That time of year again! I know I traditionally give out a few detox ideas to repair part of the hangover and over indulgence damage you may have inflicted on yourself over the holidays; however this year I thought I would use a different angle. Instead of just giving some detox ideas which I know some of you may quickly forget before slipping back into your bad habits, maybe you could actually keep up the good work all year round? What if I told you that you can not only be more healthy but also improve your chances of staving off the onset of dementia? Maybe you can live with those extra kilo’s around your midriff and resign yourself to accepting those growing bags under your eyes as part of your faces character; but what about dementia? I suspect it is something you have not thought too much about or something you are just too worried to think about, perhaps as you have witnessed a family member or a friend descend into its dignity stealing clutches?
Photo by Neil Moralee
Like a vast array of ailments Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia is strongly linked to lifestyle. This is actually new thinking because until recently dementia was viewed as a disease mostly independent of lifestyle. Doctors believed that people marked out for the condition would in all likelihood develop it come what may. New evidence now suggests that this is only true for the relatively few people who do carry an increased predisposition for the disease in their genes. Most cases of dementia are not like this. The report from a landmark study, carried out over 35 years at Cardiff University in the UK concluded that lifestyle changes can ultimately make a big difference. The results showed that non-smokers who kept their weight down, took exercise, ate well and drank sensibly had a 60% drop in dementia and cognitive decline. The study of 2500 people also concluded that there were 70% fewer instances of diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Doug Brown, who is the Director of the Alzheimer’s Society, recently said: “What’s emerging is that what is good for your heart, in terms of lifestyle, is also good for your head… … The prize is significant. If we can delay the average age of onset of Alzheimer’s by five years it would reduce patient numbers by a third.” I don’t know about you but if I am destined to get it that extra 5 years of lucidity would be well worth the small sacrifice needed to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Getting your Five a Day is a good start but also try and think of the quality of those five portions of fruit and vegetables. I know it is not always easy in our busy lives to take time to consider the benefits of each individual portion. If it is in stock at your local supermarket it’s got to be healthy… right? No not always. Here I am not just arguing the benefits of organic over non-organic. There is now a rapid economic-evolution in the type of fruit and vegetables that are available to us – especially from the supermarket giants. They know that most people prefer slightly sweeter varieties as opposed to the perhaps slightly bitter varieties of days gone by. Take the humble grapefruit. As a kid I was never too fussed with them until one day instead of the usual white variety I tasted a pink one. It was a lot sweeter and only about half as bitter so the next time I saw both varieties in the shops I naturally opted for the pink over the traditional. I was aware that people put forward the grapefruit as something healthy to eat but I, like most of us had no idea that it was the very bitterness of the fruit that made them so healthy to eat.
Photo by Woodleywonderworks
To most supermarkets increasing sweetness by breeding out the bitterness in things like brussel sprouts, broccoli and fruits like grapefruit is a great idea because they sell more product. However, there is a cost. When scientists talk about the healthiness of these types of fruit and veg and in things like green tea, dark chocolate and red wine it is that bitterness in these things, in the form of chemicals called phytonutriants that gives them their health benefits. Phytonutriants are toxic in large doses but in normal doses they are very healthy. Naringen is the phytonutriant found in white grapefruit, which has proven anti inflammatory and anti ulcer properties. It can also reduce the growth of breast cancer cells and help beat cervical cancer. Yes the ever sweeter pink variety still contains some naringen but it has much less and it is reduced even further with every new generation of grapefruits specially bred to lean towards sweetness instead of bitterness.
Happy New Year to all of you – Eat well and stay healthy!