who were followed for an average of 8 years.

Those with a diet high in antioxidants had a 60% lower chance of suffering an ischemic stroke (blocked blood vessel). Most of this effect may be due to high vitamin C intake.

The researchers speculated that the protective mechanism might be a combination of anti-inflammatory action, plus generation of nitric oxide to cause dilation of blood vessels and so lower blood pressure.

However, highest intake of vitamin E appeared to be linked to a large increase in risk for hemorrhagic stroke (bleeding), but due to the small number of such events, the team suggested further research would be required to investigate this.

More than half the antioxidants consumed came from coffee, red wine and fruit, with other sources including chocolate, vegetables, whole grain cereals and nuts.

While the team checked results after adjusting for a number of risk factors, one notable item they did not account for was sodium (salt) consumption.

January 3, 2011 Posted by | Alcohol, Chocolate, Coffee, Diet, Fruit, Health, High blood pressure, Stroke, Success, Vegetables, Vitamin C - ascorbic acid, Vitamin E | Leave a comment

Anti-aging supplements.

A study in Italy using mice has found that 3 essential amino acids increase lifespan by an average of 12%.

Dr Enzo Nisoli compared mice fed supplements of branched-chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine and valine) to others without this to find out why the animals lived longer. Previous studies have shown benefits in a range of different life forms, including humans.

Essential amino acids are those we need to get from food as human bodies cannot form them from other substances. The three branched-chain amino acids are strongly linked to building muscle.

Dr Nisoli found the supplements worked by turning on energy production in muscle cells and turning up the anti-oxidation in the cells, giving greater protection against cell damage. These effects worked to counter the natural decline of muscle function in older mice, restoring them to close to their prime condition.

The improvements were to heart and skeletal muscles. There was no change in fat cells or in liver function.

The supplements have been tested before in animals younger than their prime and at this time had no impact. The Italian study makes it clear that it is working by prevention of natural decline.

The three branched-chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine and valine) are widely available from supplement suppliers at inexpensive prices.

Dr Nisoli’s paper compared, in some detail, the effects of these branched-chain amino acids to other anti-aging methods, including calorie-restriction, moderate physical exercise, and anti-oxidants including vitamin C, vitamin E and resveratrol. To celebrate the blog’s 40,000th view, a special on this topic will appear shortly.

October 7, 2010 Posted by | Activity, Aging, Amino acids, Diet, Enzo Nisoli, Exercise, Health, Resveratrol, Success, Vitamin C - ascorbic acid, Vitamin E | Leave a comment

Vitamin E and aging.

Prof Dayong Wu and team looked at the immune system in elderly mice, as compared to that of young mice.

Vitamin E has 8 forms. Supplements usually provide alpha tocopherol only. There are 3 other tocopherols, and 4 tocotrienols.

Alpha tocopherol increases T-cell immune system response, although very high levels have been linked to an increased risk of death in the elderly.

Wu compared mice fed alpha tocopherol in their diet versus those fed alpha tocopherol plus 3 of the tocotrienols.

In young mice, there was no difference in immune system response between the two diets. But in older mice, there was a better immune system response from those with tocotrienols.

Tocotrienols appear to help aging immune systems beyond the benefits of isolated alpha tocopherol.

Click here for a recent story that the risk of Alzheimer’s is reduced by a mix of the 8 components of vitamin E.

July 11, 2010 Posted by | Aging, Dayong Wu, Health, Success, Vitamin E | Leave a comment

Vitamin E, death, Alzheimer’s.

In Nov 2004, researchers from Johns Hopkins University warned that high levels of vitamin E led to increased risk of death. The figures were 400 IU (International Units) per day, compared to the limtis recommended at the time – 800 IU in the UK, 1,500 in the US. The findings related to the elderly – those aged 60 plus.

Research just published by the Karolinska Institutet has found that high levels of vitamin E in the blood of the elderly cuts the risk of Alzheimer’s and cognitive deterioration.

To make sense of this, you need to know that vitamin E comes in 8 forms. There are 4 tocopherol forms (alpha, beta, gamma, delta) and 4 tocotrienol forms (again alpha, beta, gamma and delta). Vitamin E supplement is usually alpha-tocopherol, and the Johns Hopkins research was, effectively, on this one form.

The Karolinska Institutet research looked at all 8 forms. The common alpha-tocopherol did not provide a significant risk reduction for Alzheimer’s. On its own, only beta-tocopherol was linked to a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s.

However, a mix of the 4 tocopherols cut the risk by 45%, a mix of the 4 tocotrienols cut it by 54%, and a mix of all 8 components cut the risk by 45%. It’s the mix that counts, not the use of just one of the 8 forms.

Dr. Francesca Mangialasche led the Karolinska Institutet study.

July 7, 2010 Posted by | Aging, Alzheimer's, Francesca Mangialasche, Health, Success, Vitamin E | 1 Comment

Environment v diabetes.

Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) are standard ways to seach through all the literature on a given condition and find which genetic conditions relate to it.

Prof Atul J Butte has published the first EWAS (environment-wide association study). In this case, type 2 diabetes was studied.

The team found the following environmental factors increased the risk of getting type 2 diabetes
– exposure to heptachlor epoxide. (This results when bacteria and animals break down heptachlor, which was used in a number of pesticides until banned in 1986)
– gamma-tocopherol. This is one of 8 compounds that may be called vitamin E. According to Wikipedia, alpha-tocopherol is the main source found in supplements, and in the European diet, while gamma-tocopherol is the most common form in the American diet.
– PCBs.

A protective factor was beta-carotene, the precursor to vitamin A, found in carrots etc.

May 26, 2010 Posted by | Atul J Butte, Diabetes, Diet, Health, Vitamin A, Vitamin E | Leave a comment