Monday, February 6, 2023

We are what we eat

We must eat to live. Dining is also a pleasurable activity, particularly when the food is tasty and we are eating in a companionable setting. WHAT we eat can also have a huge impact on our health and longevity. What diets are best and do dietary “supplements” have an added benefit? Millions of people believe in dietary supplements and this is a multi-billion-dollar industry.

Like skirt lengths, diets go in and out of fashion. Among the headline-grabbers over the years have been the Atkins, Scarsdale, ketogenic and Neanderthal diets, none of which have been shown to have any health benefits beyond (usually transient) modest weight loss.

Diets that HAVE been shown to reduce cardiovascular disease and cancer include the DASH diet, the Mediterranean diet and a plant-based diet. The common factor in all three is an emphasis on fruits, vegetables and grains. The Mediterranean and DASH diets add fish, some poultry and olive oil. All three dramatically reduce red meat, processed foods and sugar.

Some 80,000 different “supplements” are sold in the United States!

The more they are carefully studied, the less supplements are found to be of value. Fish oil supplements are used by millions of Americans to reduce heart disease despite multiple studies showing no benefit. Vitamin D taken by middle-aged and older healthy adults was found to have no benefit in reducing fractures. Avocados, touted after an observational trial suggested benefit, were found to have no benefit when studied in a controlled trial. One study did find mild memory benefits from a multivitamin-mineral supplement given to older adults.

Are supplements harmful? Most are not, except to your pocketbook, but some can be dangerous. Products sold for weight loss have been linked to many deaths. There is also the caveat that supplements are excluded from scrutiny by the FDA and may or may not contain what the label says.

Bottom line? Try to eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Supplement it with nuts and fish. Drink alcohol sparingly if at all. Avoid processed foods and use meat more as a condiment than as the main source of calories in a meal.

Don’t waste your money on lots of supplements. If you wish, take a single multivitamin from a reputable manufacturer.

Oh, and while I am being a kill-joy – get out and move your body! Exercise beats most pills.

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