Revisiting the Blue Zones

My great aunt Barbara is 98 years old. She lives alone, still plays bridge, does her own shopping, and really seems to enjoy her life. She's fairly agile, and one would have a hard time calling her frail. She gets to enjoy 3 generations of descendants in her family. She really enjoys her life.

While none of knows how long we will live, I suspect most of us would agree that we would like to live whatever years we have with a minimal degree of disability, pain, and limitation. We'd like to live our years as healthy as possible.

If that's true for you, you need to know about the Blue Zones.

What are Blue Zones?

I think this research is really cool. Dr. Dan Buettner and his team have identified 5 areas in the world where people seem to live, on average, significantly longer and healthier than the rest of the world, and they have studied what makes these people unique. The story goes that they originally circled these 5 areas on the map in blue marker, hence the name Blue Zones...

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Can You Use Food to Decrease Inflammation? A Look at Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Nutrition and Energy

In last week's post, we focused on energy production, and one of the points introduced was this:

  • Think about inflammation and healing. Your body works best when its repair system is functioning well, and excess inflammation can impair the healing process. Excess inflammation is associated with many adverse health outcomes including heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Ways you can help:
    • Choose unsaturated fat over saturated fat (there is controversy about saturated fat currently but the scientific literature clearly supports that unsaturated fat has greater health benefit)
    • Choose quality carbohydrates (vegetables, fruits, whole grains)
    • Increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

I received several inquires about omega-3 fatty acids, so let's take a deeper look.

One way to improve your nutrition, and therefore your health, is to simply start thinking about food quality, and looking for ways to "upgrade" what you eat....

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Where Do We Get Our Energy?

I felt like I'd been unplugged

In 2018 I had surgery to repair a damaged leg artery. I was recovering nicely for the first week, and then something changed. It was like I had been unplugged. For 2 days, I could barely get out of bed. It was hard to keep my eyes open. The trip downstairs to the couch was so taxing I'd nap for hours. I recall wondering if I'd ever get back to normal.

To this day, I don't know what happened. After 2 days, my energy improved and I got back to recovering from the surgery. When I think back, I feel gratitude that my energy was restored and 

But what  if you have fatigue and it's not getting better? What if you're not recovering? I frequently evaluate and treat people for whom fatigue is a daily struggle.

Fatigue

Fatigue is one of the most common complaints that lead people to see a physician. Unfortunately, an explanation for fatigue is not always available, even after thoughtful analysis and testing. If you are experiencing fatigue, I...

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What Is The Best Diet? Results of the DIETFITS Study

What is the Best Diet?

I know, we keep coming back to this question. I get asked this question frequently. I think that's cause lots of people are frustrated with the glut of conflicting information available, and want to know how to get results.

I wish there were a quick answer. I will say, when it comes to healthy lifestyle, I've be come obsessed with helping people understand what will produce the results they want in their own bodies. We all grow tired of the same advice of "just eat less and exercise more." While there is a certain truth to this statement, for most people such advice does not lead to changes that actually produce benefit. Something is missing.

Low-fat vs. Low-carb

Low-carb is an approach that works well for many people. Low-fat diets have fallen out of favor, although traditional low-fat diets are not the same as healthy low-fat diets that don't rely on processed foods (think vegetarian approaches that emphasize plants and whole grains).

So,...

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Three Things - 3 Food Categories to Watch

Ahhh, the aroma

I come home from a day in clinic, and as I open the door from the garage I can tell there are cookies waiting in the kitchen. My wife and my daughter both love to bake, and during the pandemic they've both spent more time in the kitchen honing their craft. So on this day, I'm greeted by oatmeal raisin cookies, my personal favorite.

From the onset of social distancing in March, it didn't take long to figure out that having cookies on the counter all the time was not going to be a brilliant strategy for my health. Even when I might not be thinking I'm hungry, the sight of these treats is very hard for me to resist.

Not wanting to be a downer for my family, experimenting let me discover that as long as the cookies moved out of direct view (into the freezer is great), I greatly increase the odds that I won't succumb to temptation.

We are creatures of our environment

One of the lessons from the Blue Zones is that in healthy cultures, the environment "nudges" people toward...

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There Are No Shortcuts to Good Nutrition

When I was in medical school and learning how to perform basic tasks, like reading an ECG or a chest x-ray, I was taught very specific protocols for each process. For example, reading an ECG was RRABEIIM - rate, rhythm, axis, bundles, enlargements, intervals, ischemia, morphology. The goal was to make sure nothing was missed, nothing was inadvertently overlooked.

In other words, taking shortcuts - such as jumping to the evidence of a heart attack occurring - might mean missing a long QT interval, which could lead to serious problems if medication choice did not take this into account.

Pilots, auto mechanics, chefs, and in fact almost every profession uses checklists or SOP's in some form to make sure a vital process does not get short-circuited.

Supplements - Do They Work?

I have to admit, it seems logical to assume that if a substance is found to have health benefit in nature, it should have similar benefit if taken in the form of a supplement. But is this true?

It turns out...

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Cleaning up debris, again. Sigh.

Yesterday I swept out my garage in the morning. It's amazing how quickly the dust and dirt accumulates in that space. Then I swept the kitchen. We have a new dog (our pandemic addition), doubling our canine count and apparently our dog hair production. In the evening, I sat on the front porch for my final Zoom meeting of the day and couldn't help but notice the cobwebs and old blossoms accumulating around the bench and front door. Sigh. I saved that cleaning for another day.

Debris accumulates

It struck me that just like debris seems to accumulate around my house, debris accumulates in my lifestyle. It's a slow creep, but little things start to show up. A bit more liberal with snacks in the evening after dinner. A bit less attention to getting enough vegetables. Even a bit less focus on staying connected with my wife.

Does this happen to you too? I suspect it does. And just like our homes need a periodic sweeping and dusting, our lifestyle choices would likely benefit from periodic...

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Eat dinner like a pauper?

diabetes nutrition May 21, 2020

"Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper."

It's likely you've heard this statement before. Results from a new study add additional support for the idea that this might be the way the human body was designed to eat.

Bigger dinners may increase risk of metabolic disease

Researchers analyzed data from the NHANES nutrition survey, specifically from almost 4700 people with diabetes. Based on food recall questionnaires performed on 2 separate occasions, they broke people into 5 groups based on the amount of food eaten at dinner compared with breakfast.

What they found was that compared with the group the ate the least at dinner, the group that ate the most had an increased risk of diabetes-related mortality (1.9 times greater risk) and heart disease-related mortality (1.7 times). 

The authors of the study also created risk models based on their data, and concluded that:

  • Moving 5% of energy intake from dinner to breakfast could reduce the risk of...
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The Hero's Body, Part 1 - Nutrition is a System

Is this food healthy?

Before the pandemic, I ordered a latte from a local barista. In our exchange, the barista mentioned I might like to try it with coconut milk, because it's "healthier than cow's milk." Whether it's a blessing or a curse I haven't decided, but statements like these catch my attention. Where does this claim come from? Is it true? What is the evidence that supports this claim?

With all of us basically trapped at home these days because of COVID-19 and social distancing, many of us have much more time to spend online. Of course we want to stay healthy, even though the world seems like it got turned upside down, so seeking nutrition advice is common. And in the online world, there is no shortage of nutrition claims! But alas, online there is a great shortage of evidence.

Let's discuss what comprises good nutrition, emphasizing a few concepts that you will hopefully find useful.

The hero's body

Last week I wrote about how The World Needs You to Be a Hero. I believe...

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Shouldn't eating be enjoyable?

diabetes nutrition Apr 03, 2020

Where does your mind go when you eat?

I heard this question recently when listening to the Ten Percent Happier podcast interview with Evelyn Tribole, one of the developers of the intuitive eating. I have to admit, when I heard the question my first thought was, "huh, I'm not sure."

How about you? Where does your mind go when you eat?

Let's start with a story...

My low point in my relationship with food occurred just before my 15th birthday. I so badly wanted to fit in, to be popular. Somehow in my mind I began to believe that if I were only a bit skinnier I would get what I wanted.

From 125 pounds, I dropped roughly 20% of my body weight while trying to keep my food-restricting and purging behaviors hidden from my parents. Although I was never diagnosed, I clearly had an eating disorder. I bottomed out just under 100 pounds.

Fortunately I somehow "snapped out" of this phase after about 6 months. While my weight returned to normal, I've maintained a complex relationship with...

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