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Mediterranean Diet is Healthy Eating – A Good Option for Seniors Another large recent study found that lowering sodium intakes (less than 2500 milligrams per day) wasn't linked to lower blood pressure. Over the course of 16 years, the researchers found that the study participants who consumed less than 2500 milligrams of sodium a day had higher blood pressure than participants who consumed higher amounts of sodium. However, the current 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting sodium intake to 2,300 grams a day for healthy people. The researchers felt that based on recent studies with similar findings that the sodium guidelines should be changed.

This 16 year study found that people in the study who had normal intakes of sodium, but also higher intakes of potassium, calcium and magnesium exhibited lower blood pressure over the course of the study. And those people with higher combined intakes of sodium (3717 milligrams per day on average) and potassium (3211 milligrams per day on average on average) had the lowest blood pressure.

Some good potassium foods:  avocado, winter squash, sweet potato, potato, white beans, banana, spinach, salmon, dried apricots, tomato sauce, beans, and milk. Some good magnesium foods: dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fish, beans, whole grains, avocados, yogurt, bananas, dried fruit, dark chocolate. Some good calcium foods: milk, cheese, yogurt, kale, sardines, broccoli, white beans, and rhubarb. From Science Daily:

Low-sodium diet might not lower blood pressure: Findings from large, 16-year study contradict sodium limits in Dietary Guidelines for Americans

A new study that followed more than 2,600 men and women for 16 years found that consuming less sodium wasn't associated with lower blood pressure. The new findings call into question the sodium limits recommended by the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Lynn L. Moore, DSc, associate professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine, will present the new research at the American Society for Nutrition Scientific Sessions and annual meeting during the Experimental Biology 2017 meeting, to be held April 22-26 in Chicago.

"We saw no evidence that a diet lower in sodium had any long-term beneficial effects on blood pressure," said Moore. "Our findings add to growing evidence that current recommendations for sodium intake may be misguided." The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting sodium intake to 2,300 grams a day for healthy people. For the study, the researchers followed 2,632 men and women ages 30 to 64 years old who were part of the Framingham Offspring Study. The participants had normal blood pressure at the study's start. However, over the next 16 years, the researchers found that the study participants who consumed less than 2500 milligrams of sodium a day had higher blood pressure than participants who consumed higher amounts of sodium.

Other large studies published in the past few years have found what researchers call a J-shaped relationship between sodium and cardiovascular risk -- that means people with low-sodium diets (as recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans) and people with a very high sodium intake (above the usual intake of the average American) had higher risks of heart disease. Those with the lowest risk had sodium intakes in the middle, which is the range consumed by most Americans.

The researchers also found that people in the study who had higher intakes of potassium, calcium and magnesium exhibited lower blood pressure over the long term. In Framingham, people with higher combined intakes of sodium (3717 milligrams per day on average) and potassium (3211 milligrams per day on average on average) had the lowest blood pressure.....Moore says that there is likely a subset of people sensitive to salt who would benefit from lowering sodium intake, but more research is needed to develop easier methods to screen for salt sensitivity and to determine appropriate guidelines for intakes of sodium and potassium in this salt-sensitive group of people.

 Magnesium is a mineral found in the human body that is necessary for good health. New research analysed 40 studies and found that a diet rich in magnesium is associated with a reduced risk of stroke, heart failure, diabetes, and death ("all cause mortality").

Even though there are many magnesium rich foods, it is estimated that many people don't get enough magnesium in the diet, especially if they eat a lot of processed, low-fiber foods. Current Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) are 320 mg daily for adult females and 420 mg daily for adult males (NIH magnesium fact-sheets - here and here). Especially good sources of magnesium are green leafy vegetables, legumes (beans), nuts, seeds, chocolate, and whole grains. In general, foods containing dietary fiber provide magnesium.From EurekAlert:

Dietary magnesium associated with reduced risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes

A diet rich in magnesium may reduce the risk of diseases including coronary heart disease, stroke and type-2 diabetes according to a new meta-analysis published in the open access journal BMC Medicine. This analysis of the evidence on dietary magnesium and health outcomes is the largest to date, involving data from more than one million people across nine countries.

The researchers, from Zhejiang University and Zhengzhou University in China, found that people in the highest category of dietary magnesium consumption had a 10% lower risk of coronary heart disease, 12% lower risk of stroke and a 26% lower risk of type-2 diabetes compared to those in the lowest category. Their results also indicate that an extra 100 mg per day of dietary magnesium could also reduce risk of stroke by 7% and type-2 diabetes by 19%.

Magnesium is vital for human health and normal biological functions including glucose metabolism, protein production and synthesis of nucleic acids such as DNA. Diet is the main source of magnesium as the element can be found in foods such as spices, nuts, beans, cocoa, whole grains and green leafy vegetables.

Original study. from BMC Medicine: Dietary magnesium intake and the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and all-cause mortality: a dose–response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies

Increasing dietary magnesium intake is associated with a reduced risk of stroke, heart failure, diabetes, and all-cause mortality, but not CHD [coronary heart disease] or total CVD [cardiovascular disease]. These findings support the notion that increasing dietary magnesium might provide health benefits....Magnesium is essential to all living organisms, as it controls the function of many crucial enzymes, including those that utilize or synthesize ATP ....

The following is a list of nutrients that some researchers (from the Institute of Food Technology) think of as especially beneficial to the brain. Other researchers may (or probably will) focus on other nutrients. I am posting it even though I generally dislike articles that talk about "superfoods" or an itemized list of foods that one should eat to the exclusion of others. Because, of course, focusing on some nutrients may leave out many just as important nutrients.

Also, medical thinking changes over time and what was once considered "unhealthy" may later be considered a wonderful food (remember when eggs, nuts, and coconuts were almost considered evil?). And vice versa (remember when margarine with partially hydrogeneated oils and trans-fats was considered healthier than butter?) And study after study says it is better to eat the foods, rather than take supplements. So keep in mind that the following nutrients are found in whole foods and in a varied diet. And when they mention a specific food such as blueberries, remember that ALL berries have benefits (though they vary), so eat a variety of berries. Same with nuts - eat a variety and not just walnuts. From Science Daily:

Eight nutrients to protect the aging brain

Brain health is the second most important component in maintaining a healthy lifestyle according to a 2014 AARP study. As people age they can experience a range of cognitive issues from decreased critical thinking to dementia and Alzheimer's disease. In the March issue of Food Technology published by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), contributing editor Linda Milo Ohr writes about eight nutrients that may help keep your brain in good shape.

1. Cocoa Flavanols: Cocoa flavanols have been linked to improved circulation and heart health, and preliminary research shows a possible connection to memory improvement as well. A study showed cocoa flavanols may improve the function of a specific part of the brain called the dentate gyrus, which is associated with age-related memory (Brickman, 2014). {NOTE: good sources are cocoa and dark chocolate}

2. Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 fatty acids have long been shown to contribute to good heart health are now playing a role in cognitive health as well....Foods rich in omega-3s include salmon, flaxseed oil, and chia seeds.

3. Phosphatidylserine and Phosphatidic Acid: Two pilot studies showed that a combination of phosphatidylserine and phosphatidic acid can help benefit memory, mood, and cognitive function in the elderly (Lonza, 2014). {NOTE: good sources are fish and meat}

4. Walnuts: A diet supplemented with walnuts may have a beneficial effect in reducing the risk, delaying the onset, or slowing the progression of Alzheimer's disease in mice (Muthaiyah, 2014).

5. Citicoline: Citicoline is a natural substance found in the body's cells and helps in the development of brain tissue, which helps regulate memory and cognitive function, enhances communication between neurons, and protects neural structures from free radical damage.... {NOTE: Citocoline is synthesized in the body from choline, so see foods high in choline}

6. Choline: Choline, which is associated with liver health and women's health, also helps with the communication systems for cells within the brain and the rest of the body. Choline may also support the brain during aging and help prevent changes in brain chemistry that result in cognitive decline and failure. A major source of choline in the diet are eggs. { NOTE: Good sources of choline are eggs, meat, fish, beans, and cruciferous vegetables.}

7. Magnesium: Magnesium supplements are often recommended for those who experienced serious concussions. Magnesium-rich foods include avocado, soy beans, bananas and dark chocolate.

8. Blueberries: Blueberries are known to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity because they boast a high concentration of anthocyanins, a flavonoid that enhances the health-promoting quality of foods. Moderate blueberry consumption could offer neurocognitive benefits such as increased neural signaling in the brain centers.

Take note: the focus should be on getting magnesium from foods, not supplements.As the researchers warn: "your body absorbs magnesium from food differently than it does from supplements". From CNN:

Magnesium, an invisible deficiency that could be harming your health

Feeling exhausted? Or noticing weird muscle cramps that are throwing off your workouts? You might be suffering from a magnesium deficiency. Dubbed the "invisible deficiency" by some experts because it's so hard to spot and diagnose, magnesium deficiencies are more dangerous than you might think. "Magnesium is involved in over 300 biochemical reactions in your body. It affects everything from your heartbeat to your muscles to your hormones," says Dr. Danine Fruge, Associate Medical Director at the Pritikin Longevity Center in Miami, Florida.

 "Studies have shown that only about 25% of U.S. adults are at or above the recommended daily amount of 310 to 320 milligrams for women and 400 to 420 for men," says Fruge. In fact, the 2005-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) revealed that at least half of the U.S. population had inadequate intakes of magnesium.

Loss of appetite, nausea, fatigue -- the initial symptoms of magnesium deficiency are also common side effects of other health conditions, making it difficult to diagnose. This sneaky disorder manifests in three different stages, depending on how lacking you are in the nutrient. While initially symptoms can be minor, a magnesium deficiency may eventually cause noticeable problems with your muscle and nerve function such as tingling, cramping, numbness and contractions (like that annoying eye twitch you just can't shake). In its worst stages, magnesium deficiency could even cause seizures, personality changes, or abnormal heart rhythms.

To make matters scarier, this condition can be difficult to detect with medical tests. Since only 1% of magnesium is found in your blood (most is in your bones or organs), a simple needle prick often won't help determine your levels. Instead, Fruge says diagnoses are usually made through process of elimination and by examining a patient's lifestyle.

It may be what you're eating — rather than what you're not eating — that's putting you at risk for magnesium deficiency. "It's very easy to get enough magnesium. I think the reason so many people are deficient is because a lot of food and drink can make magnesium unavailable to their bodies," says Fruge. The main culprits: soda, caffeinated beverages and alcohol, according to Fruge... Consuming too much alcohol can interfere with your body's absorption of vitamin D, which aids magnesium absorption. As for food, refined sugar causes the body to excrete magnesium through the kidneys, resulting in a net loss, according to Fruge.

Your best bet when it comes to fending off a magnesium deficiency is to take preventative measures. So, should you turn to food or supplements for your fix? Supplements "will probably give you a boost, but it's best to focus on food," says Dr. Fruge. Plus, your body absorbs magnesium from food differently than it does from supplements. You should only use magnesium supplements under the direction of a doctor — and be sure not to exceed 350 non-food milligrams of magnesium per day (unless a medical professional instructs you differently).

"Your body has built-in mechanisms that don't allow it to overdose from food, but that doesn't exist for supplements. Too much magnesium via supplement can put your heart into an arrhythmia and that can even be fatal, particularly for people with issues like diabetes," says Fruge.

Food sources are your safest bet so focus on amping up your consumption of leafy greens — one cup of cooked spinach provides 157 milligrams of magnesium. Legumes are a solid choice too, with a cup of cooked white beans coming in at 113 milligrams of the nutrient. And if you're a fan of squash and pumpkin seeds, one cup packs in a whopping 649 milligrams. Other great options are nuts, including almonds and cashews, most types of fish, and whole grains.

Another reason to eat vegetables, whole grains, seeds, fish, and nuts. From Medical Xpress:

Magnesium cuts diabetes risk

Getting enough magnesium in the diet may reduce the risk of diabetes, especially for those who already show signs of heading that way. A Tufts study led by Adela Hruby, N10, MPH10, N13, found that healthy people with the highest magnesium intake were 37 percent less likely to develop high blood sugar or excess circulating insulin, common precursors to diabetes.

Among people who already had those conditions, those who consumed the most magnesium were 32 percent less likely to develop diabetes than those consuming the least. The second association held true even when researchers accounted for other healthful factors, such as fiber, that often go along with magnesium-rich foods.The study, published in Diabetes Care, followed 2,582 participants in the Framingham Heart Study Offspring cohort for seven years. The study subjects had an average age of 54.

Only half of Americans get the recommended daily amount of magnesium in their diet, which is 400 to 420 milligrams for adult men and 310 to 320 milligrams for adult women. You can find it in whole grains, vegetables, fish, nuts and seeds and dark chocolate.

Excerpts from an article by Jane Brody in the NY Times:

Beating Back the Risk of Diabetes

This year, nearly two million American adults and more than 5,000 children and adolescents will learn they have a potentially devastating, life-shortening, yet largely preventable disease: Type 2 diabetes. They will join 29.1 million Americans who already have diabetes.

Diabetes and its complications are responsible for nearly 200,000 deaths a year; the fatality rate among affected adults is 50 percent higher than among similar people without diabetes. Alarmingly, recent studies even have linked diabetes to an increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Even people with above-average blood glucose levels, but not diabetes, have an elevated risk.

The Diabetes Prevention Program study, conducted among about 3,800 people who had pre-diabetes, found that moderate weight loss — an average of 12 pounds —  reduced the odds of progression to diabetes by nearly 50 percent.

An excellent discussion of what is known about the effect on diabetes of various foods and supplements appeared recently in Nutrition Action Healthletter at cspinet.org/iceberg.pdf. Some highlights:

Carbohydrates - breads, grains, cereals, sugary drinks and sweets of all kinds — are most problematic for people with diabetes or at risk of developing it. Carbohydrates are eventually metabolized to glucose, which raises the body’s demand for insulin. Consume less of them in general, and choose whole-grain versions whenever possible.

If you must have sweet drinks, select artificially sweetened ones. In two huge studies of nurses and other health professionals who were followed for 22 years, those who drank one or more sugary soft drinks a day had about a 30 percent higher risk of developing diabetes than those who rarely drank them, even after their weight was taken into account.

But there’s good news about coffee. Two or three cups of coffee (but not tea) a day, with or without caffeine, have been consistently linked to a lower risk of Type 2 diabetes. 

For protein, limit consumption of red meat, especially processed meats like sausages, hot dogs and luncheon meats, which are linked to a higher diabetes risk. Instead, choose fish, lean poultry (skinless and not fried), beans and nuts. Low-fat dairy products, including yogurt, and even fatty ones may lower the risk of diabetes; the reason is unclear.

Most protective are green, leafy vegetables — spinach, chard, kale, collards, mustard greens and even lettuce — as well as cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower. But all vegetables are good and should fill at least two-thirds of your dinner plate.

The nutrients magnesium and vitamin D are also potentially protective. In fact, the preventive value of leafy greens, whole grains, beans and nuts may lie in their high magnesium content. In a well-designed clinical trial of 32 overweight people with insulin resistance, the prelude to diabetes, blood glucose levels and insulin sensitivity improved in those who took a daily magnesium supplement for six months. Don’t go overboard: More than 350 milligrams of magnesium daily can cause diarrhea. 

Vitamin D, long known to be crucial to healthy bones, may also be helpful. In one study of 92 overweight or obese adults with prediabetes, those who took a supplement of 2,000 international units of vitamin D daily had better function of the pancreatic cells that produce insulin..

Of course, how much you weigh and what you eat are not the only concerns. Regular, preferably daily, physical exercise is a vital component of any prevention and treatment program for Type 2 diabetes, or most any chronic ailment. Weight loss can reduce diabetes risk by about 50 percent, but adding exercise to that can lower the odds by 70 percent, compared with people who remain overweight and inactive, according to a study that followed nearly 85,000 female nurses for 16 years. Women who were active for seven or more hours weekly had half the risk of developing diabetes as did women who exercised only a half-hour a week.