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Global Lifestyles
by Carl Lowe
(Excerpts taken from "Energy Times" March 2004)
"The statistics don't lie. The citizens of some countries live longer than others. And many live longer than folks in the US…When you entertain a global perspective, you can draw a few well-established conclusions about the tools that help humans live longer. These include: a diet filled with vegetables, days filled with exercise and daily routines encased in an extended network of social relationships."
"Among all these factors, the most important longevity parameter may be simply to live closer. Live closer to the land by eating food that is unprocessed. Live closer to your relatives, friends and those you love. Live closer to an understanding of your body's needs, and give it the nutrients and exercise it craves.
"Exercise for Longer, Better Life" "Over and over again, studies of people who live the longest show that a lifestyle which incorporates exercise produces the healthiest results. For example, research on the Old Order Amish in Ontario, Canada, has shown they suffer less chronic disease and are thinner than other North Americans even though they consume plenty of fat, refined sugar and calories…Physical activity is their secret. In research organized by David R. Bassett, PhD, of the University of Tennessee, 98 Amish agreed to wear pedometers for a week to measure how far they walked (Med and Sci in Sprts and Exer 1/04)…The Amish men averaged more than 18,400 steps a day, while women took about 14,200 steps. In comparison, Americans rarely venture more than 10,000 steps a day."
"Eat Smaller Meals" "Eating less food is also a common element among the lifestyle habits of the world's long-lived…Eating less food is thought to increase life expectancy by cutting down on the number of free radicals-destructive molecules-unleashed by bodily processes (Science 1996; 273:59-63). Traditionally, Okinawans, whose life expectancy outshines longevity in the US, limit what they eat, never letting themselves feel completely full…That limit on their food is believed to cut the number of free radicals in their blood (NEJM 1997;337(14):986)…According to the Okinawan Centenarian Study, fewer free radicals means Okinawans are protected against arterial blockages…In contrast, Americans seem to be eating more than ever. A global study of teenage weight…found that the US had the highest percentage of overweight teenagers (Lithuania had the lowest). About one in seven American 15-year-old boys is over weight, while almost one in six teenage American girls weigh too much (Arch Ped and Adoles Med 1/04).
"French Paradox Explained" "Meanwhile, in France, epidemiologists trying to explain the French Paradox believe that French avoidance of heart disease may also be linked to eating less food. The French Paradox refers to the fact that even though the French eat a rich diet, their rates of heart trouble and obesity are lower than countries like the US, whose populations consume less dietary fat. Paul Rozin, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania…found that French don't stuff themselves the way Americans do (Psych Science 9/03). "While the French eat more fat than Americans, they probably eat slightly fewer calories, which, when compounded over years, can amount to substantial differences in weight."
"Vegetables and Longevity" "Eating plenty of vegetables, especially leaf greens and soy foods, may also help to confer longevity on Okinawans and other long-lived global citizens. Scientists have found that Okinawans consume a great deal of the B vitamins folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12 (found in vegetables). Those nutrients, in turn, are believed to lower blood levels of homocysteine, a protein linked to arterial blockages and heart disease…The folic acid in vegetables helps the brain stay sharp, too. A study at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (J Nutr 1/04) shows that lack of folic acid "…causes impaired development of areas of the brain important for memory and for thinking," according to Steven Zeisel, MD, professor of nutrition…Studies like that lead experts to believe that the large amount of folic acid in the Okinawan diet may keep their brains healthy into old age…Along with vegetables, the long-lived Okinawans eat meals filled with whole grains and fish. Soy foods like tofu are a staple of their diet…And when they eat fish, they eat species like salmon, tuna and mackerel, which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, good fats that have been shown to protect the cardiovascular system."
"Soy May Boost Life Expectancy" "In a study of the dietary habits of 30,000 Japanese, scientists from that country's Gifu University found that those who ate the most soy were least likely to die during the seven years of the research (Am J Epidemiol 2002;156:824-31). These researchers attribute the longevity benefits of soy to its phytoestrogens, natural chemicals that have been found to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer."
"Mediterranean Longevity" "Increased longevity and lower rates of heart disease have also been attributed to the so-called Mediterranean diet…In a study of people who have already suffered a heart attack, researchers found that eating this diet-rich in fruit, vegetables, fish and olive oil-can prolong life (American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2000)…According to Roberto Marchioli, MD, with the Consorzio Mario Negri Sud, Santa Maria Imbaro, Italy, "A significantly lower risk of death was associated with eating more Mediterranean-style foods and fewer foods containing saturated fats, such as butter. People in the study who had the most butter and vegetable oils in their diet had a risk of death almost triple that of people who ate more fresh fruits and vegetables and used olive oil."…The researchers also found that lowering stress (with activities such as meditation or prayer), getting more exercise and stopping smoking helped lower the risk of heart attacks…Global research shows you can have great-tasting food and still enjoy extra longevity. Just don't forget to keep your stress down, fill up on healthy foods, and eat those meals with family and friends."