Doctors Discuss How Nutrients In Superfoods May Promote Longevity
Super foods may promote longevity
By GARY CORSAIR, DAILY SUN
THE VILLAGES — Mom was right when she nagged you to eat your vegetables.
But she also should have been spooning blueberries, pistachios and pomegranates onto your plate.
In defense of Mom, she probably didn’t know bok choy packed more punch than Popeye’s spinach. Mom didn’t know about anti-aging foods because, well, no one knew the benefits of eating foods supercharged with antioxidants.
Today, we do.
Researchers have discovered that antioxidants fight free radicals that break down cells and accelerate aging. Some researchers even believe eating foods rich in antioxidants promotes longevity.
Numerous laboratory studies (with microscopic worms, plus mice and rats) support that belief. Now scientists are trying to determine the effects of so-called super foods on humans.
It could be years before conclusive data is available, but researchers have already established that proper diet equates to better health — and longer life.
“The No. 1 thing for people is their diet,” said Luna Beck, M.D., an internal medicine practitioner at Spruce Creek Medical Center. “You have to make changes to your diet. Everything boils down to what you put in your body.”
And antioxidant-rich foods are the most potent fuel you can ingest.
We’re not just talking about foods that are good for you; we’re talking about foods that actually slow the aging process — that will keep you younger, longer.
Eat your berries
According to Tufts University researchers, people need about 5,000 oxygen radical absorbency capacity units a day to counteract free-radical damage.
Fortunately, a number of fruits and vegetables found in most supermarkets have high ORAC values.
According to the Tufts study, pomegranates provide more ORAC units than any food: 2,750. Blueberries (2,400), blackberries (2,036), kale (2,036), strawberries (1,540), spinach (1,260) and raspberries (1,220) are also antioxidant heavyweights.
Those are just a handful of foods researchers link to longevity. Below are others. But keep in mind this is not an inclusive list, and that the foods identified here are cited because of laboratory studies with animals. It remains to be seen how foods laden with antioxidants benefit humans.
Do black raspberries fight cancer? In one study, scientists exposed 2,200 animal genes to cancer-causing chemicals, then gave the animals doses of black raspberry powder. Surprisingly, 460 genes were restored to normal.
Studies indicate that blueberries are potent antioxidants that may inhibit colon cancer cell proliferation and help protect the brain from oxidative stress. In February 2006, the journal, Aging Cell, reported that the natural compounds in wild blueberries increased life span and slowed aging in nematodes, a microscopic worm.
Cherries are one of the few known sources of melatonin, a powerful antioxidant that plays a role in delaying the effects of aging. A 2007 study indicated that melatonin neutralizes oxidative and inflammation process caused by aging. Researchers suggest daily melatonin intake in humans in excess of 30 units could potentially help delay illnesses related to aging.
Olive oil contains polyphenols, powerful antioxidants that may help prevent age-related diseases.
Pomegranates have a high concentration of natural ellagic acid and other polyphenols, which neutralize free radicals. Studies in animals showed a reduction of plaque build-up in arteries by 44 percent.
Prunes are No. 1 on the USDA’s list of foods with antioxidant properties. Prunes are loaded with vitamin A, copper, fiber and potassium.
Dark chocolate has anti-aging properties. The reason: Dark chocolate has at least 65 percent more cocoa content and far more antioxidants than milk or white chocolate. To get the most benefit from dark chocolate, eat it in moderate amounts.
Cruciferous vegetables like arugula, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, radishes and turnips contain Indole-3-carbinol, a compound believed to modify a key enzyme involved with the spread of cancer. In 2005, a University of California at Berkeley researcher released a paper hailing indole-3-carbinol as “a promising anti-cancer agent.”
Village of Santiago resident Vic Seipke, a 77-year-old former bodybuilder, is a believer in the power of cruciferous veggies. “We’re real big on broccoli. We have it with our dinner all the time. And we eat a lot of salads,” says Seipke, a fit 5-foot 9-inch, 180-pounder who does not take any prescription drugs.
He does, however, consume lots of healthful foods. “We’re nuts about nuts,” said Seipke, who supplements his diet with regular exercise, vitamins and a high-protein drink. “And I don’t eat too much red meat. I usually eat fish, chicken and salad. I eat a lot of vegetables.”
Those staples of Seipke’s diet get high marks from anti-aging researchers.
Research shows that nuts are a great source of fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, protein and antioxidant vitamins and minerals.
And fish is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which studies show can help you live a longer, healthier life. But not all fish are created equal. Sablefish (1.93 grams per 3 oz. serving) and albacore tuna (1.5 grams) have significantly more omega-3 than rainbow trout (.98 grams). Not as good is tilapia, which is low in anti-inflammatory omega-3s, but high in pro-inflammatory omega-6.
If you really want to fight radicals, consider products made from exotic berries hailed for their antioxidant values.
One of the most potent is acai, a fruit native to Central and South America. “Acai berries have an ORAC of 10,000,” said Lake Nutrition Center owner Jeff Wittman.
Research supports Wittman’s claim. A Texas A&M University study showed that consuming acai pulp increased antioxidant capacity in blood nearly three-fold.
And acai isn’t the only exotic berry heralded for its antioxidant power. “Noni, mango stem, acai and gogi. I call them the four big liquids,” Wittman said. “Some of the new juices have big-time antioxidant values.”
None are bigger than Youth Juice, a drink made from pure organic berries and sea vegetables that packs an ORAC value of 123,000 per bottle.
“This is the latest buzz,” Beck said. “When it comes to aging, you talk about antioxidants and ORAC values. You know what juice is good by the ORAC levels.”
According to Wittman, there’s an even better way to get an antioxidant super-duper boost. “As a nutritionist, if you came to me and said, ‘Give me some upper-level antioxidant, I would give you CoQ10. I researched it myself. It boosts your antioxidant values by nine times,” Wittman said.
CoQ10 is a naturally occurring compound found in every cell in the body that plays a key role in producing energy in the mitochondria, the part of a cell that produces energy.
As researchers continue to study oxidative stress in humans, we’re sure to hear more about ORAC levels, exotic berries and other anti-aging supplements. Keep in mind it will take years of trials in humans to clearly determine the benefits of antioxidants.
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|posted on||October 20, 2009|
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