Apples & Onions & Pesticides

June 14th, 2011

By Scott Hensley for NPR: Maybe you overlooked the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s yearly roundup of pesticides in foods released last month. It’s long and full of tongue-twisting chemicals — like tetrahdrophthalimide and pyraclostrobin — found on some popular produce.

But the Environmental Working Group, an advocate for stricter pesticide controls, has crunched the numbers from that report and a bunch of others to come up with a guide for concerned shoppers.

There’s a “Dirty Dozen,” headlined by apples, celery and strawberries. And there’s also a catchy “Clean 15” of fruits and vegetables lowest in pesticides. The top three on that list: onions, sweet corn and pineapples.

The EWG suggests that people buy organically grown fruits and vegetables for the varieties on its list of the most likely to carry pesticide residues. But the group also says the health benefits from produce mean that “eating conventionally-grown produce is far better than not eating fruits and vegetables at all.” Continue reading »

Sprinting at 95

February 23rd, 2011

By David Muir & Joel Siegel: Ida Keeling is a 4-foot-6, 83-pound bundle of wonder, a woman defying the conventions of age. She takes only one prescription drug, and recalls names and dates with the speed of someone half her age.

Active and healthy and living alone in her Bronx, N.Y., apartment, she could pass for 75. She says she feels even younger. “Like a puppy,” she declares. “I feel younger now than when I was in my 30s and 40s and had all those problems. Then I was aged!”

Over her long life, Keeling has endured the kind of heartbreak and hardship that could grind anyone down. Her mother passed away when she was a child, and her husband died suddenly of a heart attack when he was just 42. She lost two sons, Charles and Donald, to drug-related killings in 1979 and 1981.

In running, Keeling found a refuge. Continue reading »

Walk — To Remember!

February 7th, 2011

From The New York Times: In healthy adults, the hippocampus — a part of the brain important to the formation of memories — begins to atrophy around 55 or 60. Now psychologists are suggesting that the hippocampus can be modestly expanded, and memory improved, by nothing more than regular walking.

Researchers randomly assigned 120 healthy but sedentary men and women (average age mid-60s) to one of two exercise groups. One group walked around a track three times a week, building up to 40 minutes at a stretch; the other did a variety of less aerobic exercises, including yoga and resistance training with bands.

After a year, brain scans showed that among the walkers, the hippocampus had increased in volume by about 2 percent on average; in the others, it had declined by about 1.4 percent. Since such a decline is normal in older adults, a 2 percent increase is fairly significant.

The researchers were delighted to learn that the hippocampus might expand with exercise. And not that much exercise. People don’t even have to join a gym. They just need shoes.


Your Brain on Blueberries

January 16th, 2011

From Scientific American: Chemical compounds common to berries, tofu, tea and other foods can shore up memory and boost brainpower.

What is blue, sweet and juicy and may help ward off those nagging memory lapses? If you guessed blueberries, you would be right… they may protect our brain.

Emerging research suggests that compounds in blueberries known as flavonoids may improve memory, learning and general cognitive function, including reasoning skills, decision making, verbal comprehension and numerical ability. In addition, studies comparing dietary habits with cognitive function in adults hint that consuming flavonoids may help slow the decline in mental facility that is often seen with aging and might even provide protection against disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

To date, scientists have identified more than 6,000 flavonoid-containing foods.  They are widely distributed in fruits and vegetables, cereal grains, cocoa, soy foods, tea and wine.

How much do we need?  A Cincinnati study found a 30% improvement in a group of adults older than 75 with mild memory loss who drank two cups of blueberry juice a day (the equivalent of five cups of blueberries). One study in England asked peope to add flavonoid containing foods to their meals: either soy products, supplements (Gingko biloba or pine bark extract) or a cocoa-containing beverage. Flavonoid consumption improved cognition and fine motor skills. Amounts needed to produce the improvements?  One and a half cups of tofu or two cups of soy milk, 120 mg. of gingko, 150 mg. of pine bark extract, or 172 mg of cocoa flavonoids (the equivalent of 10.5 ounces of dark chocolate).

But wait–these studies give single-source quantities!  If you have flavonoids from a variety of sources you’ll need moderate amounts of each one.  The bottom line: eat your fruits and vegetables!

Article (behind a paywall)

Lower Alzheimer’s Risk

December 18th, 2010

By Roni Caryn Rabin: Could HDL cholesterol — the good kind linked to lower heart disease risk — also protect people from dementia?

A new study reports that older New York City residents who had very high blood levels of high-density lipoprotein, or HDL, the so-called “good” cholesterol, were at less than half the risk of developing dementia over time than those with the lowest levels.

The people who reaped the benefit had very high HDL blood levels that exceeded 56 milligrams per deciliter of blood, the study reported. They developed 60 percent fewer cases of Alzheimer’s disease than people with the lowest HDL levels, of 38 milligrams or below. The differences between the two groups held even after the researchers adjusted the figures to account for other causal factors that influence the development of dementia, like vascular disease, as well as age, sex, education level and genes that predispose to Alzheimer’s.

“We think it’s a causal relationship,” said Dr. Christiane Reitz, the study’s lead author and an assistant professor of neurology at Columbia University’s Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Brain.  “At the baseline, when we recruited these people, they didn’t have cognitive problems. We followed them, and they developed dementia during the follow-up period.”


My comment: Raise HDL cholesterol with vigorous exercise, onion family vegetables, and omega-3 oils!  These oils are found in cold water fish, walnuts and kiwi.–Cathie Dunal