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It has long been known that eating oily fish (e.g. salmon, sardines) has health benefits for the heart. But it also looks like regularly eating sardines may be a good way to lower the risk of getting type 2 diabetes, as well as improving heart health.

In a study (conducted in Spain) 152 persons at risk for developing type 2 diabetes ("pre-diabetes") were randomly assigned to one of 2 groups for 1 year: Group 1 regularly ate sardines +  followed a diabetes preventive diet, or Group 2 ate the same diabetes preventive diet, but without sardines. All participants were 65 years or older.

They found that after 1 year, the sardine group had greater health improvements than the non-sardine group. Fewer in the sardine group were still in the prediabetes group, and fewer had developed type 2 diabetes. The sardine group also had decreased triglycerides (good), greater increases in healthy HDL cholesterol, reduced insulin resistance, and lower blood pressure, as compared to the non-sardine group.

The sardine group also had higher taurine levels in the blood, as well as increases in nutrients linked to health benefits, including omega-3 EPA and DHA, vitamin D, and fluorine. Taurine has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.

What was their weekly consumption of sardines? They consumed 200 g of canned sardines in olive oil per week - eaten as 100 g servings twice per week. Which is a little less than eating two of the little 125 g cans of sardines in olive oil available at the grocery store. It was recommended that they eat the entire sardine, including bones, due to their rich content of calcium and vitamin D. [By the way, while the researchers don't discuss this - increased extra virgin olive oil consumption also has health benefits.]

Medscape article: Sardines Linked to Reduced Type 2 Diabetes Risk

Excerpts from Medical Xpress: Eating sardines regularly helps prevent type 2 diabetes

The health benefits of sardines and oily fish are widely known: their high levels of unsaturated fats help to regulate cholesterol levels and prevent the onset of cardiovascular diseases. However, the benefits don't end there.  ...continue reading "Eating Sardines Linked to Lower Diabetes Risk"

There is another great reason to try to lose weight if you are overweight or obese - being overweight or obese lowers blood flow to the brain in older adults. Yikes! However, one bit of good news from a study of 495 adults (average age 69) was that increased physical activity (brisk walks count!) can reduce or eliminate this association.

This could help explain why obesity increases the risk for a number of conditions as a person gets older, such as heart disease, dementia, and Alzheimer's disease.

The study was part of the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing. The average BMI (body mass index) was 28, which is considered overweight. One finding was that each 1 cm increase in waist circumference was associated with the same reduction of brain (cerebral) blood flow as 1 year of advancing age. (Yes, brain volume and blood flow typically diminish with age in older adults. So you want to prevent it as much as possible.)

The study found that higher levels of physical activity can reduce or remove this association of overweight & obesity and reduced brain blood flow. So if it's not possible to lose weight - then get really physically active!

How much exercise is beneficial? The researchers recommend at least 1.5 to 2 hours per day of "being active", that is, doing activities that require "moderate" effort - this means breathing somewhat harder than normal (e.g. brisk walking, cycling at a regular pace, carrying light loads). Equally beneficial is to get some "vigorous activity" which results in breathing much higher than normal (e.g., digging, aerobics, fast cycling, carrying heavy loads). But any and all movement is good!

Medical Xpress: Researchers find obesity linked to reduced blood flow to the brain

A new study from scientists at The Irish Longitudinal Study on Aging (TILDA) at Trinity College Dublin reveals important findings, indicating that being overweight or obese significantly reduces blood flow in the brain. The study also shows that increased physical activity can positively modify, or even negate, this reduction in brain blood flow. ...continue reading "Overweight and Obesity Is Associated With Reduced Blood Flow In the Brain"

Another study has been published finding that higher consumption of fruits and vegetables (5 servings a day) is associated with a longer life.

Researchers from the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health looked at the data from several large studies. They found that about 5 servings per day of fruit and vegetables was associated with the lowest mortality (death from any cause), and from deaths that can be attributed to cancer, heart disease, and respiratory disease. Specifically 3 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruits.

Eating fruits and vegetables above that level (5 servings per day) didn't seem to make a difference. Another finding: eating starchy vegetables (corn, peas, potatoes) and fruit juices were not associated with a lower risk of mortality.

However, keep in mind that the results were based on answers to Food Frequency Questionnaires (FFQ), where people answered questions about foods that they ate in the past year. Can you remember how frequently (daily, weekly, or monthly) you ate specific foods? Would you admit, in writing, that you eat lots of junk food or foods that you know are not so good for you?

As you can imagine, there is debate over how valid and reliable these questionnaires are. For example: Is It Time to Abandon the Food Frequency Questionnaire? in 2005, in 2015, and in 2018. FFQs are used because they are the cheapest option.

Some criticisms of FFQs: People don't accurately remember, and they may lie (they want to look better) by underreporting or overreporting foods. Also, the lists are premade - so if the foods you eat aren't on the lists, then it's not counted. Frequent omissions: onions, cucumbers, celery, quinoa, garlic, herbs.

Food dishes that contain many ingredients (such as many Asian dishes) can not be dealt with in FFQs that look at individual foods only. Canned foods are considered equivalent to fresh vegetables and fruits - yet they are not in many ways. No mention of organic vs non-organic foods (studies find nutritional differences, and a cancer link). Eh...

While filling out a sample online FFQ (from the National Cancer Institute) I realized that if I were part of a study - I would definitely answer so that my eating habits look better (!!), plus after answering for a while there was an urge to just get it over with (it took too long). Mutter to myself: "that sounds good, eh, who can remember..". Also, there was no way I would have admitted to any junk food binges.

From Science Daily:The right '5-a-day' mix is 2 fruit and 3 vegetable servings for longer life

Studies representing nearly 2 million adults worldwide show that eating about five daily servings of fruits and vegetables, in which 2 are fruits and 3 are vegetables, is likely the optimal amount for a longer life, according to new research published today in the American Heart Association's flagship journal Circulation.  ...continue reading "Eat At Least 5 Servings A Day of Fruits and Vegetables"

Once again a study finds that more exercise and less sitting improves glucose metabolism and so reduces the risk of diabetes. Is anyone surprised anymore by the health benefits of physical activity?

A study conducted in Finland found that in 660 adults 67 to 69 years of age, those who were most active throughout the day had the fewest glucose metabolism disorders (e.g. impaired glucose tolerance) and their insulin sensitivity was better - when compared to less active adults, especially sedentary couch potatoes. The best is to be active and move around a lot during the day, and not just be physically active during a short period.

Other studies find that the prevalence of type 2 diabetes is about twice as common in sedentary adults compared to active older adults. Study after study finds that increasing physical activity (as compared to being sedentary or less active) improves a person's health numerous ways and lowers the risk of all sorts of diseases.

From Medical Xpress: Moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and less sitting reduce the risk of diabetes in older adults

According to a recent study, moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and less sedentary time improve glucose metabolism and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes in older adults. Based on the results, it is important to encourage older adults to avoid sedentary time and increase moderate-to-vigorous physical activity to improve their glucose metabolism. 

...continue reading "Increase Physical Activity to Lower Risk of Diabetes"

Good news for coffee lovers! Drinking 1 or more cups of coffee a day was associated with a reduced risk of heart failure in three large heart disease studies. However, drinking decaffeinated coffee was not.

Researchers analyzed results of the 3 studies, in which more than 21,000 adults were followed at least 10 years. The studies did not differentiate between type of coffee consumed and how it was prepared (drip, espresso, percolated, French press). The researchers point out that other studies have similar findings - that increased consumption of coffee is associated with decreased heart disease deaths or deaths from any cause.

Many studies also find other benefits from daily coffee consumption, such as lowered risk of diabetes, some cancers, and some neurological conditions. However, avoid caffeine when trying to conceive and during pregnancy - then it is associated with harm to the pregnancy and fetus (e.g. with miscarriage, stillbirth, low birth weight and/or small for gestational age).

Excerpts from Science Daily: Coffee lovers, rejoice! Drinking more coffee associated with decreased heart failure risk

Dietary information from three large, well-known heart disease studies suggests drinking one or more cups of caffeinated coffee may reduce heart failure risk, according to research published today in Circulation: Heart Failure, an American Heart Association journal.  ...continue reading "Drinking Coffee Associated With Lower Heart Failure Risk"

Amazing how opinions regarding cannabis have changed in a few decades. From marijuana being viewed as an evil drug years ago to viewing cannabis (both marijuana and hemp) as medicinal and a pain reliever nowadays. A recent study suggests that regular use of cannabis (by either ingesting it orally via oil extracts or by smoking) can reduce blood pressure in older adults with hypertension.

The Ben-Gurion Univ. of the Negev (Israel) researchers found that after 3 months of medical cannabis use by 26 persons over 60 years of age, there was a reduction of both systolic and diastolic blood pressure numbers. The lowest blood pressure occurred 3 hours after ingesting or smoking cannabis.

From Medical Xpress: Cannabis reduces blood pressure in older adults: study

A new discovery by researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) and its affiliated Soroka University Medical Center shows that medical cannabis may reduce blood pressure in older adults.  ...continue reading "Cannabis May Reduce Blood Pressure In Older Adults"

An recent study from University of Saskatchewan researchers found that stretching exercises were better than brisk walking for lowering high-normal blood pressure or moderately elevated blood pressure. However, walking was more effective than stretching for reducing waist size.

The researchers randomly assigned 40 male and female adults (average age 61 years) with high normal or moderate hypertension (130/85–159/99 mm Hg) to either 8 weeks of whole body stretching exercises or brisk walking (on outdoor trails or a treadmill) for 30 minutes per day, 5 days a week, for 8 weeks. The stretching exercise routine included 21 exercises for the shoulders, chest, legs, arms, hips, and back. Each stretch was done twice and held for a 30-second duration with 15 seconds of rest between stretches.

Other studies have also found stretching exercises effective in reducing blood pressure. A possible reason is that when muscles are stretched, blood vessels are also stretched, and this may lead to structural changes in blood vessels. By reducing arterial stiffness, there is improved blood flow, and ultimately reduced blood pressure.

The researchers suggested adding stretching exercises to an aerobic exercise program or brisk walking for additional health benefits. By the way, stretching exercises are similar to yoga, which also lowers blood pressure.

From Medical Xpress: Stretching more effective than walking to lower high blood pressure, study finds

A new University of Saskatchewan study has found that stretching is superior to brisk walking for reducing blood pressure in people with high blood pressure or who are at risk of developing elevated blood pressure levels.  ...continue reading "Stretching Exercises Can Help Reduce Blood Pressure"

There is strong evidence for a link between the foods a person eats, the microbes that live in the person's gut (gut microbiome), and the person's health, according to a large international study. Yes, it's all related.

The researchers were able to find clear patterns of the types of foods eaten and the microbes in the gut. They found that the presence of 15 specific bacteria are consistently associated with good health ("good microbes") and some other bacteria ("bad microbes") are associated with poor metabolic health (including inflammation, blood sugar control).

Study researcher Tim Spector (of King's College London) said: "When you eat, you're not just nourishing your body, you're feeding the trillions of microbes that live inside your gut."

They found that a diverse diet rich in minimally processed plant-based foods (e.g. fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, whole grains, dietary fiber) and fish supports and feeds "good" gut microbes associated with health, with favorable blood sugar levels (glucose control), lower levels of inflammation, improved metabolism, and thus lower risk of heart disease and other chronic conditions (e.g. type 2 diabetes).

On the other hand, persons that ate more highly processed foods, added sugars (desserts!), low fiber foods, artificial sweeteners, foods with additives were more likely to have "bad" microbes linked to poor health, inflammation, unfavorable blood sugar levels, and obesity.

They were able to see that specific foods clearly had an effect on specific bacteria, for example eating tomatoes with an increase in beneficial species of Roseburia. Eating a variety of plant based foods was also associated with an increase in diversity of bacteria (this is considered good), and also with the presence of beneficial keystone bacteria such as  Faecalibacterium prausnitzii.

VERY IMPORTANT: The beneficial bacteria the researchers list are NOT in probiotic supplements. Instead, you must eat a variety of foods that feed beneficial bacteria (e.g. eating a Mediterranean style diet). In fact, some of the microbes the researchers found have not yet been named. Foods also contain bacteria, and these are ingested. For example, an apple contains about 100 million bacteria!

From Science Daily: Link between gut microbes, diet and illnesses revealed

Diets rich in healthy and plant-based foods encourages the presence of gut microbes that are linked to a lower risk of common illnesses including heart disease, research has found.  ...continue reading "Your Diet, Your Gut Microbes, And Your Health"

Many people wonder whether eating organic foods has health benefits. Yes - studies have found some benefits, such as lower pesticide residue levels in the body in children and adults, and that eating organic foods is linked to a lower risk of cancer. A recent study conducted in France found that one benefit of eating organic foods may be a lower incidence of type 2 diabetes.

University of Paris researchers found that the more a person ate organic foods, especially plant-based organic foods, the lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. For each 5% increase in the proportion of organic foods in the diet, the risk of type 2 diabetes decreased by 3%. Those eating the highest amount of organic foods had a 35% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, when compared to those eating the least.

They point out that their findings are similar to a recent US study which found that persons reporting purchasing organic foods had a 20% lower prevalence of diabetes (when compared to people not purchasing organic foods). Animal studies find that exposure to several types of pesticides can increase the risk of diabetes. Some types of pesticides, such as pyrethroids, organophosphates, and organochlorides are endocrine disruptors and can result in metabolic disorders such as diabetes.

A nice discussion of the study, from Beyond Pesticides: Food For Thought: Eating Organic Reduces Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

The study. From the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity (IJBNPA): Prospective association between organic food consumption and the risk of type 2 diabetes: findings from the NutriNet-Santé cohort study

As women age, they may try all sorts of things to reduce or prevent facial wrinkles. A recent study from the University of California researchers suggests that eating 1/2 cup (85 g) mangoes four times a week may reduce facial wrinkles in older fair-skinned women. Unexpectedly however, 1.5 cups (250 g) four times a week for 16 weeks had the opposite effect - it increased facial wrinkles!

Why would it have that effect? The researchers thought that probably the carotenoids, flavonoids, and antioxidants in the Ataulfo mangoes had the beneficial skin effect in the 1/2 cup group. [Note: Other fruits also contain these.] But that perhaps the high levels of sugar in the 1.5 cup mango group had a negative effect on the skin ("increased sugar intake may have led to glycation of collagen fibers, thereby disrupting the collagen structure" of the skin).

However, cardiovascular measures were better in the higher mango intake group, such as lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure. Keep in mind though, that only 36 postmenopausal women (between the ages of 50 and 70) participated - so all the results can only be considered "preliminary".

Bottom line: Eat a variety of fruits - they are healthy for you! Research suggests that fruit, in general, is good for the skin. But perhaps eat mangoes in moderation.

From Futurity: Can eating mangoes reduce women's facial wrinkles?

Mangoes, like other orange fruits and vegetables, are rich in beta-carotene and provide antioxidants that may delay cell damage. A new study from researchers at the University of California, Davis, finds eating Ataulfo mangoes, also known as honey or Champagne mangoes, may have another benefit—reducing facial wrinkles in older women with fairer skin. The study was published in the journal Nutrients.

Postmenopausal women who ate a half cup of Ataulfo mangoes four times a week saw a 23 percent decrease in deep wrinkles after two months and a 20 percent decrease after four months.  ...continue reading "Eating Some Mangoes May Help With Facial Wrinkles"