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November 15, 2007

Things That Will Keep You Healthy

As a public service to you, my beloved readers, I occasionally like to keep you updated on Things That Will Keep You Healthy. In this edition, we learn that one serving of fish per week cuts the risk of dementia and Alzheimer's by 35 percent (and a diet rich in fish cuts it by 60 percent) while lots of fruits and vegetables lop 30 percent off your risk. Also, naps are good for you. Studies here.

Aren't you glad you read this blog?

November 15, 2007 | Permalink


Fish, red wine, olive oil, garlic, vitamin D supplements, and you're good to abuse your body to hell and back and still enjoy a long and healthy lifespan.

Posted by: Petey | Nov 15, 2007 11:18:53 AM

I find those hard to believe. Call me a skeptic but these studies are usually flawed.

Posted by: Floccina | Nov 15, 2007 11:20:26 AM

"as a public service, to you, my beloved readers,"

and as a public service, to you, our beloved blogger,
we also encourage the same for you.

Posted by: jacqueline | Nov 15, 2007 11:24:27 AM

You forgot living in the USA:

USA does seem to get marginally better results but it is very expensive:


The Carpe Diem blog has an interesting table, reproduced above, that corrects life expectancy data for differences in the rates of premature death from non-health-related injury, such as homicide and car accidents. The resulting number reflects health-related mortality. Notice that the United States has the longest standardized life expectancy.
I have not studied the details behind the construction of these numbers, but they are asking a sensible question. If our goal is to evaluate health systems, we should correct for international differences in outcomes that arise from other causes.
Homicide and accidents are only the beginning of the story, however. For example, I would also correct for differences in obesity, which are largely a function of lifestyle and can have significant health effects. Here, from OECD data presented in the O'Neil study, are the percentages of the male population with a body-mass index of 30 or more (female obesity rates are similar):
Japan 2.8
France 9.8
Germany 14.4
Canada 17.0
U.K. 22.7
U.S. 31.1
Given how overweight we Americans are compared with citizens of other countries, it is amazing that we live as long as we do. If we further standardized life expectancy by body-mass index, the U.S. lead in health outcomes would likely grow even larger.

I think that for most people (all but the rich) it is not worth the price we pay.

Posted by: Floccina | Nov 15, 2007 11:38:14 AM

but I don't like fish! Can anyone recommend a type/cooking technique that has good flavor and doesn't reduce the fish to a colorless mass with bad texture?

I'm really not that picky, but I haven't found a good fish technique yet.

Posted by: verplanck colvin | Nov 15, 2007 11:40:46 AM

To be precise - the study states that it is the proper Omega 3 to 6 ratio that keeps you healthy and not the fish itself. In fact - fish has too many toxins these days to be really save for children and worse - the seas are empty. Has nobody watched the Oscar nominated documentary Darwin's Nightmare?

For those who want to stay healthy without consuming mercury or saturated fats - please consider flax seed oils or soy products as they are as full of Omega 3:6 as fish and do not have unhealthy or environmentally damaging components as fish.

Everything that is healthy can be found in (mostly plant) foods that do not carry unhealthy components (like saturated fat or mercury). Those healthy foods are also environmentally sustainable in contrast to meat and fish.

And this is all besides ethics - but pure selfishness. Or should I say - shellfishness?

Posted by: Hugo Pottisch | Nov 15, 2007 11:49:37 AM

Verplanck: it's called "sushi".

Posted by: Doctor Memory | Nov 15, 2007 11:50:09 AM

verplanck colvin,

I don't like fish very much either, but tilapia, swordfish and even tuna - not the canned stuff - are pretty good. Get some Spanish smoked paprika, kosher salt and real pepper and you're good to go. Little bit of oil - even just a spray - and bake it for, um, a while. I'm not too good on that, I usually just look at it after a while.

I doubt it's the fishiness of the fish, though, that really matters but the Omega-3s. You could get some ground flaxseed and start sprinkling that on your food. You'll up your Omega-3s a lot and won't even notice it. And flaxseed is refreshingly low in mercury.

Posted by: Stephen | Nov 15, 2007 11:52:56 AM

PS: This is why Clint Eastwood ("I try to stick to a vegan diet' heavy on fruit, vegetables, tofu, and other soy products.") and Carl Lewis recommend a healthy and environmentally sustainable vegan diet!

Posted by: Hugo Pottisch | Nov 15, 2007 11:57:59 AM

-I'm pretty sure omega-3 supplements alone from any good firm
are going to *prove out just as good as fish.
[Seafood: expensive, 'fishy' to my taste and variably full of Hg]
-THAT: omega -3s will prevent cognitive decline is a long term study which is still several years away from achieving definition.
-There are a variety of benefits beyond that however,
so at this this stage a liberal helping is probably a good idea.
-[I do 3000iu daily..as a nutritional supplement if naught else]
-Flaxseed (must be ground) is just a little problematic in the argument going around the ALA contained...
the short chains @ 18 and longer at 21, but it is also in my own formulary.

Here's a nice recent clip on the issue from Food Navigator:

"Time to clarify omega-3 types for consumers

By Alex McNally
11/2/2007 - A survey of omega-3 labels on foods sold in major supermarkets found many were confusing to consumers...."

Posted by: has_te | Nov 15, 2007 1:30:04 PM

fish oil in mg, not iu.
I knew! that.
[And the system cut off the address...
Here, again...
My bad

Posted by: has_te | Nov 15, 2007 1:36:03 PM

Another vote for flax-oil supplements. You know what you're getting (fish vary hugely in amount of Omega-3s), no animal suffering, etc.

Posted by: Gore/Edwards 08 | Nov 15, 2007 1:41:42 PM

Eating fish substantially contributes to global warming because of the energy intensive process of harvesting them. And saltwater fish have high concentrations of toxins (especially carnivorous fish--fat cells absorb the toxins like a sponge and it gets more concentrated as you climb the food chain). You can get the dementia-fighting Omega-3s from flax seed. No toxins, less energy to harvest.

Posted by: Chris Meyer | Nov 15, 2007 2:12:45 PM

Maybe being fat will help keep you health?
Fat and long life — The “obesity” crisis is crumbling

When will we admit that beyond getting enough vitamins, minerals and amino acids we do not know what kind of diet is healthier than another?

Posted by: Floccina | Nov 15, 2007 2:24:25 PM

"Eating fish substantially contributes to global warming because of the energy intensive process of harvesting them. "

Huh? You mean worse than plowing a field for a wheat crop? That's one the worst arguments I've heard concerning global warming. Isn't it sufficient that the ocean's bounty of fish stocks are slowly collapsing and that we should stop pushing fish as an everyday meal? Especially if we can get the latest wonder cure from another less invasive source.

Posted by: Texican | Nov 15, 2007 2:51:25 PM


When will we admit that beyond getting enough vitamins, minerals and amino acids we do not know what kind of diet is healthier than another?

We don't?

Here is a quote from the American Dietetic Association:

Well-planned vegan and other types of vegetarian diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including during pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood and adolescence. Vegetarian diets offer a number of nutritional benefits, including lower levels of saturated fat, cholesterol, and animal protein as well as higher levels of carbohydrates, fiber, magnesium, potassium, folate, and antioxidants such as vitamins C and E and phytochemicals. Vegetarians have been reported to have lower body mass indices than nonvegetarians, as well as lower rates of death from ischemic heart disease; vegetarians also show lower blood cholesterol levels; lower blood pressure; and lower rates of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and prostate and colon cancer. Although a number of federally funded and institutional feeding programs can accommodate vegetarians, few have foods suitable for vegans at this time.

Here is a quote from the McDonald's Web site:

Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and soy products are rich in substances that, in my opinion, can help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease as well as breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colon cancer.

Following the links on McDonald's Web site one gets this quote:

The "reversal" diet is a whole foods vegetarian diet high in complex carbohydrates, low in simple carbohydrates (e.g. sugar, concentrated sweeteners, alcohol, white flour), and very low in fat (approximately 10% of calories). Those few plant-based foods that are high in fat are excluded, including all oils (other than 3 grams per day of flaxseed oil or fish oil to provide additional omega-3 fatty acids), nuts, and avocados. The diet consists primarily of fruits, vegetables, grains, and beans (including soy-based foods) supplemented by moderate amounts of nonfat dairy and egg whites. Patients with high triglycerides and/or diabetes are especially encouraged to limit their intake of simple sugars and alcohol. As a rule of thumb, try to include foods in your diet that have less than three grams of fat per serving while avoiding saturated fat and sugar.

The "prevention" diet is customized according to your cholesterol profile, genetic disposition, weight, age, and any other health risks and health goals you have. Ornish's data show that if your total cholesterol is consistently less than 150 or if your ratio of total cholesterol to HDL is consistently less than 4.0, then either you are not eating very much saturated fat and cholesterol or you are very efficient at getting rid of it. Either way, your risk of heart disease is low, and you may not need to make any changes in diet, at least from a cardiac standpoint. There are other good reasons for changing diet, such as losing weight, reducing your risk of obesity, and many forms of cancer and other chronic diseases. If not, then you can begin making moderate changes -- eat less fat and cholesterol.

Guidelines for both versions of Ornish's diet emphasize reducing your intake of high fat, high animal protein foods, such as red meat, pork, bacon, ice cream, etc., and increasing your consumption of complex carbohydrates, including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in their natural forms, legumes,...

Sounds to me as if the American Dietetic Association AND McDonald's are more or less in agreement? Less saturated fats (as are present in meat, fish and milk), less sugars and more whole foods, beans, legumes and of course fruits and vegetables?

Now let's have a look at big government's food subsidies and the school lunch program of the USDA again...

Actually - I trust McDonald's more than the USDA. And that means something. Many fast food joints also have BETTER animal welfare in place than the USDA demands (virtually none).

Posted by: Hugo Pottisch | Nov 15, 2007 2:58:13 PM

PS: there is nothing wrong with ice cream and burgers per se? It merely depends on the ingredients...

Posted by: Hugo Pottisch | Nov 15, 2007 3:02:50 PM

Aren't you glad you read this blog?

Yes. But you'll have to excuse me - it's nap time. :)

Posted by: low-tech cyclist | Nov 15, 2007 3:03:31 PM

Hugo Pottisch we do not know! Many studies show benefits but most fail to be duplicated. The nurses study blew lots of that stuff away.

Posted by: Floccina | Nov 15, 2007 3:11:44 PM

Tilapia is a farmed, fresh-water, largely herbivorous fish with fewer environmental downsides (if it isn't flown in from halfway around the world), and tastes pretty good, too.

Posted by: Invigilator | Nov 15, 2007 3:51:18 PM

Fer shure, you will be healthier if you take a nap instead of arguing about food.

Been there, done that.

Posted by: serial catowner | Nov 15, 2007 4:00:13 PM


The point is that we do know. And it was actually the nurse studies (there are a few) who have pointed out and confirmed many insights.

If anything - the reason why government is not reacting - is because there is big funding involved (farm bill) and lobbying. It was the same with climate change.

In case you are confused - please read how the denier life cycle of presenting "both sides" works.


Fish farmes fish are never environmentally clean. The same logic as with factory farming applies as it is the same!

Posted by: Hugo Pottisch | Nov 15, 2007 4:07:38 PM

God, no. ALA (the omega3 in flax) has a super shitty conversion rate to DHA&EPA, the omega3s that are active in the body. Just get the DHA&epa from fish oil if you don't want fish. If you are a ninny you can get them super filtered and shit too.

Saturated fats are a mixed bag. Some are neutral, some are bad. omega-6 fats are pretty shitty too (corn/vegetable oil). get your fat from nuts, olive oil, fish
If you're vegetarian, get your supplements ready. b-12 & minerals like zinc, iron, especially.

Posted by: yoyo | Nov 19, 2007 1:56:34 PM

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