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Posts Tagged ‘Human nutrition’

How long do you want to live? We seem to have a built-in urge to live longer. Normal healthy people don’t want the grim reaper at their doorstep.

Deaths occur from numerous causes. Several things may cut the lifespan, but science is closing in on many factors that seem to increase longevity. Some lifestyle patterns, like smoking, may shorten life while others such as exercise seem to add more years. Unscrupulous wonder-potions with claims to extend existence surface then disappear. Do specific foods or nutrients impact survival?

Insufficient amounts of vitamin D may cause or worsen several health conditions—osteopenia, osteoporosis, muscle weakness, fractures, some cancers, auto immune diseases, infectious diseases, and cardiovascular diseases. These infirmities decrease quality of life, and some shorten the lifespan. Sufficient quantities of vitamin D may help prevent various health problems, especially certain types of cancers and diabetes.

Researchers studied the role of vitamin D in more than 10,000 people with an average age of fifty-eight. Based on blood levels below thirty nanograms per milliliter, they classified seventy percent as vitamin D deficient. Those with deficiencies were more prone to high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, diabetes, and increased mortality. Survival rates improved when they treated the vitamin D-deficient with supplements.

How much vitamin D do older adults need? Like other nutrients, it’s best to get vitamins from food sources. Unlike other nutrients, the sun is an excellent source of vitamin D. In the elderly, loss of the skin’s ability to generate vitamin D from sunshine aggravated by immobility or limited exposure to outside physical activities causes even greater risks for deficiency. The most plentiful natural food supply is fatty fish. Mushrooms, eggs, cheese, and liver contain limited amounts. The food industry supplements many products— namely milk, yogurt, cereal, and orange juice—with vitamin D to close the nutrient gap in diets.

The Recommended Dietary Allowance for vitamin D after age seventy is 800 International Units (IU) per day. The Institute of Medicine set a level of 4,000 IU as the upper limit for supplementation. Although other health professionals increase that limit to 10,000 IU, the lower level reduces the potential for harm from an overdose.

While studies show definite health improvements in those treated for deficiencies, too much vitamin D has a downside. We cannot assume that if a little is good, more is better. Doses of vitamin D above the upper recommended levels can cause health issues, especially for those with kidney problems. However, the potential consequences from deficiency outweigh the less life-threatening conditions of overdose.

Will vitamin D delay aging and cause you to live longer?  Maybe. Evidence seems clear that vitamin D plays a role in longevity. If you fail to consume vitamin D rich foods, either natural or fortified, supplements may make a difference. You don’t have to wait until old age to start. After all, if you delay consuming adequate amounts, you may not get there.

 “Healthy Eating & Diet,” http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/are-you-getting-enough-vitamin-d

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March is National Nutrition Month. Sponsored annually by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association), the theme for 2012 is “Get Your Plate in Shape.” What does that mean?

The Academy adapted guidelines from the USDA brochure “Let’s Eat for the Health of It.” Those standards emphasized five areas:

  • Build a healthy plate. Cover half your plate with brightly colored fruits and vegetables. Choose fruits and unsalted nuts for healthy snacks.
  • Cut back on foods high in solid fats, added sugars, and salt. To help you do that, remove visible fat from meats, and choose those lower in fat content. Select drinks and foods with little or no added sugars. A 12-ounce can of cola has about ten packets of sugar. Check labels for sodium content in items like soups, breads, and frozen meals.
  • Eat the right amount of calories for you. To do that, 1) enjoy what you eat, but eat less, 2) stop eating when you become full, and 3) use smaller plates and bowls to help limit portion sizes. Before eating calorie-laden foods, ask yourself if the taste is worth those extra calories.
  • Be physically active your way. Choose your own type of exercise whether walking, swimming, cycling, or some other activity. If you can’t exercise for thirty minutes or an hour, ten minute cycles of exercise several times daily will pay dividends.
  • Learn to read food labels. Labels have ingredients listed in descending order of quantity in the product. Ingredients such as sugar may be listed in several forms: sucrose, glucose, high fructose corn syrup, and others. Watch for sodium content and the types of fats.

Improve your foods choices this month and every day. Get your plate in shape by following the above guidelines. Find more information about healthy eating at the links below.

 http://www.eatright.org/NNM/content.aspx?id=5342

 http://www.choosemyplate.gov/

 http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/downloads/MyPlate/DG2010Brochure.pdf

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