NEWSLETTER #197: Three Foods to Help You Live Longer 🙌
Hey guys! Hope y’all are doing okay, wherever you are. I don’t know about you, but I’m kind of ready for winter to be over. Oh well, not too much longer to go, right?
Anyway, this week, I thought it would be nice to look at some recent epidemiological studies showing the benefits of specific foods on all-cause and cause-specific mortality. Observational research nowadays tends to examine dietary patterns, rather than specific foods or nutrients, because it is thought that foods and their associated nutrients may have complex synergistic effects. For example, we know that eating small amounts of fat dramatically enhances absorption of carotenoids.
And indeed, we do see that healthy dietary patterns are associated with decreased all-cause mortality. But of course, these patterns tend to encompass a constellation of different factors. How can we figure out which variables really matter? Plus in some cases, even healthy dietary patterns have some serious drawbacks. For instance, the Japanese diet is generally really healthy, but it also contains a ton of salt, which may be one reason why rates of hypertension are very high there, and they have among the highest incidence of stomach cancer in the world. So it’s worthwhile to take a closer look to figure out what foods are really healthy.
To that end, I’ve come across several studies highlighting the benefits of coffee, nuts, and olive oil. Importantly, all of these studies are looking at realistic amounts of these foods, not weird pharmaceutical dosing regimens. And these are all really tasty foods too, so they shouldn't be too difficult to incorporate into your diet.
This Week's Research Highlights
A couple of cups of coffee is linked to lower risk of death and stroke.
Researchers looked at 468,629 individuals who did not have discernible heart disease at the start of the study. Their coffee consumption was categorized into three groups: zero, light-to-moderate (0.5-3 cups/day), and high (>3 cups/day), and participants were followed for an average of 11 years. Compared to non-coffee drinkers, moderate (0.5-3 cups per day) coffee consumption was associated with 12% lower risk of all-cause mortality and 17% lower risk of cardiovascular mortality, as well as 21% lower risk of stroke. When the researchers examined a subset of participants who underwent cardiac MRIs (n=30,650), they observed that the structure and function of the hearts of the regular coffee drinkers appeared to be healthier as well.
Just a handful of nuts is associated with significantly lower mortality.
Researchers performed a systematic review and meta-analysis to examine the relationship between nut consumption and risk of mortality from a wide array of causes. After analyzing the data from twenty studies, they found that every 28 gram per day increase in nut intake was linked to a 22% lower risk of all-cause mortality, 29% lower risk of coronary heart disease mortality, 39% lower risk of type 2 diabetes mortality, 52% lower risk of respiratory disease mortality, and 75% reduction in risk of mortality due to infectious disease. Many attributes of nuts could explain this relationship: Nuts are good sources of polyunsaturated fatty acids, which have been shown to lower LDL; nuts are rich in antioxidants, which could reduce oxidative stress and fight cancer; and nuts contain fiber and prebiotic compounds, which could fuel a healthy gut microbiome.
A half tablespoon of olive oil may reduce risk of premature death.
Researchers analyzed data on olive oil intake and mortality in two large prospective cohorts in the US (n=92,383), who were followed for 28 years. Compared with those who rarely or never consumed olive oil, individuals who consumed at least 7 grams per day of olive oil were shown to have a 19% reduced risk of death by any cause, 17% reduced risk of cancer mortality, 19% reduced risk of cardiovascular mortality, 29% reduced risk of neurodegenerative mortality, and 18% reduced risk of respiratory mortality. Olive oil was also shown to be particularly beneficial when replacing less healthy fat sources: the researchers calculated that replacing 10 grams per day of margarine, butter, or mayonnaise with the equivalent amount of olive oil was associated with 8-34% lower risk of total and cause-specific mortality. If you want to know more about potential underlying mechanisms, the graphic below should provide some insight. 👇🏻
Random Trivia & Weird News
🧠 Black-capped chickadees store their food in hundreds of hiding places, in a territory covering dozens of square miles. How the hell do they remember where everything is? Their brain literally gets bigger.🤯
In the autumn, chickadees collect seeds and other tasty stuff, and store them in trees, on the ground, and other spots. During this time, the hippocampus - the part of the brain that is responsible for spatial organization and memory in many creatures, including humans - expands in volume by about 30% (why can't we do that???).
So, through the cold winter months, the little birds are able to rely on this boosted brainpower to find all of their caches. Then, in the spring, when food is plentiful and they don’t need to perform such remarkable feats of memory, the hippocampus shrinks back down.
Podcasts We Loved This Week
- David Marcinek: Improving muscle endurance to age better. Via the LLAMA Podcast.
- Julia Clarke and Chris Torres: Birds are the last dinosaurs. Why did they survive? Via Science Friday.
Products We Are Enjoying
California Olive Ranch Extra Virgin Olive Oil
You might think that picking out some olive oil would be pretty straightforward, but apparently not. There have been some reports suggesting that a majority of “olive oil” that is commercially available may actually be diluted in unknown proportions with cheaper refined oils. For instance, researchers at UC Davis found that 69% of imported olive oil samples (including brands like Bertolli and Colavita) did not meet chemical or sensory standards set by the International Olive Council and the USDA, suggesting compromised quality. This matters because the unique benefits of olive oil are connected to its polyphenol content, which you don’t get in refined oils. However, one brand that did consistently pass the tests is California Olive Ranch. And fortunately, it’s pretty affordable and easy to find - you can get it via Amazon but I’ve also seen it at grocery stores, even Wal-Mart.
humanOS Catalog Feature of the Week
We examine the major trials that have tested components of the dietary pattern(primarily Lyon and PREDIMED), and finally walk through some of the specific aspects of health that have been shown to be affected by eating this way (cardiovascular health, metabolism, blood sugar control, cognition, longevity).
Obviously, olive oil features pretty prominently here when you look for the key ingredients in this dietary pattern. For example, one analysis of PREDIMED data showed that higher olive oil consumption was linked to a 48% lower risk of cardiovascular mortality. Nuts are also influential - people who ate a handful of nuts more than three times a week had a 39% reduction in total mortality, compared to non-nut consumers.
Thanks as always for reading! If you're looking for more juicy health studies (and occasionally random science or memes), be sure to check us out on Twitter on@humanOS_me