Friday, August 22, 2014


This post is inspired by my dad who today received a great report from a heart catheterization, an internal probe of his coronary arteries.  On the basis of an MRI, he was diagnosed with severe blockages in his heart, up to 80%.   Upon this more detailed exam, his heart arteries were not blocked 80%, but only 50% - not requiring a stent.  This was the best news possible!  My dad is making a new commitment on lifestyle and has lost 20+ lbs and taking on an exercise regime.  After 2+ decades of a terrible diet, and sedentary lifestyle, making this change at age 74 is better late than never.

People with disease, especially heart disease often have a 'life revelation' that causes a sudden change in lifestyle to increase their chances of survival - one of the many reasons why 'it's better to know.'  I predicted this would happen for my dad, and I'm optimistic that it's not too late, perhaps just in time.  I'm very thankful that my dad seeks regular physical evaluations because without it, he would never have assessed his risk or made the changes.  One of the healthiest people I knew, Roland - thin, fit, a long time vegan, farmed his own food, died earlier than he should have simply because he never went to a doctor.  His disease could have been treated if caught early enough and he should be alive today.

This subject of food is one that is so convoluted and controversial, it affects everyone and there is more dogmatism, information, misinformation, theories, science, and culture on this subject than just about any other topic that affects human daily life.

There are so many scientific studies regarding what is 'the best' diet, but so many conflicts and contradictions in the findings.  Also, the science keeps 'changing.'

People eat for different reasons, with different goals, and with different levels of importance.   I like the saying, "eat to live, don't live to eat."   Personally, I think that if food and drink takes a central preoccupation in one's daily life, you'll run the risk of abusing it ... (over eating/drinking).  If a person's first thought on waking is food/drink ... eating, shopping, cooking, restaurants ... i.e. when, what, where, how to eat, etc...  scheduling every aspect of life around meals... then I suggest such a person needs to get a more active lifestyle where food is incidental, and not central.   Of course, good choices and some thought need to be a part of daily food consumption.

I think most people will agree that it is desirable to eat a diet that will promote a long life with least susceptibility to disease.  However, that's not universal.  For some, eating is so important to the pleasure centers of the brain, that they willingly eat a diet that will shorten their life.  Like smoking, heavy drinking, drugs, or any other risky behavior - it's worth it for them.

Other reasons people eat certain diets are to enable a certain level of physical activity.   Whether a competitive athlete, or just an occasional hiker, diet can contribute to maintaining such abilities as we age.   However, diet alone won't do it.   There isn't any diet that will by itself help a person fight the natural effects of muscle and bone loss due to aging - sarcopenia and osteoporosis.

There are so many studies, so much dogma, and so many contradictions ... it's probably better not to open that can of worms.   There are so many skinny healthy meat eaters, and as many obese vegans, it's not worth trying to cite isolated examples of individuals.  Like the 100 yr old Greek who smokes a pack a day for 70 yrs and never sick a day in his life!  But suffice it to say, there is a lot of evidence that negates just about any dogma, especially the myth that meat eaters are inherently unhealthy and vegans are immune to disease.   Instead of citing a million studies... I'm curious about what the longest living people on earth eat.

There are 4 places on earth where people often live to be 90 - 100+ yrs old.  What's common with all these places is that they are all near the sea:  Okinawa - Japan, Sardinia - Italy, Ikaria - Greece, and Nicoya - Costa Rica.

What's common in all these diets?  Fish, locally grown vegetables, nuts and fruits, and a generally lower calorie diet.  None of these diets are vegetarian.  Another commonality is that these people generally are active and walk daily as a form of transportation in their villages or as a part of their livelihood.   In many of these coastal communities, there are lots of hills and stairs to climb.

There are regional differences.  In addition to fish -

  • Okinawans eat soy, pickled vegetables, rice, a little pork, and green tea.
  • Mediterraneans in Italy and Greece eat wild greens, tomatoes, garlic, cheese, olives, fava beans, and wine.
  • Nicoyans eat corn, beans, rice, chicken, and tropical fruits.

There are also undoubtedly links to other factors besides diet.   Genetics and physical activity play a role.  In most of these places, you'll find active people, locally produced food, and a lack of processed Americanized junk food.   Obesity is very low.   Stress levels and lifestyle are generally relaxed.

Interesting stuff.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks Bill .... it's nice to learn so many important facts from someone you helped to create.... Guess I just 'lucked out'!!