Tag Archives: longevity

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Vitamin D supplementation and sun exposure: Can we pick and choose?

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Vitamin D supplementation and sun exposure: Can we pick and choose?

Source: Vitamin D Council

Originally Posted on July 11, 2012 by John Cannell, M

sunDespite the increased risk of non-melanoma skin cancers, the Vitamin D Council recommends moderate sun exposure and 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 on days you do not get sun exposure. We are not alone. Recent studies imply that sun exposure does more than simply make vitamin D and that one cannot fully replace the benefits of sun exposure by simply taking a vitamin D supplement.

Dr. Prue Hart of the University of Western Australia makes these points in a recent paper “Vitamin D supplementation, moderate sun exposure, and control of immune Diseases”.

She contends that sunshine affects the immune system via non-vitamin D mechanisms as well as vitamin D mechanisms by citing both human and animal studies. She argues, “It is possible that moderate sun exposure and vitamin D supplementation may be complementary for maximal control of immune-driven diseases.”

She also points out that over the last two decades vitamin D levels have fallen about twenty percent while the incidence of immune system diseases,  such as multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, and asthma have all increased during that same time period. Dr. Hart cited evidence that vitamin D is crucial to brain functioning and added autism as a vitamin D/sunshine related disease.

She predicts, “Within ten years, we should have a clearer answer from randomized controlled studies as to whether vitamin D per se can reduce the incidence and progression of immune diseases, cardiovascular disease, autism, and more.”

In regards to sun exposure recommendations, Hart stated, “Repeated short sun exposures to a larger body surface area are likely to have a greater effect than longer exposures of smaller areas.”  Of course, few of us are in a situation that allows large surface area exposures every day. However, weekends and holidays offer the opportunity of nearly full body short sun exposures for both adults and children. On the days one gets such exposure, there is no need to take oral vitamin D supplementation.

Ten years is a long time to wait for the randomized controlled trials that many believe will settle the vitamin D issue. During those ten years, it seems wise to protect you and your family with at least some moderate sun exposure combined with adequate daily doses of vitamin D3 on sunless days.

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The U.S. longevity gap

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The U.S. longevity gap

Source: Harvard Health Blog

POSTED JULY 28, 2016, 9:30 AM – Robert H. Shmerling, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications


The U.S. longevity gapIt’s not hard to find someone praising the quality of this country’s healthcare. I’ve often heard it called the best in the world – and that’s a widely held belief among politicians, public officials, doctors, and patients. While there’s plenty of debate about why healthcare in the U.S. is so expensive and how we should pay for it, the high quality of our healthcare seems incontestable – more on this point later.

But if our healthcare is so good, why isn’t life expectancy in the U.S. the highest in the world? In fact, life expectancy in the U.S. lags by a number of years behind Japan, the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, and many other developed countries. For example, the life expectancy in the U.S. is about 76 years for men and 81 years for women; meanwhile, in the U.K., it’s about 79 years for men and 83 years for women. This “longevity gap” is not something you hear much about, but it’s been true for quite a while.

Why the U.S. longevity gap?


A new study has identified three reasons that the United States is not at the top of the heap when it comes to longevity. They include:

  • motor vehicle accidents
  • drug overdoses
  • gun violence.

These are so much more common here and affect so many young people that they’re enough to account for about half of the difference in male life expectancy between the U.S. and other top-ranked countries. These causes of death account for about 20% of the difference for women.

These findings surprised me, especially when I learned that these three causes of death account for only 4% of all deaths each year. But they have a big impact on life expectancy because they tend to affect people who are so young. The reason they have a bigger impact on male life expectancy is that each of these causes of death is more common among men: they account for 6% of male deaths while for women, they account for 3%.

Perhaps these findings should come as no surprise. Deaths in car accidents, drug overdoses, and shootings have been well-recognized as important problems, and efforts to reduce them have been ongoing for years. But it’s one thing to understand the causes of premature death – and quite another to prevent them.

But life expectancy is only one measure of quality healthcare….


It’s true – life expectancy is not the only measure of healthcare quality. Unfortunately, there are other measures in which the U.S. lags behind comparable countries: the United States scores poorly in many key measures of health, including infant mortality, health at age 60, and deaths that could be prevented with good medical care.

Deaths due to shootings, automobile accidents, and drug overdoses explain some of this “longevity gap.” The rest may be explained by medical care that’s inaccessible, unaffordable, or just not as good as it’s been cracked up to be.

So, is there good news?


If there is any good news in this latest research about contributors to lower life expectancy in the United States, it’s that some of the primary causes – car accidents, drug overdoses, and shootings – are not new or untreatable conditions. They are potentially reversible problems that we actually know a lot about. While there may be no simple or quick solutions, it seems possible that with effective interventions, many of these deaths could be prevented. In addition, improving access to healthcare and identifying and addressing other gaps in healthcare quality could go a long way toward making the U.S. healthcare system as good as most of us thought it already was.

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Looking for the Fountain of Youth? Here It Is!

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Looking for the Fountain of Youth? Here It Is!

Source: about health

Original post: November 06, 2015

Looking for the Fountain of Youth? Here It Is!Science tells us that what we call “aging” occurs with age, but not simply because of age. 

The stiffening of the blood vessels and the decline of brain function associated with getting older are affected by what we eat and how much we exercise. If we follow the lifestyle habits associated with slower cardiovascular and brain aging, can we extend lifespan and healthspan? Advances in nutritional science have taught us that eating the right foods enables weight loss and helps to prevent heart disease, cancer and diabetes.


Consider  what happened to a patient of mine named Paul when he made radical changes to the way he eats.

When he was 60 years old, he could not walk a city block without feeling pressure in his chest. Yet, as a gift to himself for his 68th birthday, he celebrated with a brisk run up and down the rolling hills of Central Park in New York City.

What enabled him to achieve such a feat?  As I like to say, the road to good health is as close as the end of your fork.


Paul decided to change his eating habits. 

He began eating primarily nutrient-rich, whole foods:  greens and other colorful vegetables, beans, fresh fruits, nuts, seeds and whole grains. He minimized meat, eggs and dairy and eliminated added sugars, oils, white flour, white rice and processed foods.  In doing so, he reduced the number of calories he consumed while simultaneously increasing the amount of micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals) and fiber he ingests. I coined the word Nutritarian to describe this longevity-promoting style of eating, that is nutrient-dense and plant rich..

Paul usually ate a huge salad with raw onions and shredded cruciferous vegetables for lunch with a great tasting  nut-based dressing. He also ate beans or lentils in a vegetable-based soup or stew each day. He included three fruits each day, making especially sure to eat berries, pomegranate, cherries, plums and oranges.

He ate raw nuts and seeds to a meal, with a special emphasis on walnuts, hemp, flax and chia seeds, all of which are high in omega-3 fatty acids. And he also made sure to eat a double-size serving of steamed greens at dinner, often adding  mushrooms and onions.


In other words, Paul did what I recommend all my patients do: He  designed his diet to provide  superior nutrient density. 

Though eating  nutrient-rich food is critically important, it is not the only factor that determines good health. For example, Vitamin D , vitamin B12, and proper omega-3 intake are important for optimal health, as well as  limiting sodium and high glycemic carbohydrates.


You may be surprised by how your body can heal itself by simply eating right and getting exercise. 

You may also be amazed that your taste improves as you start to eat healthier, that you actually get more pleasure from eating and you can eat generous portions of great tasting healthy dishes.  Some people would say that they could never give up the processed food they crave. But you need to know that rejecting these foods is a mere temporary loss. What you gain is what Paul found: his highest level of energy and good health he ever had. If he was searching for the Fountain of Youth, he certainly found it. As he told people who asked him how he felt on his 68th birthday, “I honestly feel – no joking, no exaggeration – that I am only at the halfway point of my life.”  The facts are the same dietary portfolio that protects your heart also protects your brain from aging and prevents cancer.


We now know a lot about the factors associated with longevity. 

We know about the diets of societies with a documented long lifespan, such as the Okinawans of Japan and the Seventh-Day Adventists of California. We have evidence that accumulated oxidative stress drives aging, and we know which dietary factors help the body to mitigate oxidative stress. We can now measure the telomere length of circulating white blood cells – telomere shortening is an indicator of aging – and we are learning which dietary factors and behaviors influence telomere length. Studies of calorie restriction in animals have given us information about the cellular signaling pathways associated with longevity, and we can turn on those same genes and signaling pathways with our dietary and lifestyle habits.


This wealth of scientific information has allowed us to design dietary patterns for longevity. 

Go for it!


1. Weiss EP, Fontana L. Caloric restriction: powerful protection for the aging heart and vasculature. Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol 2011, 301:H1205-1219.

2.  Joseph J, Cole G, Head E, Ingram D. Nutrition, brain aging, and neurodegeneration. J Neurosci 2009, 29:12795-12801.

3.  Joseph JA, Shukitt-Hale B, Willis LM. Grape juice, berries, and walnuts affect brain aging and behavior. J Nutr 2009, 139:1813S-1817S.

4.  Santos-Parker JR, LaRocca TJ, Seals DR. Aerobic exercise and other healthy lifestyle factors that influence vascular aging. Adv Physiol Educ 2014, 38:296-307.

5.  Fraser GE, Shavlik DJ. Ten years of life: Is it a matter of choice? Arch Intern Med 2001, 161:1645-1652.

6.  Willcox DC, Willcox BJ, Todoriki H, Suzuki M. The Okinawan diet: health implications of a low-calorie, nutrient-dense, antioxidant-rich dietary pattern low in glycemic load. J Am Coll Nutr 2009, 28 Suppl:500S-516S.

7. Beckman KB, Ames BN. The free radical theory of aging matures. Physiol Rev 1998, 78:547-581.

8.  Shammas MA. Telomeres, lifestyle, cancer, and aging. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care 2011, 14:28-34.

9.  Fontana L. The scientific basis of caloric restriction leading to longer life. Curr Opin Gastroenterol 2009, 25:144-150.

10. Hu F, Liu F. Targeting tissue-specific metabolic signaling pathways in aging: the promise and limitations. Protein Cell 2014, 5:21-35.

11. Verburgh K. Nutrigerontology: why we need a new scientific discipline to develop diets and guidelines to reduce the risk of aging-related diseases. Aging Cell 2015, 14:17-24.

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