You've seen people who age gracefully. Though their hair may be graying, their eyes are bright, their smiles are quick and their bodies move with agility and freedom.
Most people are not concerned about a healthy heart until they get older. But according to the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is a leading cause of death amongst people 35 - 54. Now is the time to consider what you can do to ensure a healthy heart.
Studies show that aging reduces absorption of critical nutrients. Bones thin and joints creak, memory dims and fatigue becomes all too common. Our products can't make you younger, but it can help you start feeling your best and enjoying life to the fullest.
Geromatrix can help you feel energetic and vibrant. We've combined natural herbs with state-of-the-art formulas that can help improve bone and joint health, increase energy, promote mobility, restore alertness, maintain a stronger heart and support longevity.
What are antioxidants?
Antioxidants include the vitamins A, C and E, and yellow-colored carotenoids, such as beta-carotene. Antioxidants help to counter the detrimental effects of oxygen free radicals which form naturally during normal metabolism, and by external factors such as x-rays, ultra-violet radiation and pollution. Oxygen free radicals have been implicated in the development of several diseases including cancer and heart disease, highlighting the need to consider antioxidant levels as part of preventative medicine.
Where will I find antioxidants?
There are a number of naturally occurring substances in food, such as vitamins and phenolic compounds which are large molecules comprised of a number of ring structures which have antioxidant properties. It is also possible to purchase antioxidant vitamin supplement tablets (containing vitamins E & C, and beta-carotene).
What are the benefits of antioxidants?
Recent research has estimated that the risk of cancer and heart disease is considerably lower in people who consume 5-7 serves of antioxidant-rich fruit and vegetables. Other studies have shown that after three months the level of protection against heart disease provided by a vitamin supplement was 27% better than normal; after six months the level of protection had risen to 35% better than normal.
It has been proposed that extra health benefits may derive from above-average intake of these compounds. This is supported by the extensive medical studies which indicate that diets high in antioxidant rich foods, such as fruit and vegetables, offer significant protection against general degenerative diseases.
More research is needed however, to substantiate this further, and to also consider the importance of non-nutrient antioxidants in the diet, as well as other protective plant substances in foods which may not be antioxidants. At present it appears that the wide mix of antioxidants obtained from plant foods work more effectively in the body that single supplements with pure antioxidants in tablet form although these may be of value in some circumstances.
What more do we need to know?
More information is needed concerning the relative antioxidant potencies of non-nutrient antioxidants and conventional antioxidants in food. We also need to know more about the distribution and function of antioxidants in cells in the body, and the potential to influence this distribution by dietary means.
Current research is evaluating the importance of lesser known antioxidants in plant foods as anti-cancer agents. Levels of intake of the known nutrient antioxidants needed to protect cells against naturally occurring and induced damage to genes (elements in the structure of our hereditary material), and the associated risks of cancer, also need to be established.
Antioxidants and Coronary Heart Disease
Coronary heart disease (or ischaemic heart disease) results from blockages of the coronary arteries by atherosclerotic plaques which are essentially complex cholesterol deposits. Coronary heart disease has been extensively studied and the main risk factors for its development have been identified. These risk factors include: hyperlipidemia (high blood fats), obesity, hypertension, diabetes mellitus and lack of physical activity.
What are antioxidants?
There have been some observational studies which indicate that antioxidants in the diet may have a protective effect on coronary heart disease. Antioxidants include the vitamins A, C and E, and beta-carotene. Antioxidants help to counter the detrimental effects of oxygen free radicals which form naturally during normal metabolism. Free radicals are thought to play a role in coronary heart disease, cancer and inflammatory conditions. At this stage, without a complete understanding of how free radicals work, large doses of antioxidants are not recommended. However eating a variety of foods which contain natural antioxidants, such as fruit, vegetables and wholegrain products may have a beneficial effect.
How might antioxidants help reduce coronary heart disease?
Antioxidants in food prevent oxygen from making the food rancid, or causing discolouration or loss of flavor. In the body antioxidants appear to work by preventing the "bad" LDL-cholesterol (Low Density Lipoprotein cholesterol) from being oxidized and producing "foam" cells which form fatty streaks in the walls of blood vessels. Eventually these produce atherosclerosis and arterial narrowing and an increased risk of angina, heart attacks and strokes.
Research has shown that the antioxidants beta-carotene and vitamin E are found in the core of the LDL particle and it is known that giving large doses of vitamin E can prevent oxidation in vitro. Therefore work on the role of antioxidants in preventing heart disease is being carried out in centers around the world, including Australia.
Which foods contain antioxidants?
Fruit, vegetables and wholegrain products contain antioxidants.
Vitamin C (milligrams per 100 grams of food)
Although considerable evidence shows that high levels of antioxidant vitamins are associated with protection against LDL oxidation and cardiovascular disease, the only randomized trial performed to date has failed to show any benefit. A recent review of research papers about antioxidants and their impact on heart disease risk has concluded that modest doses of antioxidants were used in most studies and that higher doses may be required to show clinical effects. Recommendations to take vitamin supplements should await positive evidence.
Diet and Cancer
The relationships between diet and cancer are still subjects of scientific research. Enough is now known for some recommendations to be made for reducing the risk of cancer.
Fruit and vegetables
Eat more fruit and vegetables - they are full of vitamins and minerals, and are a great source of fiber as well. Leafy green and yellow vegetables are excellent. Aim for 3 serves of fruit and four serves of vegetables every day. A serve is only half a cup and these foods have been shown to afford a protective effect against cancer.
Eat more nuts, especially almonds. Use oils that are rich in the Omegas (3,6&9)
Reduce your saturated fat intake
It is important to reduce the amount of saturated fat consumed. Do this by choosing lean cuts of meat and trim the fat whenever possible.
Reduce you simple carb intake
It is important to stay away from simple carbs (pasta, white bread, pasties, etc.) as they turn into sugar in the body and cause problems such a diabetes, heart disease, etc. It is fine to consume a moderate amount of complex carbs especially those produced from whole wheat, barley, oat bran, tec.
Control your body weight
Obesity may be a risk factor - reduce your weight to the middle line. Be physically active and avoid overeating.
Limit some types of foods in your diet
It may help to limit some particular foods in your diet including - burnt or charred foods (e.g.. charred bbq meat); moldy or spoiled food; cured, salt-cured, pickled or smoked foods (e.g.. bacon, hams, sausages, cured fish or corned beef).
Limit alcohol intake
Remember - everything in moderation and alcohol is no exception. Try not to have more than two drinks a day. This will help control your weight too.
High Blood Pressure - The Salt Story
One of the most extensively debated nutritional issues is the need to reduce our intake of sodium chloride, or common salt. Salt is an important determinant of the texture and flavor of food and traditionally it has played such a major role in our diet that sectors of the medical profession, food industry and general public alike have questioned the need to limit its use, even though it is recognized that the average sodium content of Western diets substantially exceeds basic physiological requirements.
A common argument against salt restriction is that only a small proportion of people stand to benefit and the benefit itself is too small to justify the effort. Whilst it is true that not everybody will show a blood pressure response to lowering salt intake, research conducted at our Division shows that the benefits for those either with or at risk of developing high blood pressure may be substantial.
At least 350 volunteers, male and female, young or elderly, with normal or high blood pressure, have taken part in strictly-controlled dietary intervention trials to test the effect of halving their salt intake. The results confirm that salt restriction will lower blood pressure to a greater extent in the elderly and in those with high blood pressure. They also reveal that women are more likely to respond than men - a very significant finding when one considers that blood pressure tends to rise rapidly in postmenopausal women and that more than half will reach a level requiring treatment.
Since elderly people often need to take several medications continually, reducing salt intake may offer an attractive alternative to drug treatment. Even for those whose blood pressure is too high to be controlled by salt restriction alone, our research confirms that the change of diet may still be worthwhile because, depending on the particular type of blood pressure lowering drug being taken, salt restriction can have an added effect which may permit a reduction in the dose of drug needed to maintain normal blood pressure.
The case for salt restriction has focused on blood pressure. However, it is recognized that excessive salt can contribute to the damage of cardiovascular organs, particularly the kidney, which may occur in people with high blood pressure. Moreover, recent research indicates that the degree of damage does not necessarily depend on the extent to which salt affects blood pressure. Thus, even those individuals whose blood pressure shows little response to dietary salt restriction may still stand to benefit through an overall reduction in cardiovascular risk.
Unfortunately, early attempts by the food industry to respond to a perceived need for low salt alternatives to bread, cereals, cheeses and other processed foods (our main sources of dietary salt) were met with relative indifference by consumers. However, when we supplied a range of low salt foods to the volunteers in our intervention trials, they were well received. Increasing awareness by both doctors and their patients of the value of a low salt diet in the management of high blood pressure may be expected to re-establish a market demand.
Fortunately, with the availability of new sodium chloride substitutes for use in food manufacture, it should now be possible to produce a wider range of palatable low salt products to satisfy this market. Our Division expects to play a continuing role in evaluating the cardiovascular health benefits to be derived from this important dietary strategy.
Whey Protein - new uses for an old waste
For too long, whey, a by-product of cheese making, has been devalued and even thrown away. Whey proteins represent the major proteins in human (breast) milk, in contrast to that of cow's milk where casein is the major protein. Dairy proteins represent one of the richest sources of sulphur amino acids in the human diet, and it is not uncommon for these amino acids to be deficient. We have been examining the claim that it is the quantity of protein in the diet, not the quality of protein, that is the important issue where diet influences the risk of colon cancer.
Our recent experiment refutes this claim. We have shown that while feeding a constant level of protein to the rat, we can vary the incidence of intestinal cancer from 30 to 60% by substituting whey protein for soybean protein, and with all other food components being keep constant. Cysteine and methionine (sulphur amino acids) were increased by 3.3 and 1.6 times respectively. There is increasing evidence that these sulphur amino acids play a crucial role in the protection of DNA by reducing the risk of mutation (mutation being one of the steps towards increasing the risk of cancer).
Other mechanisms also influenced by quality of protein in the diet are glutathione concentration (an important cellular antioxidant), immune status and the level and nature of fat in the hindgut which can lead to toxic damage.
We are doing a detailed study of the mechanisms underlying colon cancer. Besides helping to identify the important factors in diet which can significantly alter the incidence and number of tumors that occur in this region, we hope to be able to provide a better understanding of why the incidence of cancer has increased in our westernized culture. We now recognize that whey proteins, and dairy proteins generally, are a valuable component of our diet and may offer protection against colon cancer. Whey proteins should not be wasted, but incorporated more extensively into our diet. Ricotta cheese (which includes whey proteins) and unprocessed milk products are examples of foods which are most desirable, now that such dairy products are low in fat and readily available.
Are Chemical Residues in Food a Worry ?
The foods we eat, even unprocessed foods, contain an array of chemicals. Some, such as proteins, sugars and fats are organic human nutrients while others such as potassium, calcium and sodium are inorganic nutrients. Vitamins and trace elements are important micro nutrients. In addition plant and animal products contain various quantities of chemicals, some of which occur naturally at various concentrations. Others have been introduced by man. Farming land is treated to increase the yield of crops or pastures, usually due to a natural deficiency of elements in the soil. Such use of supplements or fertilizer does not necessarily increase the level of particular elements above that which occurs naturally under adequate conditions. Other treatments aim to increase yield by way of the removal of exotic "invaders" in the form of insects, fungi or other plants which restrict production. These treatments come under the general heading of "pesticides", all invaders being considered pests. More specifically, pesticides such as insecticides, fungicides and herbicides are used in addition to other chemicals in order to kill a wide range of organisms.
Because the active ingredients of some pesticides have been shown to have cancer causing properties, and because some do not degrade in the natural environment or indeed in the human body, there is a fear by the general public of the risk to human health and, accordingly, a view that these compounds should not be used in agriculture. Another factor that has raised the profile of the residues of pesticides is the fact that analytical chemists are now able to detect minute amounts of these compounds in foods. Because of their toxic properties some pesticides have now been withdrawn from sale and government regulations limit the quantity of residue permitted in farm produce. The number of times that these limits have been exceeded in recent years has been limited to less than 1%, and the consumption of pesticide residues in food is minimal.
Nevertheless, partly because long term dietary exposure has not been examined closely and partly because of public concern, the CSIRO Division of Human Nutrition has studied the effects of consumption of a number of the most common pesticides used in South Australia. Four pesticides were fed for a period of three months to rodents (equivalent to five years in humans) at a level considered non-toxic in acute poisoning terms. Substances capable of causing cancer can show chromosomal damage in body cells but in the case of two insecticides and two fungicides frequently and intensively used in the production of garden vegetables, fruit and cereals, no chromosomal aberrations could be detected in three of the pesticides (which included an organo-chlorine insecticide, and an organo-phosphate insecticide and fungicide). There was a slight tendency for chromosomal damage in the case of the carbamate-based fungicide. This general lack of effect of commonly used pesticides is not to say that some highly sensitive people might not show some reaction to pesticides in food. For trade, ecological and general environmental health reasons, there are moves to lessen the quantities of pesticides in food products. If used correctly it appears that residues of the pesticides that are in use are not likely to be a measurable cause of cancer in the Australian community.
Fear of Frying?
It has been well established that diets rich in saturated fat increase plasma total and low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol which in turn is causally related to the development of coronary heart disease (CHD). Surveys in Australia of the fats used in foods of the fried takeaway variety show a very high proportion of saturated fat. Up to one third of the fat Australians eat is derived from commercially prepared foods and therefore fried foods are likely to contribute a significant proportion of this.
There is good evidence to suggest that this contribution is likely to rise with upward trends in an increase in expenditure in snacks and takeaway foods in the last ten years.
A major use of cooking fats is in deep fat frying where it functions as a heat transfer medium and contributes desirable flavor and texture to fried foods. Functionally, such oils need to be stable at the high temperature and moisture exposure which is characteristic of commercial usage where oils are used repeatedly and frying may occur over several hours. During heating, poly-unsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) polymerize, creating changes in the oil which can result in a greasy product. Furthermore, as in the case of stored snack items, the stability of the fat will determine shelf-life. The more saturated the oil, the more stable it is to oxidative and hydrolytic breakdown, and the less likely it is to polymerize.
The obvious disadvantage of high saturated fat cooking oils is their plasma cholesterol-raising effect which represents a major barrier to the future lowering of the national average cholesterol level. In Australia, the most commonly used commercial frying fats are tallow and palm oil, both of which are highly stable to oxidation and also have good palatability and mouth feel. However, they are also highly saturated fats making them nutritionally undesirable in countries that experience high rates of CHD.
Linolenic rich oils such as canola and soybean oils are particularly susceptible to undesirable changes. Substantial hydrogenation of these oils renders them more stable but results in trans fatty acid (TFA) levels which may negate their lipid lowering potential. Sunflower and safflower oils are also unsuitable commercial frying oils because of their high PUFA content. In contrast, oils high in monounsaturated fatty acids are relatively resistant to oxidation.
Recently, a high oleic genetic variant of sunflower oil (Sunola - TM) has been developed which has the stability and nutritionally desirable characteristics required in a frying fat. We have tested this oil in a group of 23 hypercholesterolaemic men and women and compared it to a commonly used commercial frying oil, namely palm oil. The oils made up over half the total fat intake and were incorporated into margarines and baked products and consumed daily. Everyone took both test oils in random order during the two intervention periods lasting three weeks.
Our results showed that compared to palm oil, Sunola oil led to significantly lower both total and LDL-Cholesterol. Total cholesterol levels fell from 6.23mmol/l on palm oil to 5.72mmol/l on Sunola which represents a drop of 8.4%. Most of this fall was in LDL-Cholesterol which fell from 4.18 to 3.77 mmol/l . Subjects with initially higher cholesterol levels experienced even greater reductions in total cholesterol. It is of interest to note that these changes were achieved on diets which contained 35% energy from fat, similar to current eating patterns. This change in total cholesterol represents at least a 17% reduction in cardiovascular risk if extrapolated across the Australian population.
Economically, Sunola is somewhat more expensive than palm oil. However, because of its stability to continuous deep frying, its overall cost is reasonably competitive with current commercial frying fats.
In conclusion, a change in fat profile can make a substantial difference to plasma lipids. Mono-unsaturated oils such as Sunola are clearly preferably to palm oil in the Australian food service industry, in terms of cardiovascular risk.
We acknowledge that Sunola is a registered trademark (TM) of Meadow Lea Foods.
Resistant Starch - Closing the Carbohydrate Gap
The benefits to large bowel health of an adequate intake of non-starch polysaccharides (NSP; major components of dietary fiber) are recognized extremely well. Common chronic degenerative bowel disorders such as simple constipation, diverticular disease and diarrhea are relieved by greater consumption of fiber-rich foods. These conditions are important causes of health-related expenditure in Australia. Cancer of the colon and rectum are the single most important cause of death from malignancies and it is believed that fiber may be protective in this instance.
Non-starch polysaccharides are thought to be helpful in two ways. Firstly, they are not digested by human gastrointestinal enzymes so that their consumption leads to greater stool bulk which stimulates colonic muscular activity. Secondly, many NSP are fermented by colonic bacteria which leads to a greater bacterial mass and at the same time generates short-chain fatty acids (SCFA). These acids are now thought to be crucial to maintaining a healthy colonic environment. They are fairly strong acids and so lower colonic pH, inhibiting the growth of pathogenic microorganisms. Two of the major acids have more specific benefits. Propionate is believed to enhance colonic muscular activity which has obvious implications for constipation and diverticular disease. Experimental data support the view that butyrate assists in the maintenance of a normal population of colonocytes through suppressing the growth of malignant cells. Studies in humans with ulcerative colitis show that infusion of butyrate into the colon may lead to remission.
While much is known about the physiological effects of NSP, anomalies remain. One of these is the so-called 'carbohydrate gap'. When fiber intakes are compared with stool mass, the latter is consistently greater than would have been predicted from the quantities of NSP ingested. The cause of the difference is known now to be starch.
For many years it was assumed that all dietary starch was digested completely in the human small intestine. Recently it has been established that a significant fraction of starch escapes into the large bowel where it is fermented by the colonic micro flora in the same way as NSP. This fraction is called resistant starch (RS) and its presence explains not only the carbohydrate gap but also other anomalies, one of which is the relationship between diet and risk of colonic cancer.
Epidemiological studies have shown consistently that greater consumption of dietary fat increases risk, while recent work has shown that greater stool mass bulk is protective. It might have been expected that dietary fiber also should lower risk but the data show that while fiber is protective, the degree of protection is surprisingly weak. More recent analysis of the data has shown that total starch consumption is protective as is the intake of RS + NSP together.
A role for RS in bowel health is extremely important as is understanding the factors which control starch digestion. Resistant starch occurs for a wide range of reasons including the presence of NSP which restricts the activity of amylases (hence the carbohydrate gap).
Mastication also is important as a greater fraction of foods which are chewed lightly escapes into the colon compared with those which are chewed extensively. We have found in pigs that the passage of starch into the large bowel is greater with finely milled rice than with coarse rice. In some foods (e.g. legumes), amylase inhibitors may be present which increase the passage of undigested starch into the colon.
Another important factor is the type of starch which is present. Maize starches which are high in amylose are of considerable interest not only because this starch is resistant to a-amylase attack but also because it is determined as fiber in the AOAC procedure. Coupled with its functionality in food, this means that the fiber content of low-fiber starchy foods can be increased.
We have found that in pigs, much more starch enters the large bowel in animals fed a high amylose starch compared with other starches. In a further study we found that the length of the large bowel was greater in animals fed the high amylose starch. In fact, there was a linear relationship between colon length and the proportion of high amylose starch in the diet. This finding is of some interest as it is thought that the greater colon development is protective against those degenerative bowel conditions which are encountered by a significant fraction of the population.
Functional Foods - identification, substantiation and regulation
Functional Foods are foods that have strong putative, metabolic and regulatory (physiological) roles over and above those that are used in a common range of foods and, more particularly, a class of foods that achieve and define a therapeutic endpoint that can be monitored.
There is a growing international interest and activity in this area which focuses on the health potential of foods. These foods can be naturally occurring, nutrient-fortified foods, as well as ingredient-enriched foods. Examples of areas in which the health potential of Functional Foods have been and are currently being explored include specific fatty acids, antioxidants, probiotics and macromolecules.
At national levels, an indication of the significance and importance of this development can be seen in the establishment of guidelines for foods that have a defined health end- point, or that have strong metabolic roles. These are evident in Japan where a regulatory process, often referred to as FOSHU has been implemented and, in the United States, where the FDA have outlined the relationships between specific diets and health claims in their regulatory framework.
A common and critical theme running through all of these developments is that of scientific substantiation and a need to test these products, to ensure appropriate efficacy and safety to the consumer. These tests may involve physiological and pharmacological evidence that the product improves biological function, or protects against the disease state. Similar tests are conducted to determine the threshold amounts of Functional Foods required to achieve the beneficial effects.
At the Division of Human Nutrition we have specialized in defining scientific approaches to determine substantiation, efficacy and pharmaco-kinetics of potential Functional Foods for Industry. In their context, these studies are referred to as nutritional pharmacology, an emerging discipline in the international setting, and one with a major focus in Australia within the Nutritional Pharmacology Laboratories at the CSIRO in Adelaide.
Antioxidants -Their Role in Cancer
Antioxidants in food, which include the micronutrients vitamins A,C,E and the yellow-colored carotenoids help to counter the detrimental effects of oxygen free radicals, which are formed naturally as a consequence of normal metabolism, and by external factors such as x-rays, ultra violet radiation and pollution.
Increasingly, oxidative damage has been implicated in the development of several degenerative diseases including cancer, thus highlighting the need to ensure replete antioxidant status as a central feature of preventive medicine. In addition however, it has been proposed that extra health benefits may derive from above-average intakes of these compounds. It is wise to look in to body detoxification or drug detoxification to cleanse the body which assists in nutritional supplement retention and absorption.
While generally supported by laboratory studies, the hypothesis has also gained credibility from extensive epidemiological evidence which points to significant protection against general degenerative diseases by high intakes of antioxidant-rich foodstuffs such as fruits and vegetables. However, such assumptions overlook the many other non-nutrient antioxidant and protective substances in plant foods which are currently attracting increasing research interest.
More information is clearly needed concerning the relative antioxidant potencies of the non-nutrient antioxidants as well as the different forms of conventional antioxidants. More also needs to be known about their distribution and functionality within the cell, and the potential which exists to influence this distribution by dietary means. Such studies form a focus of the research activity currently under way in the Cancer and Nutrition Program of the CSIRO Division of Human Nutrition, where efforts are being made to evaluate the importance of the lesser known antioxidants in plant foods as anti-cancer agents, and to establish the levels of intake of the established nutrient antioxidants needed to protect cells against naturally occurring and induced damage to genes and the attendant risk of cancer.
Prevention of overt deficiency disease is no longer the sole nutritional objective as increasing interest is focused on the use of selected phytochemicals to ensure optimal health and maximum protection against degenerative disease.
Antioxidants and Cardiovascular Disease
High levels of low density lipoproteins (LDL), the major cholesterol-carrying particles in the blood, increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. This risk is increased further if LDL are damaged in the body by oxygen free radicals. Oxidized LDL are taken up into the wall of the artery much more rapidly than undamaged LDL, where they accumulate leading to the development of atherosclerosis.
Dr Mavis Abbey, head of the Lipid Research Unit, is conducting research to investigate factors which influence the extent of oxidation damage to LDL. A recent human study in which subjects consumed antioxidant vitamin tablets (vitamin E, vitamin C and beta-carotene) for three months showed that their LDL was protected from oxidative damage for a longer period than LDL from subjects who did not consume the antioxidant vitamins.
Another human study showed LDL from subjects consuming a poly-unsaturated fat-rich diet (e.g.. sunflower oil) Oxidized faster than LDL from subjects consuming a diet rich in mono-unsaturated fat (e.g.. olive oil).
There are a number of naturally occurring compounds in foods which have antioxidant properties (e.g.. vitamins and phenolic compounds).
Future antioxidant research in the Lipid Research Unit will be conducted in line with food and agricultural industry needs. Methods have been established which will enable foods or isolated compounds to be tested for their effects on LDL oxidation in vitro for clients in the food and agricultural industries.
Animal studies will allow the degree of atherosclerosis to be determined in relation to administrat-ion of the test compounds, and human dietary studies will enable the efficacy of the compounds to be evaluated in relation to protection of LDL.
Food and Nutrition
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), thirty-one million Americans - including 12 million children - live in households that experience hunger or are at risk of hunger. These families frequently skip meals or eat too little, sometimes going without food. Those who have access to some food often have lower quality diets or must resort to seeking emergency food because they cannot always afford the food they need. The USDA provides many programs to help meet the nutritional needs of low income Americans
See Geromatrix's Age Resister.