Life Lines

Vol. 27 No. 1 | Nov-Dec 2016


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Is there a link between diet and Alzheimer’s? Currently about 42 million people worldwide suffer from dementia—Alzheimer’s being the most common form—with rates still on the rise. Recently, a study was conducted using Alzheimer’s prevalence data from 10 countries along with dietary supply data from 5, 10, and 15 years before the prevalence data. Researchers discovered that those who follow a Western diet high in meat consumption are at a greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other chronic diseases. Meanwhile, those following a Mediterranean diet had about half the risk for Alzheimer’s, and countries with very low meat consumption (such as India or Japan) had an additional 50 percent lower risk. The study suggests that a diet high in fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes could greatly reduce your chance of developing Alzheimer’s later in life. “Western diet increases Alzheimer’s risk,”, August 25, 2016.


How important is it to lower blood pressure and cholesterol? New findings show that even modestly lower LDL cholesterol and systolic blood pressure have the potential to “dramatically reduce” a person’s lifetime risk of cardiovascular disease. The study analyzed risk-factor data from over 100,000 individuals, for the increased risk of a variety of vascular events. They found that subjects with either lower LDL cholesterol or lower systolic blood pressure had approximately half the risk, while this risk dropped by 86 percent for those who had both lower cholesterol and blood pressure. These results confirm that cardiovascular disease is largely preventable, and suggest focusing especially on long term lowering of blood pressure and cholesterol for prevention. “Multiplicative’ Benefit of Cholesterol and Blood Pressure-Lowering on Cardiovascular Risk,”, August 29, 2016.


According to popular food trends like the Paleo diet, the avoidance or restriction of grain foods like breads and cereals is the key to weight loss and good health. But these claims don’t hold up to the facts about whole grains, which are vitally nutritious and aid in the prevention of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes, as well as being supportive for gut health.

Recent studies show that people who consumed the most whole grains had a 22 percent lower risk of premature death from cardiovascular disease and a 20 percent lower risk of acquiring cancer, compared to those who ate less.

The term whole grain refers to the seed of the plant. A grain is whole when it contains all three parts of the seed—bran, germ, and endosperm. But watch out for the term “multigrain,” which often only means refined flours from a variety of grains.

People who must avoid gluten need not avoid grains. Grains free of gluten include amaranth, corn, millet, quinoa, sorghum, teff, oats, buckwheat, and many colorful varieties of rice. “5 Ways to Add Whole Grains to Your Diet,”, September 15, 2016.


A four-continent study was recently conducted to refute highly controversial 2013 findings that being overweight (but not obese) adds to one’s lifespan. Using data from 239 studies involving 10.6 million people, the conclusive results did not favor overweight individuals: “Physicians should identify being overweight as posing a risk to health,” says Johnathan Samet, director of the USC Institute for Global Health.

What is especially harmful is visceral fat located in the abdomen, the type of fat linked with premature death. At the same time, researchers found that being underweight can also lead to higher death rates from respiratory disease, coronary heart disease, stroke, and cancer.

In short, being underweight, overweight, or obese is associated with a number of health problems that may be prevented by maintaining a healthy weight. “A Few Extra Pounds Can’t Hurt You—or Can They?”, August 29, 2016.

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