Live chat: anti-aging foods

Administrator: Welcome to this nutrition chat with Susan Bowerman of UCLA's Center for Human Nutrition. Today's topic: anti-aging foods.

Administrator: Hi Susan!

Susan Bowerman: Hi Rosie, thanks for having me on this chat today

Administrator: So let's start with the questions.

ucla05: Any tips for lowering cholesterol?

Susan Bowerman: Sure, there are plenty of things you can do....

Susan Bowerman: First, you should try to reduce weight if you areoverweight...

Susan Bowerman: And the best way to do that is by eating a diet richin plant foods (fruits and vegetables), and low in fat and saturatedfat...

Susan Bowerman: The other thing is to eat protein from the leanestsources, such as fish, poultry breast, nonfat dairy products and soyprotein...

Susan Bowerman: You should also try to exercise most days of theweek....

Susan Bowerman: Nothing you haven't heard before, but all thesetactics are very helpful for reducing serum cholesterol

Administrator: Thanks, Susan, So I have a question. ..

Administrator: YOu read of these people who live for incredibly longlifespans..like the Okinawans in japan. What do they do? Could we dothe same thing?

Susan Bowerman: It's interesting to look at this particularpopulation. They have the highest intake of fish, vegetables and soyproducts of almost anywhere in the world...

Susan Bowerman: The other thing that they do is they stay active untilvery late in life, they drink tea, and they have almost no incidenceof obesity...

Susan Bowerman: One of the things that they do is they eat only untilthey are about 75% full...

Susan Bowerman: This is an excellent tactic....

Susan Bowerman: Unfortunately, the younger residents of Okinawa arepicking up our Western dietary habits, and their obesity rates arestrating to rise.

Administrator: So I had a couple of questions about what you justsaid. One is, about tea...

Administrator: I'm from the UK. I like my tea. But I drink it withmilk. Naturally. So...

Administrator: One is: what is it about tea that might make itantiaging? The other..

Administrator: Do I have to give up milk in my tea in order for it todo whatever it does?

Susan Bowerman: Okay, let's answer the first question first. Moreresearch has been done on green tea rather than black tea, but Ithink we should assume that they have similar benefits...

Administrator: Good!

Susan Bowerman: Both come from the same leaves, but the green tea issteamed first to stop it from oxidizing - which is what makes blacktea black...

Susan Bowerman: Tea contains powerful antioxidants, polyphenols, whichare also what we call 'anti-angiogenic"...

Susan Bowerman: Angiogenesis is the process by which new blood vesselsform - and tumor cells need these to grow and supply blood totumors...

Susan Bowerman: So, if you have compounds in tea that can inhibit thisprocess, it could reduce the risk for cancer development andprevention.

Administrator: Lindsay, who is listening here, says she had no ideathat this was the case!

Susan Bowerman: Now, as far as the milk is concerned, a recent studydid confirm that the proteins in milk do bind up these compounds...

Administrator: Dang.

Susan Bowerman: I'm sorry to say that it would be best if you couldlearn to drink your tea without milk in order to get the mostbenefit.

Administrator: That's a tall order. Maybe there's something else Icould do....like drink red wine to make up for it?

Susan Bowerman: Well, red wine has its own beneficial compounds,different from tea. And that brings up a good point...

Susan Bowerman: We don't want to get too locked into thinking thatthere are only a small number of foods that provide us with healthbenefits..

Susan Bowerman: If you like your tea with milk, then fine... you canmake sure that your diet is rich in other plant foods, and yes, somered wine, and you will be getting a host of benefits from a varietyof foods.

Administrator: But that's exactly what we always do: focus on singlefoods. One day it's blueberries. They'll keep me young forever,right? Next it's pomegranates

Administrator: they're the stuff!

Susan Bowerman: Yes, it seems that way... but keep in mind that thisis because so much research is being done on all of these thousandsof plant chemicals (phytochemicals) that are in these foods...

Susan Bowerman: The benefits that you get from pomegrantate, forexample, may be due, in part, to their unique compounds (one calledpunicilagin is found only in pomegranate)...

Administrator: Wow, I did not know that.

Susan Bowerman: Whereas what you might find in a blueberry may beanother specific compound. We don't know if these compoundsthemselves are what makes them so beneficial, or if it may be ametabolite of these compounds that really matters... this is the kindof research that we do in our labs here at UCLA.

Administrator: Back to red wine for a moment: is it the alcohol thathas the benefits, or is it some chemical--i've heard of one calledresveratrol that keeps rats young, or something?

Susan Bowerman: Yes, we believe that it is the resveratrol in winethat exerts the health benefits. Resveratrol has particular benefitsfor heart health, and so that is where the recommendation has comefrom for drinking a glass of red wine a few times a week.

Administrator: you can get resveratrol supplements, right? wouldn'tthat be better than drinking wine? you could pack a lot moreresveratrol into your diet if you took it in pill form.

Administrator: wouldnt be as sociable, perhaps...

Susan Bowerman: That would appear to be true. But, you have to keep inmind that red wine (aside from tasting much better!) also hasthousands of other phytochemicals in it which may also contribute toits beneficial effects...

Susan Bowerman: We don't want to reduce a food, like wine, down to onecomponent - a 'magic bullet'. There are too many beneficial substancesin whole foods that it would be very short-sighted to assume that asupplement would replace a whole food and be considered nutritionallyequivalent.

Administrator: Thanks Susan. Okay, we have another query here fromBettie Rinehart, one of the web staff. She wants to know about dairy.What's the truth about it? Does it ...

Administrator: promote longenvity? There are some cultures who eat alot of yogurt. there was a yoplait or dannon ad suggesting you couldlive a long time ...if you ate a lot of yogurt

Administrator: ghengis Khan used to eat it, didnt he? He was a toughcustomer!

Susan Bowerman: Yes, I remember those ads, too. I don't know thatthere is research that could specifically link dairy consumption tolongevity. What is more likely is that yogurt consumption is a'marker' for a health diet. In other words, it's likely that peoplewho eat yogurt also eat low fat foods, and healthy fruits andvegetables.

Administrator: well, it seems, sad to say, that the most likelystrategy for extending lifespan..

Administrator: may be to do something most unpleasant. IE, eat a lotless. those folks who restrict their calories...

Administrator: are banking on that, aren't they? based on rat andmouse studies.

Susan Bowerman: Yes, there is a society for calorie restriction, andmembers do endorse the concept of restricting calories in an attemptto extend lifespan...

Susan Bowerman: Part of the science behind this is that metabolism, ingeneral, increases the body's oxidant stress. It's a normal part ofliving. So...

Susan Bowerman: since metabolizing food requires work by the body, andtherefore does place some oxidant stress on the body, it sort of makessense that if you don't tax the body with excess calories (and take ina lot of antioxidants) that it could reduce the oxidant stress on thesystem...

Susan Bowerman: But, it's very hard to do this, because people whoendorse the concept consistently eat fewer calories than they need -almost 25% less....

Administrator: Why dont they starve?

Susan Bowerman: I don't know that this is something I would recommend,and of course we don't know what the effects might be. They don'tstarve if they are careful to make sure the diet is stillnutritionally balanced, but it's a challenge. Every bite reallycounts.

Administrator: We've also heard that foods promoting inflammation inthe body may have something to do with aging. like, inflammationmakes tissues age before their time. true? and how can one midify thediet to avoid inflammation?

Administrator: I meant "modify"

Susan Bowerman: This is a hot topic right now. Chronic low-gradeinflammation can result from overweight, and also from poor diet.Foods that are 'pro-inflammatory' include many of the fats that existin our food supply - which is one reason we keep harping on people tocut back on fats and to eat more fish.

Susan Bowerman: The inflammatory response is important when you havean infection...

Administrator: you're not talking saturated fats, are you? But ones insome vegetable oils?

Susan Bowerman: But chronic low grade inflammation may be contributingto heart disease, some cancers and other chronic illnesses...

Susan Bowerman: I'm particularly concerned about the excesses of cornoil in the diet. Corn oil is a polyunsaturated fat, but it is veryrich in omega-6 fatty acids... of which we have an abundance in thefood supply...

Susan Bowerman: We don't eat enough fish, rich in omega-3 fatty acids,to properly balance the fats in the diet.

Administrator: Bettie has another question. ...

Administrator: " I have an organic garden. If I only eat organicvegetables does it promote better health and longeivty than storebought vegetables? I need the straight skinny!"

Administrator: Susan, Can you help?

Susan Bowerman: Well, this is probably the best way to eat "organic","local" and "seasonal", all of which we promote. Those who can onlypurchase store-bought produce should not feel guilty if they cannotfind/afford organic produce....

Administrator: yep--it is pricy isn't it?

Susan Bowerman: Certainly if foods are raised organically, it doesreduce your exposure to pesticides. But, if you can't get thosefoods, the benefits of eating the fruits and vegetables clearlyoutweighs the risk of the pesticide exposure.

Susan Bowerman: We don't know if the foods are nutritionally superior,but there are some reports that the phytochemicals in foods may reachtheir peak when picked closer to when they are fully ripe - storebought foods may have traveled a distance and not picked at theirpeak...

Administrator: That makes sense.

Susan Bowerman: Frozen foods are frozen very soon after picking, andcan be nutritionally superior to fresh foods that might have beensitting/travelinlg.

Administrator: Canned foods too, could be more nutritious?

Susan Bowerman: Yes, canned foods are also processed soon aftercooking. Some people don't like the texture as well, but they can bean alternative. Some canned veggies are high in sodium, though, andsome fruits are canned in syrup, so look at labels.

Administrator: That's pretty interesting and I think is kind ofunexpected...anyway, we're about out of time here. Thank you verymuch for joining us and we're looking forward to the next chat.

Susan Bowerman: Thank you so much for having me. Hope to see yousoon.

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