SNAP Decisions: Pushing for Changes in Food Assistance Program

Article Source: Health And Fitness Journal

By Dr. Mercola

About 23 million U.S. households receive benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, amounting to an average of $253 a month, which can be used to buy “any food or food product for home consumption.”1,2

This $74-billion federal food assistance program is intended to help alleviate hunger among those at or below 130 percent of the federal poverty line,3 but, as with many federal programs, there’s vast room for improvement.

While the program has succeeded in fighting hunger, it has largely failed in providing adequate, much less optimal, nutrition. As Neal Barnard, president of the Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine, put it, “The problem is it provides calories, not healthy food.”4

Soda Is the No. 1 Purchase Made by SNAP Households

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (UDSA), which oversees SNAP, published a detailed analysis of what typical households using the SNAP program purchase at the grocery store.

“Across all households [SNAP and non-SNAP], more money was spent on soft drinks than any other item,” the report revealed, which shows this isn’t an issue unique to SNAP households but rather applies to America as a whole.

Still, SNAP households spent slightly more on soda than non-SNAP households (5 percent versus 4 percent, respectively), and since SNAP money is federally funded, Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University, described the program as basically “a multibillion-dollar taxpayer subsidy of the soda industry.”5

Many cities and states have called for restrictions on SNAP dollars to prevent the purchase of soda and other sugary beverages and junk food, but such moves have faced criticism over the notion of regulating people’s food choices.

It’s certainly a slippery slope to begin meddling in people’s right to choose what to eat, not to mention that other proclaimed “unhealthy foods,” like saturated fats, could end up facing restrictions too.

In a supplement published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine and sponsored by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a group of researchers also called for changes to the SNAP program to encourage more nutritious food consumption.6

They proposed a “Healthy Staples” program that would restrict SNAP purchases to only four food groups — grains, vegetables, legumes and fruits — and vitamin supplements.

This program would provide 1,800 calories plus a daily multivitamin to a SNAP recipient for just over $121 a month, which is $73 less than the most comprehensive SNAP benefit package, Kaiser Health reported.7 This change alone would save $26 billion a year while providing better nutrition, the researchers concluded.

What you’ll notice is that meat is excluded in this program, evidence of the slippery slope I referenced earlier. While it’s easy to argue for the exclusion of soda, excluding animal protein could leave recipients at risk of nutritional deficiencies and, when sourced from high-quality grass-fed sources, a healthy dietary staple.

Meanwhile, promoting grain consumption, as the proposed Healthy Staples program does, is encouraging a high-carb diet that is the opposite of what’s healthy for most people.

20 Cents of Every SNAP Dollar Goes Toward Junk Food

Soda wasn’t the only unhealthy item found in many U.S. shopping carts. When the USDA broke down expenditure patterns among SNAP and non-SNAP households, there were only limited differences.

“Both household groups were equally likely to purchase salty (bag) snacks (about 3 percent of food purchases), cookies (about 1 percent), and ice cream, ice milk, and sherbet (about 1 percent),” the USDA reported.8

Overall, about 40 cents of every food purchase dollar was spent on “basic” items like meat, fruits, vegetables, milk, eggs and bread. Another 40 cents was spent on cereal, prepared foods, other dairy products, rice and beans.

The remaining 20 cents was spent on junk foods, including sweetened drinks, desserts, salty snacks, candy and sugar.

The similarities between SNAP and non-SNAP household food purchases is noteworthy because it shows that junk-food spending is higher than it should be for many Americans, regardless of income, if optimal nutrition is desired.

For this reason, some, such as Diane Schanzenbach, a senior fellow at research firm the Brookings Institution, have called SNAP food restrictions problematic. She told Kaiser Health News:9

“Limiting food options removes the recipients’ ability to purchase foods they prefer, and the conversation surrounding healthier options should be framed as a national issue rather than a problem affecting only low-income Americans.”

SNAP Recipients at Greater Risk of Premature Death

Another revealing study used data from nearly 500,000 U.S. adults who participated in the 2000-2009 National Health Interview Survey.

They compared all-cause and cardiovascular mortality among three groups of people: those who took part in SNAP, those who were eligible for SNAP but chose not to participate, and those who were ineligible for SNAP.

Compared to those who were ineligible for the program, SNAP participants were found to have a two-fold increased risk of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality along with a three-fold increased risk of dying from diabetes.10

Those who were eligible for the program, but did not participate, also faced higher premature death risks than those who were ineligible, including a 1.5 times higher risk of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality and a nearly two-fold higher risk of diabetes mortality.

The study cannot prove that SNAP participation is responsible for the worse health outcomes, but the findings remained after other contributing factors such as age, physical activity, smoking status and more were accounted for.

The researchers did suggest that employment status, educations levels and marital status may have influenced the mortality risks. It was clear, however, that those relying on SNAP “require greater focus to understand and further address their poor health outcomes. Public Health Implications,” the researchers concluded.11

They continued, “Low-income Americans require even greater efforts to improve their health than they currently receive, and such efforts should be a priority for public health policymakers.”12

In Latin America, Obesity Rates Rise Along With Ultra-Processed Food Consumption

A new report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) revealed that weight gain as a result of processed food consumption has replaced hunger as a top public health problem.

About 58 percent of people living in Latin America and the Caribbean are now overweight, the report found. Rates were highest in the Bahamas (69 percent), Mexico (64 percent) and Chile (63 percent).13

Another 23 percent of the region’s population is obese, leading FAO officials to say the data should act as a wake-up call to area governments. According to FAO:14

Economic growth, increased urbanization, higher average incomes and the integration of the region into international markets have reduced the consumption of traditional preparations and increased consumption of ultra-processed products, a problem that has had greater impact on areas and countries that are net food importers.

To address this situation, FAO and PAHO call for the promotion of healthy and sustainable food systems that link agriculture, food, nutrition and health. To this end, countries should promote the sustainable production of fresh, safe and nutritious foods, ensuring their supply, diversity and access, especially for the most vulnerable sectors.”

Depending on the amount of adulteration the food goes through, processing may be considered minimal or significant. “Ultra-processed” foods are at the far end of the significantly altered spectrum.

Examples of ultra-processed foods include breakfast cereals, pizza, soda, chips and other salty/sweet/savory snacks, packaged baked goods, microwaveable frozen meals, instant soups and sauces, and much more. More than half of the U.S. diet is also made up of ultra-processed foods.15

Crop Insurance, Farm Program Payments Perpetuate a Cheap, Processed-Food Diet

Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa recently made statements to the press in favor of preserving crop insurance programs over other farm program payments. Farmers have the option of purchasing federally supported crop insurance as a risk-management tool, which pays out if crops are lost due to a variety of causes.16

There is much waste in the system, which pays out large payments to rich farmers while ignoring small farmers in need. In April 2015, Grassley introduced the Farm Payment Loophole Elimination Act, which states that recipients of farm subsidies be actively engaged in farming. Outrageously, the Agricultural Act of 2014 currently allows farmers not actively engaged in farming to receive farm subsidies.

Another example of farm program payments is the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) program, which was authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill. Under the PLC program, the USDA must issue payments to farmers if the average market prices for certain commodities dip below a reference price.

The crops subsidized under this program are one in the same with those used to create a junk-food diet, namely genetically engineered corn and soy. According to Western Farm Press:17

“Grassley and other advocates claim the crop insurance-oriented program saves money but recent figures show USDA has been paying about $6 billion a year for indemnity payments compared to about $5 billion for the direct payments under the 2008 farm bill.”

That’s billions of dollars being paid to continue growing the junk-food diet that, in turn, lawmakers want to restrict people on SNAP programs from using federal funds to purchase. Further, eating a healthier diet (defined as rich in fruits, vegetables, fish and nuts in one study) was found to be significantly more expensive than an unhealthy diet (rich in processed foods, meats, and refined grains).18

Part of what makes the processed-food diet cheaper is the fact that the U.S. government is actively subsidizing a diet that consists of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), soybean oil, corn oil and grain-fed cattle, a direct result of their flawed farm subsidy system. It’s an upside-down reality, one that could be solved with a return to healthy, diversified food systems.

It’s worth noting that the SNAP program does allow purchases at some farmers markets and can also be used for food-producing plants and seeds, which allows participants to grow their own produce — one of the best choices economically and for your health. Bone broth, fermented vegetables and sprouts (grown at home) are examples of additional foods that are inexpensive and phenomenal for your health, and you can find more tips for eating healthy on a tight budget here.

Unfortunately, many inner-city areas are void of healthy food sources — people are literally buying their food at gas stations and the like, as there are no grocery stores in the neighborhood. So, investing in regional and local food systems is imperative if we are to change this situation for the better.

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A Little Zinc Goes a Long Way

Article Source: Health And Fitness Journal

By Dr. Mercola

Zinc is an essential trace mineral, probably most widely known for the integral role it plays in your immune system and the prevention and treatment of the common cold. Aside from iron, zinc is the most common mineral found in your body, necessary for the function of every one of your cells.

Zinc is used in the production of white blood cells, helping your body to fight infection, and plays a key role in regulating the way your heart muscle uses calcium to trigger the electrical stimulus responsible for your heartbeat.1

It’s also one of the building blocks for approximately 3,000 proteins and 200 enzymes in your body. Recent research has now identified the role zinc plays in protecting your DNA.2

However, while essential, your body does not store zinc, so it is important you get enough from your dietary intake every day. Moreover, regularly getting too much can be just as hazardous as getting too little.

Zinc May Reduce DNA Strand Breaks

DNA is in every cell of your body and is the blueprint your cells use during replication. Until late adulthood your body has the ability to regenerate DNA, but over time DNA does deteriorate, eventually causing the overall breakdown of body systems. Recent research has identified the role zinc may play in slowing this DNA deterioration.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has determined a recommended daily amount of identified vitamins, minerals and nutrients that reduces the risk of experiencing symptoms of deficiency. However, a lack of symptoms of insufficiency does not necessarily support optimal health.

The levels recommended for zinc vary with age and gender as the absorption, use and requirements for the mineral varies with those same factors.

Researchers from the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI) began a study with the intention of measuring the impact small increases in dietary intake of zinc would have on the body’s metabolic functions.

Janet King, Ph.D., led the study where 18 men ate a rice-based, low-zinc diet for six weeks. Both before and after the experimental period the researchers measured indicators such as DNA damage, oxidative stress and DNA inflammation.3

When participants increased dietary zinc consumption researchers found a reduction in leukocyte DNA strand breakage, suggesting a modest increase in dietary zinc could reduce the everyday “wear and tear” on DNA. King commented:4

“We were pleasantly surprised to see that just a small increase in dietary zinc can have such a significant impact on how metabolism is carried out throughout the body.

These results present a new strategy for measuring the impact of zinc on health and reinforce the evidence that food-based interventions can improve micronutrient deficiencies worldwide.”

While increasing your dietary intake of zinc may be beneficial to your overall health, taking supplemental zinc may not be the way to accomplish your goal.

An Imbalance of Zinc and Copper May Lead to Health Problems

Your body has an elaborate system to maintain balance between trace minerals in your system, such as iron, zinc, copper and chromium. Consuming these minerals in your food helps maintain the proper balance, while taking supplements can easily create an imbalance of too much of one and not enough of another.

Sometimes ingestion occurs knowingly, such as when you take a daily supplement, and other times you may unknowingly absorb more than the recommended daily allowance for a nutrient through another chemical source.

In 2011, researchers from the University of Maryland published a study that demonstrated a hazard of ingesting excess zinc from denture adhesive.5

Excess zinc may lead to a copper deficiency, as the absorption patterns in the gastrointestinal tract are similar. Competition for absorption may lead to an increase in zinc and a reduction in copper.

Too much zinc may lead to nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, headaches and loss of appetite.6 Getting your zinc from your diet significantly reduces the potential of overdosing.

Copper deficiency can be the result of malabsorption, malnutrition or from an excess of zinc in your system.7 High intake of zinc may increase the creation of metallothionein, a cell protein in your intestines that binds to some metals and prevents absorption.8

These cells have a stronger affinity for copper than zinc. This produces a cycle in which the consumption of zinc triggers the development of metallothionein cells, which then decrease the amount of copper absorbed.

One of the more common symptoms of a copper insufficiency is anemia. In this case the anemia will not respond to an increase in iron, but rather improves with copper supplementation.9

Copper deficiency may also lead to an abnormal low white blood cell count (neutropenia), increasing your potential for infection. In such a case, you may take a zinc supplement to alleviate your cold, for example, thereby worsening your copper deficiency.

Other abnormalities related to copper deficiency include osteoporosis, infants born at low birth weight and loss of pigmentation in your skin.

Zinc Strengthens Your Immune System

Inadequate amount of zinc in your diet may increase your potential for infection. Without zinc, your white blood cells don’t function optimally and other processes in your immune system are affected as well. Neutrophils, phagocytosis, antibody production and even gene regulation in your lymphocytes are affected by zinc.10

Although scientists are continuing to study the exact cellular changes an adequate supply of zinc produces on your immune system, some studies indicate it may reduce the duration of your cold by as much as 50 percent, especially if you are deficient.11

Each year there are approximately 200 different viruses that make up the “common cold.” While zinc helps support your immune system, it also appears to have antiviral properties that prevent the virus from replicating and attaching to your nasal membranes.12

Researchers have also discovered that zinc may have other immune boosting properties that help your body have a strong first response at the onset of symptoms.13

The initial dose must be taken in the first 24 hours of symptoms to work well, and those taking zinc are less likely have symptoms last more than seven days while supplementing with zinc lozenges.

Adequate Dietary Zinc Intake May Help Prevent Some Diabetes Complications

Some experts estimate that as many as 12 percent of people in the U.S. are deficient in zinc, with as many as 40 percent of the elderly due to poor absorption and low dietary intake.14 Zinc plays a significant role in the reduction of oxidative stress and helping DNA to repair, especially as you age. According to Emily Ho, Ph.D., associate professor with the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University:15

“Zinc deficiencies have been somewhat under the radar because we just don’t know that much about mechanisms that control its absorption, role, or even how to test for it in people with any accuracy.”

The role zinc plays in protection against oxidative stress may explain, in part, why diabetics who have higher levels of zinc experience a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.16

A recent collaborative study with researchers from New Zealand and Australia demonstrated those with zinc blood levels between 14 micromoles and 18 micromoles per liter had the lowest risk of heart disease.17 Optimizing your dietary zinc intake may also improve diabetic markers, such as better glycemic control and lower concentrations of lipids.

Zinc Is Vital to Sensory Organ Function

Taste, smell and vision are three sensory functions in which zinc plays a significant role. Both taste and smell are important to your appetite, so a deficiency may reduce your desire to eat. This can be substantially important in people who suffer from cancer. Zinc deficiency, and the resulting loss of appetite, can be the result of some chemotherapy drugs and radiation treatments used to treat cancer.

In a review of the literature, researchers found a diversity of taste disorders with zinc deficiency.18 Zinc is critical to the production of the metalloenzyme carbonic anhydrase (CA) VI.19 When there is a deficiency of zinc, this enzyme is not made in adequate amounts, leading to loss of taste and, subsequently, appetite.

Your taste and smell systems use CA VI as a growth factor, but it also plays a role in apoptosis, or cell death. If you have a zinc deficiency, apoptosis increases in your body and the cells in your taste and smell organs die abnormally quickly. With an overload of zinc there is another type of alteration that results in further apoptosis and death of those same cells.20

Zinc also works in combination with vitamin A to help your eyes sense light and send the appropriate nerve impulses to the brain for interpretation.21 Your retina, an important part of eyesight, is made of membranes rich in polyunsaturated fats.22 Reactive oxygen species (ROS) may initiate chain reactions of lipid peroxidation that injures the retina, and therefore your eyesight.

Researchers have found a moderate zinc deficiency increases the oxidative stress on the retina and suggest that zinc may be protective against lipid peroxidation of the retinal membranes.23 While oxidative stress on the retina has been demonstrated, the role zinc plays in macular degeneration with age has not been conclusively proven.24 Like other symptoms of zinc deficiency, these appear to be reversible when blood levels return to normal through an appropriate intake of real food.

Improve Your Zinc Intake With Real Food

In this short video, I discuss the importance of zinc to your health, the signs of zinc deficiency and how you may improve your zinc levels through your dietary choices. Vegetarians have a particular challenge as phytic acid in grains compete with the absorption of zinc and other nutrients, which doesn’t occur in meat and dairy sources of zinc.

If you have symptoms of a zinc deficiency and choose to use a supplement, ensure it is from a reputable company using best-practice, quality assurance methods. Independent verification of the raw materials is vital to confirm quality and assure it is free of lead and other heavy metals. The supplement should contain several different types of zinc, such as gluconate, citrate and chelate. Unless your clinician recommends otherwise, don’t go above 40 milligrams (mg) per day.

Since it’s easy to create an imbalance in your body when taking supplements of trace minerals, your most effective way of balancing your zinc levels is through eating real foods high in zinc, such as:25,26

? Oysters

? Pastured beef

? Alaskan crab

? Lobster

? Pork chops

? Baked beans

? Pastured chicken

? Cashew

? Chickpeas

? Yogurt

? Swiss cheese

? Oatmeal

? Almonds

? Kidney beans

? Cheddar cheese

? Pumpkin seeds

? Kefir

? Mushrooms

? Spinach

? Lamb

? Brewed coffee

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Life Lessons From 100-Plus-Year-Olds

Article Source: Health And Fitness Journal

By Dr. Mercola

Age is just a number, and this is clearly evident in the lives of the three centenarians interviewed in the LifeHunters video above.

Each has his or her own story — Clifford Crozier, born in 1915; Emilia Tereza Harper, born in 1913; and John Millington Denerley, born in 1914 — but you’ll notice a certain “je ne sais quoi” that they all seem to share.

Positivity and strength are certainly apparent, along with a will to live and a continued interest in and curiosity about the world around them.

Even as times changed, these people kept on living, adapting to and welcoming the new phases of their lives. It’s this fortitude and emotional resilience that has likely played a major role in their longevity.

Emotional Resilience and Optimism Help You Stay Young at Heart

Each of the centenarians in the video look far younger than their chronological years, and they certainly don’t act their age (who knows how a 100-year-old is “supposed” to act anyway). Their positive attitudes undoubtedly are to credit for helping them stay young at heart, and research backs this up.

In a study of 100 seniors (average age of 81), those who were exposed to implicit positive messages (words like creative, spry and fit) experienced gains in their physical strength.1

It’s evidence that your mind truly does have power over your body, and all of the centenarians interviewed exemplify this. If you believe your body and mind will fail you as you age, it may very well follow suit.

But the opposite also holds true, especially if your positive mindset is combined with the basic requirements for healthy living (like good sleep, fresh healthy food and staying active).

The majority of centenarians report feeling about 20 years younger than their chronological age, and their mindset has a lot to do with this self-perception.

Though Denerley is 102, for instance, he states that he feels like he’s 69 or 79. There’s a good chance, too, that if you were to evaluate his biological age, it would be closer to how he feels than to his actual chronological age.

Interestingly, experts also agree that using acceptable biomarkers to determine biological age (such as blood pressure, muscle power, skeletal mass and fitness indicators) would be a better indicator of lifespan than chronological age.2

Centenarians Eat Real Food

Notably, none of the centenarians were self-proclaimed health nuts, but they do understand the value of eating real food. There was no other option when they were born, after all. As Harper noted, she grew up eating home-cooked food. What else was there?

And more than that, her family grew their own food as well. Everything they ate was taken fresh from their garden, prepared and then put onto their plates.

In 2017, the notion of eating home-grown, home-cooked food has become more of a novelty than a norm for many people, but reverting back to this traditional way of eating is the best route for health and longevity.

The simple act of eating whole food is a theme common to centenarians (even if their diets aren’t “perfect,” like Crozier’s apparent fondness for whiskey on occasion).

Emma Morano, who, at 116, is the oldest person in the world, similarly shared with news outlets one of her dietary secrets: three eggs (two of them raw) and raw minced meat daily.3

Aside from what to eat, many centenarians also mention the importance of variations of intermittent fasting, i.e., not overeating, eating only once a day or, in Morano’s case, having only a light dinner.

In Okinawa, Japan, which has an unusually high concentration of people who live to 100 and beyond, hara hachi bu, or eating until you’re only 80 percent full, is said to be an important factor in longevity.4

Strong Relationships, Fond Memories and Living in the Moment

Another common thread among the centenarian trio? Strong, positive relationships. Each spoke fondly of their marriages which, though their spouses had passed decades earlier, still offered them fond memories. Each also was able to look back on their life experiences and relationships with appreciation and gratitude.

This, too, is backed up by science, with research showing that the types of social relationships someone enjoys — or doesn’t — can actually put them at risk for premature death. In fact, researchers found a 50 percent increased likelihood for survival for participants with stronger social relationships.5

Harper, in particular, explained that she was able to live happily because she had a lifetime of memories to fall back on. It’s important to remember this — that experiences tend to make us happier than possessions.

The “newness” of possessions wears off, as does the joy they bring you, but experiences improve your sense of vitality and “being alive” both during the experience and when you reflect back on it.

In addition, most centenarians, regardless of their health status, tend to have positive attitudes, optimism and a zest for life. In the video, you’ll notice the trio make mention of living in the moment, living for the day and having no regrets.

These are people who, despite having more than 100 years of “past,” are living very much in the present, not dwelling on what they have lost but appreciating all the living they have done (and have yet to do).

Also noteworthy, none of them has plans to go anytime soon. Each speaks of feeling strong and expects to continue living each day to its fullest. They are active — physically, mentally and socially. This, too, will only help them to stay young and healthy.

Helping Others Will Come Back to You Hundreds-Fold

Harper also spoke of the importance of being kind and helping those around you. This is a life lesson worth learning, as doing good deeds helps others in need while providing a natural mood boost for you.

Volunteering, for instance, can lower your risk of depression and anxiety and even boost your psychological well-being.6,7 Not only does it keep you active and on your feet, but there’s a definite social aspect as well, both of which contribute to happiness and longevity.

Volunteering to help others also gives you a sense of purpose and can even lead to a so-called “helper’s high,” which may occur because doing good releases feel-good hormones like oxytocin in your body while lowering levels of stress hormones like cortisol.
Personality traits can also affect your longevity, which may also be playing a role in the centenarians interviewed.

Having a sense of purpose and staying productive, for instance, have been shown to promote longevity in The Longevity Project, a Stanford study spanning 80 years.8 Conscientiousness, specifically, was identified as a marker for longevity.
The reason for this, the researchers believe, is because conscientious behavior influences other behaviors.

For example, conscientious people tend to make healthier choices, such as avoiding smoking and choosing work they enjoy and life partners they get along with — factors that can have a significant impact on their stress level and general contentment.
Conscientious people also tend to be more productive, even past conventional retirement age, and tend to regard their work as having purpose.

The Longevity Project dismisses the idea that hard work will kill you early. On the contrary, those who stay productive and work hard all their lives actually tend to be happier, healthier and more social compared to those who don’t work as hard. Co-author and psychologist Howard S. Friedman, Ph.D., of the University of California, said in an interview with the American Psychological Association (APA):9

” … [O]ur studies suggest that it is a society with more conscientious and goal-oriented citizens, well-integrated into their communities, that is likely to be important to health and long life. These changes involve slow, step-by-step alterations that unfold across many years. But so does health. For example, connecting with and helping others is more important than obsessing over a rigorous exercise program.”

Being a Lifelong Learner Is Linked to Longevity

It’s interesting that Denerley mentioned if he had one regret it would be not taking his studies seriously enough early on. He recommended getting an education early in life as a crucial point, and this, too, is correlated with a longer life.

People with a bachelor’s degree or higher tend to live about nine years longer than people who don’t graduate from high school, according to a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics report.10 This is likely, in part, because educated people may get better jobs, plan more for their future or lead healthier lifestyles. However, having a natural curiosity about life and a desire to keep learning likely also plays a role in the longevity connection.

There Is No Set Pattern for Why Some People Live to 100 and Beyond

Despite advances in science that have linked everything from eating more vegetables to the age your mother gave birth to you (younger being better) with a longer life, no one can lay out a set plan that will guarantee you’ll live to 100. And the fact remains that centenarians and super centenarians (those who live to 110 and beyond) are a motley crew. According to Israeli physician Nir Barzilai of the Institute for Aging Research at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York:11

“There is no pattern. The usual recommendations for a healthy life — not smoking, not drinking, plenty of exercise, a well-balanced diet, keeping your weight down — they apply to us average people. But not to them. Centenarians are in a class of their own.”

Based on years of data from studying centenarians, Barzilai reported that when analyzing the data from his particular pool of centenarians, at age 70:12

  • 37 percent were overweight
  • 8 percent were obese
  • 37 percent were smokers (for an average of 31 years)
  • 44 percent reported only moderate exercise
  • 20 percent never exercised at all

Despite this, Barzalai is quick to emphasize you should not disregard the importance of making healthy lifestyle choices, explaining:

“Today’s changes in lifestyle do in fact contribute to whether someone dies at the age of 85 or before age 75. But in order to reach the age of 100, you need a special genetic make-up. These people age differently. Slower. They end up dying of the same diseases that we do — but 30 years later and usually quicker, without languishing for long periods.”

‘Keep Right on to the End of the Road’

What words of wisdom do centenarians have to offer to those with less life experience? “Time spent on reconnaissance is seldom wasted,” Crozier said. “Be as independent as you can but don’t be reluctant to ask for help when you think you need it.” Harper has advice of her own, noting, “A good idea is to behave well to other people, show them respect and help them as much as you possibly can, and it will be repaid hundred-folds.”

Denerley, too, has a motto for life, which he credited to Scottish comedian Sir Harry Lauder. It sums up, perhaps best of all, the attitude that’s gotten him so far in life (especially when combined with his infectious smile), “Keep right on to the end of the road.”

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