Category Archives: Longevity


17911661-hot-dogPancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer deaths in the US.  Difficult to detect in its early stages, the frequency of its incidence is increasing.

Susanna Larsson, PhD, of Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, and colleagues reviewed studies involving more than 2,000,000 people, 6643 of whom had pancreatic cancer.  They found an across the board link with processed meats—bacon, sausage, ham and lunch meats—and all patients with pancreatic cancer.

But the link between red meat consumption and pancreatic cancer existed only for men, perhaps because men consume larger amounts of red meat than do women.

The study suggests that processed meats likely affect cancer risk because of the compounds, including nitrites, used in curing the meat.  Other studies show that the chemicals induce pancreatic cancer in animals.

The team’s findings support the American Cancer Society’s recommendations to limit red and processed meat intake.

Sources: Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter,  August 5, 2013       Study published in British Journal of Cancer, January 31, 2012



stock-photo-hongkong-victoria-harbor-at-haze-day-140330764Victoria Harbor in Hong Kong on smog day

A new study from MIT projects that the 500,000,000 Chinese people living north of China’s Huai River will suffer a combined reduced life expectancy of 2,500,000,000 years because of particulate pollution from coal used to power and heat the region.  On average, that’s 5 years of life lost for every person in the region because of bad air quality.

As Financial Times points out, that’s the equivalent of reducing the workforce in northern China by one-eighth.

MIT researchers studied the amount of particulates in the air from 1981 to 2000, 1981 being the year Chinese policy began giving free coal to the region north of the river.   During that time period, particulates in the north were 55% higher than in the south.  Mortality statistics showed far more deaths from cardiorespiratory diseases in the north region than in the south.

The research team showed that for every 100 micrograms of particulate matter per cubic meter added to the atmosphere in any location, not just China, life expectancy at birth is reduced by 3 years.

On its worst days, Beijing’s air pollution was over 900 micrograms per cubic meter.

Michael Greenstone, professor at MIT, conducted the study with colleagues in China and Israel and said, “Everyone understands it’s unpleasant to be in a polluted place.  But to be able to say with some precision what the health costs are, and what the loss of life expectancy is, puts a finer point on the importance of finding policies that balance growth with environmental quality.”

Source:   Smart Planet Daily, July 10, 2013               Study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, July 8, 2013


16181270-baking-goods-breadWhole grains are a gut’s best friend.

British researchers at Imperial College (IC) in London found a 17% lower risk of colorectal cancer among those who consumed just an extra three daily servings of whole grains.

Nicola McKeown, PhD and director of Tuft’s Friedman School’s Nutritional Epidemiology Program, says, “Previous observational studies have seen improved health outcomes in people consuming, on average three or more servings of whole grains—for instance, reduced cardiovascular disease, obesity and diabetes risk and some cancers.”

Dagfinn Aune, PhD of IC, and colleagues conducted the largest analysis ever of fiber consumption and colorectal cancer.  They pooled results from 25 prior studies totaling some 2,000,000 participants and found that for each 5 slices of whole-wheat bread, cancer occurrence dropped 10%.

Whole grains contain all essential parts and naturally occurring nutrients of the entire grain seed.  If the grain has been cracked, crushed, rolled, extruded and/or cooked, the food product delivers the same rich balance of nutrients that are found in its original grain seed.

The Whole Grains Council lists these sources as generally accepted whole grain foods and flours:  Amaranth, Barley, Buckwheat, Corn, including whole cornmeal and popcorn, Millet, Oats, including oatmeal, Quinoa, Rice, both brown and colored, Rye, Sorghum, aka Milo, Teff, Triticale, Wheat, including varieties such as spelt, emmer, faro, einkorn, Kamut, durum and forms such as bulgur, cracked wheat and wheatberries, and Wild rice.

Aune observed, “Although we did not find an association between fiber from fruit and vegetables and colorectal cancer in this analysis, we have previously shown a protective effect for intake of fruit and vegetables.”

“Most people are consuming refined grain foods and missing out on the fiber and nutrients concentrated in whole grains,” says McKeown.  “So, increasing consumption of whole grains into one’s daily diet is important.

“The first step is to replace some of those existing refined grains with whole-grain equivalents—for example, brown rice for white rice, whole-wheat or whole-rye bread for white bread, whole-wheat pasta for regular pasta, and avoid refined grain products high in sugar and fat.”

Sources: Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, July 1, 2013     Study published in British Medical Journal


11805954-fat-man-in-swimsuit-holding-a-bath-towelA new study by the American Cancer Society links a large waist measurement to an increased risk of death, even in persons not otherwise overweight.

Eric J Jacobs, PhD, and colleagues studied the waist size/mortality risks among 48,500 men (average age 69) and 56,343 women (average age 67) who had participated in the Cancer Prevention Study II Nutrition Cohort.

Over 14 years of follow-up study, 9,315 of the men and 5,332 of the women died.

Very large waists (47+ inches in men and 42+ inches in women) were linked to about twice the likelihood of dying during the study period, regardless of body mass index (BMI).

For men whose BMI was normal, an additional 3.9 inches of waistline boosted the likelihood of dying by 16% compared to men with the same BMI but smaller waists.

The association was even stronger for normal-BMI women, for whom an additional 3.9 inches in the waistline increased mortality by 25%.

Jacobs and colleagues concluded, “Regardless of weight, avoiding gains in waist circumference may reduce risk of premature mortality.  Even if you haven’t had a noticeable weight gain, if you notice your waist size increasing, that’s an important sign.  It’s time to eat better and start exercising more.”

Patients are considered “abdominally obese” if their waist measures 34.6+ inches for women and 40.1+ inches for men.  In the US, more than half of men and 70% of women ages 50-79 have waistlines larger than the above.

To check yourself, measure around your waist at the navel with a tape measure–without sucking in your gut.

Sources: Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, March 25, 2013


k3567999Researchers at the University of California-San Francisco used a computer-modeling analysis to determine that 500,000 lives could be saved over a 10-year period by steadily reducing salt intake by 4% a year.

But authors of the study concede that it’s not practical to slash the US’s current average intake of 3600 milligrams to the recommended 2200 milligrams for healthy persons and 1500 milligrams for high-risk older people.

Even a slow, 10-year 40% drop to a 2200-milligram average would be “a daunting task that will likely require multiple layers of intervention.”

However, researchers said the goal could be “potentially achievable” by cutting in half the sodium in processed and commercially prepared foods.  They pointed to the success of salt-reduction programs in the UK that resulted in cutting intake 3-4% per year and in Finland, where a 20-year effort resulted in a 20-30% reduced sodium consumption.

Sources: Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, May 2013   Study published in Hypertension,  February, 2013 


7400901-healthy-food-collection-very-high-in-antioxidants-and-vitamins-isolated-over-white-backgroundA new Swedish study is unique in that instead of measuring the antioxidant value of Vitamin A or C or polyphenols in the diet, it represents the cumulative effect of “thousands of compounds in doses obtained from a usual diet.”

Notice that last word—these compounds weren’t ingested in pill form; they were ingested from the real thing—food.

Alicia Wolk, DrMedSci, of Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and her colleagues studied data of 36,715 women collected in the Swedish Mammography Cohort study.  Over an 11-year follow-up, those initially free of cardiovascular disease and consuming the most antioxidants were 17% less likely to have a stroke.

Among the 5,680 participants already diagnosed with cardiovascular disease, those in that group consuming the most antioxidants were 46-57% less likely to have a stroke.

Participants’ diets were assessed at the start of the study using a food-frequency questionnaire.  Researchers calculated antioxidant intake based on each food’s “oxygen radical absorbance capacity” (ORAC).

Participants with the highest antioxidant consumption ate fruits, vegetables, whole grains and dark chocolate twice as often and drank 17 times more tea than those with the lowest intake.

Despite sweeping health claims for products promising antioxidant benefits, your best bet for stroke prevention is consuming an overall healthy diet–along with staying active, watching your weight and avoiding tobacco.

Source: Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, June 17, 2013  


BLD041204A new study from Columbia University researchers reports that older persons who engaged in moderate to intense exercise were 40% less likely to suffer “silent strokes” than those who didn’t engage in leisure-time activity.

Study author Jushua Z Willey, MD, MS of Columbia says, “These ‘silent strokes’ are more significant than the name implies because they have been associated with an increased risk of falls and impaired mobility, memory and even dementia, as well as stroke.

“Encouraging older people to take part in moderate to intense exercise may be an important strategy for keeping their brains healthy.”

Light exercise is defined as golfing, walking, bowling or dancing.

Moderate to intense exercise is defined as hiking, tennis, swimming, biking, jogging or racquetball.

Willey and his colleagues administered questionnaires regarding frequency and intensity of exercise to 1,238 participants in the Northern Manhattan Study Cohort who had no history of stroke.  43% reported no exercise; 36% reported light exercise, and 21% reported moderate to intense exercise.

Six years later, at an average age of 70, the participants had MRI scans of their brains, which showed that 197 (16%) had small brain lesions called “silent strokes.”  Those who engaged in moderate to intense exercise were 40% less likely to suffer the silent strokes than those who got no regular exercise.

But only the most active elderly saw a benefit against silent strokes.  There was no difference between those who engaged in light exercise and those who did not exercise at all.

“Of course light exercise has many other beneficial effects,” Dr Wiley said.  “And these results should not discourage people from doing light exercise.”

My Take on the exercise categories:   I’d include Swing and Polka dancing in the moderate to intense ranking.

Source: Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, April 15, 2013    Study published in Neurology