• Foods and Other Lifestyle Factors That Will Shorten Your Lifespan

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    hourglass-time-600 Looking around, I'd say that people are looking for ways to shorten their lives. Smoking, eating too much, and more all add up to subtract years from your life expectancy. Take a look at these top ten ways to shorten your life. Feel proud of each one that doesn't describe you.

    A recent article in The Week reviews seven things that will make you sick or lead to premature death according to science.

    Included in this list is smoking pot, being a pop star, playing football, and staying in an unhappy marriage. More important, I think, are the following four dietary and lifestyle factors—only three of which made it into the featured story:

    Too Much Sugar Reduces Your Lifespan

    A diet high in sugar (which includes processed fructose and grains) causes a host of health problems that can take years off your life, including obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Processed foods are the primary culprit. Added sugars hide in 74 percent of processed foods under more than 60 different names, so you may not even be aware of just how much sugar you’re eating on a daily basis. According to the featured article:

    “Sugar accounts for 15 percent of the average American's daily calorie intake, and the WHO recommends that number be reduced to no more than five percent, or roughly 25 grams — six teaspoons — per day. That's less than what's found in a single can of soda. Free sugars are found in white and brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, and additives like high fructose corn syrup. ‘The key point is that we are consuming way too much added sugars for good health,’ says Rachel Johnson of the American Heart Association.”

    While obesity alone is associated with one in five deaths in the US, sugar may also have other, perhaps more direct impacts on longevity specifically.  Professor Cynthia Kenyon, whom many experts believe should win the Nobel Prize for her research into aging, discovered that non-vegetable carbohydrates directly affect specific genes that govern youthfulness and longevity.

    Insulin Resistance Drives Chronic Disease

    Excessive amounts of refined sugar and processed fructose and grains cause insulin resistance, and most of the disease-promoting effects of a processed food diet can be traced back to this. Insulin is a major accelerant of the aging process, and also affects many bodily processes, all of which can impact your longevity.

    For example, insulin alters the expression of numerous hormones; stimulates your sympathetic nervous system; and promotes vasoconstriction. To reduce your risk of disease, you want to keep your insulin levels as low as possible, and one of the quickest and easiest ways to do this is to avoid processed foods and sweetened beverages of all kinds. As a standard recommendation, keep your total fructose consumption below 25 grams per day. If you are insulin resistant (and at least half of the American population is, whether overweight or not), you’d be wise to limit your fructose to 15 grams per day or less.

    Artificial Sweeteners Take a Toll on Your Health

    Many mistakenly opt for artificial sweeteners to keep their sugar consumption in check, not realizing just how harmful this trade-off may be. Contrary to industry claims, research over the last 30 years—including several large scale prospective cohort studies—have shown that artificial sweeteners stimulate appetite and increase cravings for carbs.

    They also produce a variety of metabolic dysfunctions that promote fat storage and weight gain.4,5 Research also shows that artificial sweeteners such as aspartame actually worsen insulin sensitivity to a greater degree than sugar! Other mechanisms of harm have also been revealed. Most recently, scientists discovered that artificial sweeteners disrupt your intestinal microflora, thereby raising your risk of both obesity and diabetes. Most importantly, this study proves causation.

    Specifically, the researchers found that artificial sweeteners alter metabolic pathways associated with metabolic disease. Decreased function was observed in pathways associated with the transport of sugar in the body, for example. Artificial sweeteners were also found to induce gut dysbiosis and glucose intolerance in otherwise healthy people. Glucose intolerance is a well-known precursor to type 2 diabetes, but it also plays a role in obesity, because the excess sugar in your blood ends up being stored in your fat cells. While poor diet is a major driver of Alzheimer’s in general (the primary culprits being sugar/fructose and grains, especially gluten), the key mechanism of harm here appears to be methanol toxicity—a much-ignored problem associated with aspartame in particular.

    Trans Fat –A Primary Driver of Heart Disease

    For decades, saturated fats were said to cause heart disease. Responding to such health concerns, the food industry replaced saturated fats with trans fats, giving rise to a whole new market of low-fat (but high-sugar) foods. Trans fat is also a major contributor to insulin resistance. Americans' health has plummeted ever since, and millions have been prematurely killed by this horrible mistake. Trans fat, found in partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, is thought to act a pro-oxidant, contributing to oxidative stress that causes cellular damage, and many researchers agree that there is no threshold at which trans fats are safe.

    Dr. Fred Kummerow, author of Cholesterol Is Not the Culprit, has researched fats for eight decades, and he was the first researcher to note that trans fat clogs your arteries and promotes heart disease. Moreover, trans fats prevent the synthesis of prostacyclin, which is necessary to keep your blood flowing. When your arteries cannot produce prostacyclin, blood clots form, and you may succumb to sudden death. Trans fat has also been linked to dementia. While trans fat consumption decreased by about one-third between 1980-2009, many are still getting far too much trans fat in their diet.

    The problem is that it’s oftentimes hidden. Even products boasting a “zero trans fat” label can contain trans fat, because food manufacturers are not required to list trans fat if it falls below a certain amount per serving. Using ridiculously tiny serving portion is a legal loophole that permits food manufacturers to mislead you about the trans fat in their products. As a general rule, to successfully avoid trans fats, you need to avoid any and all foods containing or cooked in partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, so be sure to check the list of ingredients.

    Low Vitamin D Level Raises Your Mortality Rate

    Last but not least, optimizing your vitamin D stores can go a long way toward preventing disease and living a longer, healthier life. Researchers have pointed out that increasing levels of vitamin D3 among the general population could prevent chronic diseases that claim nearly one million lives throughout the world each year. Compelling evidence actually suggests optimizing your vitamin D can reduce your risk of death from any cause. At this point, the known health benefits of vitamin D number in the hundreds, if not thousands, in part due to the fact that it influences about 10 percent of all your genes. Some of the key benefits include protection against:

    Cardiovascular disease. Vitamin D is very important for reducing hypertension, atherosclerotic heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. According to longtime vitamin D researcher Dr. Michael Holick, research has shown that vitamin D deficiency can increase your risk of heart attack by 50 percent. If you have a heart attack and you're vitamin D deficient, your risk of dying from that heart attack is upwards of 100 percent.
    Autoimmune diseases. Vitamin D is a potent immune modulator, making it very important for the prevention of autoimmune diseases, like multiple sclerosis (MS) and inflammatory bowel disease.
    Lung disease. In those who are deficient, vitamin D supplementation may reduce flare-ups of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) symptoms by more than 40 percent. Other research suggests vitamin D may protect against some of the adverse effects of smoking as well.
    Infections, including influenza. Vitamin D also fights infections, including colds and the flu, as it regulates the expression of genes that influence your immune system to attack and destroy bacteria and viruses. I believe it's far more prudent, safer, less expensive, and most importantly, far more effective to optimize your vitamin D levels than to get vaccinated against the flu.
    DNA repair and metabolic processes. One of Dr. Holick's studies showed that healthy volunteers taking 2,000 IUs of vitamin D per day for a few months upregulated 291 different genes that control up to 80 different metabolic processes. This included improving DNA repair; having a beneficial effect on autoxidation (oxidation that occurs in the presence of oxygen and /or UV radiation, which has implications for aging and cancer, for example); boosting the immune system; and many other biological processes.
    Brain health (depression,dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease). Vitamin D receptors appear in a wide variety of brain tissue, and activated vitamin D receptors increase nerve growth in your brain. Vitamin D is therefore important for optimal brain function, mental health, and for the prevention of degenerative brain disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease. According to one recent study, seniors with low vitamin D levels may double their risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.Another study found that people with the highest average intakes of vitamin D had a  77 percent decreased risk for Alzheimer's. Researchers believe that optimal vitamin D levels may enhance the amount of important chemicals in your brain and protect brain cells by increasing the effectiveness of the glial cells in nursing damaged neurons back to health. Vitamin D may also exert some of its beneficial effects on your brain through its anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties.
    Cancer. Vitamin D has a number of specific anticancer effects, including the promotion of cancer cell death, known as apoptosis, and the inhibition of angiogenesis (the growth of blood vessels that feed a tumor). There are well over 800 references in the medical literature showing vitamin D’s effectiveness against cancer.One recent meta-analysis concluded that vitamin D helps protect against bladder cancer. In all, having a high serum level of 25-hydroxyvitamin D was associated with a 25 percent reduction in relative risk of bladder cancer.  Similarly, a 2007 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine concluded that a vitamin D level of more than 33 ng/mL was associated with a 50 percent lower risk of colorectal cancer.

    Sun Exposure Is the Ideal Way to Optimize Your Vitamin D Stores

    Sensible sun exposure appears to be the best way to optimize your vitamin D level. If your circumstances don’t allow you to access the sun, then taking a vitamin D supplement is certainly advisable. In this case, be sure to take vitamin D3—not synthetic D2—and take vitamin K2 and magnesium in conjunction with it, as both are essential for its optimal function. Vitamin D is fat soluble, so taking some form of healthy fat with it will also help optimize absorption. Magnesium is also important, both for the proper function of calcium, and for the activity of vitamin D, as it converts vitamin D into its active form.

    Magnesium also activates enzyme activity that helps your body use the vitamin D. In fact, all enzymes that metabolize vitamin D require magnesium to work. As with vitamin D and K2, magnesium deficiency is very common, and if you’re lacking in magnesium and take supplemental calcium, you may exacerbate the situation. Dietary sources of magnesium include sea vegetables, such as kelp, dulse, and nori.

    Vegetables can also be a good source. As for supplements, magnesium citrate and magnesium threonate are among the best. As for dosage, GrassrootsHealth has a helpful chart showing the average adult dose required to reach healthy vitamin D levels based upon your measured starting point. It’s virtually impossible to make a general recommendation on how much vitamin D to take as the amount needed can vary significantly from one individual to another. Your best bet is to regularly monitor your levels, and take whatever amount of vitamin D3 you need to maintain a clinically relevant level.

    The Reward of a Healthy Diet and Lifestyle Include a Longer, Healthier Life

    The good news here is that avoiding refined sugar/processed fructose, trans fat, and artificial sweeteners is actually rather easy. By trading processed foods for real food—food that is whole (unprocessed, or minimally processed) and ideally organic and/or locally grown, you will automatically eliminate all three—plus a number of other hazardous ingredients, including cyclic aldehydes, acrylamide, and genetically engineered ingredients. Buying organic will also help you avoid harmful pesticides. Another piece of good news is that, according to Dr. Kummerow, your body will eliminate trans fats in about a month.

    The D*Action Project by GrassrootsHealth is a very cost effective solution. To participate, simply purchase the D*Action Measurement Kit and follow the registration instructions included. (Please note that 100 percent of the proceeds from the kits go to fund the research project. I do not charge a single dime as a distributor of the test kits.) As a participant, you agree to test your vitamin D levels twice a year during a five-year study, and share your health status to demonstrate the public health impact of this nutrient.

    There is a $65 fee every six months for your sponsorship of this research project, which includes a test kit to be used at home, and electronic reports on your ongoing progress. You will get a follow up email every six months reminding you “it's time for your next test and health survey.”

    Obviously you’ll live longer if you do things like eat right and exercise.  But has a list of some NOT-so-obvious things that help.  Here are three seemingly HARMFUL things that can make you live longer.

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