Until now, studies have associated refined foods with chronic and non-communicable diseases such as cancer, heart disease, kidney failure, and diabetes, stroke, among others.
But researchers have found that replacing refined foods that are rich in added sugar and salt with natural alternatives especially from plants could prevent the onset of chronic diseases.
Scientists have urged Nigerians to consume locally-produced foods and fruits as they contain nutrients that can serve as medicine in the body. They warned against the consumption of imported food products as some may have been contaminated in the process of shipping them into the country.
A professor of pharmacognosy and a former senior research associate at the Division of Experimental Therapeutics of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Washington, D.C., Prof. Maurice Iwu, said his team had validated local foods such as bitter kola, coconut oil, Zobo (from Hibiscus sabdarifa/Roselle), bitter leaf, Moringa oleifera, tomato, Sour sop, African bush’ mango (Ogbono), among others as medicines.
Iwu told journalists that his team has developed dietary supplements based on these local foods for managing chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension, prostate cancer, erectile dysfunction, Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV)/ Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), among others. lwu said they have developed dietary supplements based on these local foods for managing chronic diseases.
According to him, “It is dangerous for you to eat any fruit not produced in Nigeria. There is no way fruits from Ghana or any other country imported into Nigeria will not be contaminated. Imported poultry are preserved with chemicals, some imported fruits when you look at their size you will know were not grown naturally and are not the best and that is why people are coming down with cancers.”
lwu further explained: “It is not a new thing, the father of modem medicine, Hippocrates, said, ‘let thy medicine be thy food and thy food thy medicine.’ So it is a concept we are trying to revive and are trying to make it that dietary supplement is not a fad but based on solid science. “The Foundation of Innovation Medicine (FIM) has now defined what we mean as food as medicine, that is food that can be used as medicine. The term is applied to products that range from isolated nutrients, dietary supplements and herbal products, specific diets and processed foods such as cereals, soups, and beverages.
“We call it in pharmacy, nutraceuticals, that is nutra for food and ceuticals that it treats diseases. Any substance that is considered a food or part of a food and provides medical and health benefits including the prevention and treatment of diseases, that will qualify as nutraceutical; that is a whole area we as a nation have an advantage over other countries even African countries. The only countries that can compete with us are perhaps South Africa and Egypt. What it means is that we have the natural resources, we have the human resources, we have the intellectual capacity to build, we have the technological base to be able to convert these things not only for our own help but for export and for the very solid economy.”
MEANWHILE, according to a study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, a journal of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC), an active lifestyle is linked with a lower chance of dying immediately from a heart attack.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death globally and prevention is a major public health priority. The beneficial impact of physical activity in stopping heart disease and sudden death on a population level is well documented. This study focused on the effect of an active versus sedentary lifestyle on the immediate cause of a heart attack — an area with little information.
The researchers used data from 10 European observational cohorts including healthy participants with a baseline assessment of physical activity who had a heart attack during follow-up — a total of 28,140 individuals. Participants were categorised according to their weekly level of leisure-time physical activity as sedentary, low, moderate, or high.
The association between activity level and the risk of death due to a heart attack (instantly and within 28 days) was analysed in each cohort separately and then the results were pooled. The analyses were adjusted for age, sex, diabetes, blood pressure, family history of heart disease, smoking, body mass index, blood cholesterol, alcohol consumption, and socioeconomic status.
A total of 4,976 (17.7 per cent) participants died within 28 days of their heart attack — of these, 3,101 (62.3 per cent) died instantly. Overall, a higher level of physical activity was associated with a lower risk of instant and 28-day fatal heart attack, seemingly in a dose-response-like manner. Patients who had engaged in moderate and high levels of leisure-time physical activity had a 33 per cent and 45 per cent lower risk of instant death compared to sedentary individuals. At 28 days these numbers were 36 per cent and 28 per cent, respectively. The relationship with low activity did not reach statistical significance.
Study author Dr. Kim Wadt Hansen of Bispebjerg Hospital, Copenhagen, Denmark said: “Almost 18 per cent of patients with a heart attack died within 28 days, substantiating the severity of this condition. We found an immediate survival benefit of prior physical activity in the setting of a heart attack, a benefit which seemed preserved at 28 days.”
He noted: “Based on our analyses, even a low amount of leisure-time physical activity may in fact be beneficial against fatal heart attacks, but statistical uncertainty precludes us from drawing any firm conclusions on that point.”
The authors said in the paper: “Our pooled analysis provides strong support for the recommendations on weekly physical activity in healthy adults stated in the 2016 European Guidelines on cardiovascular disease prevention in clinical practice; especially as we used cut-off values for physical activity compared to those used in the guidelines.”
The guidelines recommend that healthy adults of all ages perform at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity or an equivalent combination thereof.
Hansen concluded: “There are many ways to be physically active at little or no cost. Our study provides yet more evidence for the rewards of exercise.”
ALSO, recent research has also highlighted links between exercise and other cancers. In one recent experiment using mice, scientists, funded by Cancer Research UK, compared a group that led sedentary lives with another group that was placed on treadmills for 30 minutes, three times a week. The scientists found gentle exercise reduced the levels of liver inflammation, which can lead to tumours, and improved the metabolism of older mice, even in those that had advanced liver disease.
In addition, the study, which was led by Prof Derek Mann, from the Newcastle University Centre for Cancer, found that exercised mice had less fat in their liver and moved more quickly.
“We wanted to see if exercise in mice – crucially, a gentle routine that may mirror exercise achievable for frailer people – could help throw immune decline into reverse and help reduce the risk of liver tumours developing,” said Mann.
The research is important because liver cancer rates in humans have increased by three-fifths in the UK in the last decade, with 17 new cases being diagnosed every day, and rates are projected to continue increasing.
“Understanding how best to prevent some of those cases could have a huge impact on people at risk of the disease,” Mann added.
Another recent study by Cancer Research UK showed that more than 135,000 cases of cancer – about four out of 10 British cases – could be prevented each year largely through lifestyle changes, with increased physical activity of any kind playing a key role.
The crucial point is that extra fat does not just sit quietly around our bodies, say, researchers. It is active, sending out signals to other organs and tissue, which can affect growth, metabolism and reproductive cycles.
Also, studies have found that a high protein vegan diet can slash the risk of early death in older women by almt 50 per cent and that diet high in carbohydrates increases the risk of heart disease.
Diet is one of the most important modifiable risk factors for cardiovascular disease and other non-communicable diseases. In 2017, we published results of the PURE study in the Lancet and reported the association between the number of carbohydrates and health outcomes.
Also, research has found that postmenopausal women who ditch meat in preference of plant-based alternatives are less likely to die prematurely.
Eating nuts in place of red meat, poultry, dairy, eggs and fish was linked with a lower risk of early death in a landmark study.
Eating nuts instead of eggs slashed the likelihood of dying in the study by 47 per cent whereas switching red meat and dairy out for nut-based meals reduced the risk of early death by 11 and 12 per cent, respectively.
Research conducted by the American Heart Association also found vegan women who use nuts to get their dietary protein were 56 per cent less likely to die from cardiovascular disease.
While the study did not look at the reason for the link, the researchers hope the findings will encourage older women to consider incorporating more nuts into their diet in place of other proteins.
Postmenopausal women who ditch meat in preference for plant-based alternatives are less likely to die prematurely, research has found
The analysis revealed women who eat the highest amount of animal protein are more likely to be white, well educated and wealthy. They are also more likely to be past smokers, drink heavily and live sedentary lifestyles with little physical activity. This culminated in the studied cohort of women having higher rates of Type 2 diabetes and higher Body Mass Index (BMIs), all of which are cardiovascular disease risk factors.
In contrast, women who obtain more of their protein from plants also consume fewer calories per day, eat less saturated fat and have more fibre in their diet.
The study recruited 102,521 postmenopausal women with an average age of 63 between 1993 and 1998 and followed their lives and health for 18 years.
Over this time almost 26,000 women died with 6,993 dying from cardiovascular disease, 7,516 women dying of cancer and 2,734 deaths attributed to dementia.
Regular follow-ups and questionnaires revealed that on average; around one-sixth of the diet of the women is protein.
Researchers then broke down where most of their protein came from and found more than two thirds (68.6 per cent) was of animal origins, such as meat, eggs and dairy. The analysis revealed women who eat the highest amount of animal protein are more likely to be white, well educated and wealthy.
They are also more likely to be past smokers, drink heavily and live sedentary lifestyles with little physical activity. This culminated in the studied cohort of women having higher rates of Type 2 diabetes and higher BMIs, all of which are cardiovascular disease risk factors.
In contrast, women who obtain more of their protein from plants also consume fewer calories per day, eat less saturated fat and have more fibre in their diet.
The study also found that even making small changes to a person’s diet can have a dramatic difference as replacing just five per cent of animal protein with food derived from plants reduced the risk of early death by 14 per cent.
“Substituting of animal protein with plant protein was associated with a lower risk of all‐cause mortality, cardiovascular disease mortality, and dementia mortality,” the researchers write in their study.
“Substitution of total red meat, eggs, or dairy products with nuts was associated with a lower risk of all‐cause mortality.”
Lead author, Dr. Wei Bao, of Iowa University, said: “Our findings support the need to consider dietary protein sources in future dietary guidelines. Current dietary guidelines mainly focus on the total amount of protein. Our findings show there may be different health influences associated with different types of protein foods.”
Other findings from the study are that those who eat the most processed red meat, such as sausages and bacon, have a 20 per cent higher risk of dying from dementia.
Higher consumption of unprocessed meat, eggs and dairy was also found to be linked to a 12 per cent, 24 per cent and 11 per cent higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease, respectively.
Egg-lovers are also 24 per cent more likely to die of cardiovascular disease and ten per cent more likely to die of cancer.
However, people who ate the most eggs are at 14 per cent lower risk of dying from dementia.
The researchers said the findings published in the Journal of the American Heart Association might not apply to younger women or men.
Also, a new study published in The British Medical Journal by researchers including SFU health sciences professor Scott Lear found consuming a high number of refined grains, such as croissants and white bread, is associated with a higher risk of major cardiovascular disease, stroke and death.
The Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study has been examining diets from diverse populations in low-, middle- and high-income countries around the world. Over 16 years of analysis of 137,130 participants in 21 countries, including Canada, the researchers found the intake of refined grains and added sugars have greatly increased over the years.
Grains were categorised into three groups: refined grains, whole grains and white rice. Refined grains included goods made with refined (example white) flour, including white bread, pasta/noodles, breakfast cereals, crackers, and bakery products/desserts containing refined grains. Whole grains included whole grain flours (example buckwheat) and intact or cracked whole grains (example steel-cut oats).
The study found that having more than seven servings of refined grains per day was associated with a 27 per cent greater risk for early death, 33 percent greater risk for heart disease and 47 per cent greater risk for stroke.
No significant adverse health effects were found with consuming whole grains or white rice.
The study suggests eating whole-grain foods like brown rice and barley and having fewer cereal grains and refined wheat products. Reducing one’s overall consumption of refined grains and having better quality carbohydrates is essential for optimal health outcomes.
Also, scientists say taking regular exercise is going to become increasingly important in helping to prevent cancers.
Since the pandemic began a year ago, growing numbers of people have reported gaining weight after cutting down on physical activity while others say they have been eating more junk food.
Being overweight or obese leaves individuals vulnerable to tissue damage and the development of tumours, with more than a dozen types of cancer having been linked to excess weight in recent research studies.
“We need to eat better food, but it is equally clear that regular exercise is also very important in cancer prevention,” said Prof. Linda Bauld of Edinburgh University.
Bauld, who is chairing sessions at a virtual conference, Cancer Prevention – Physical Activity, held from February 23 to 25, said that while tobacco and smoking remained the main cause of cancer in the UK, obesity was now the second-highest risk and in future is likely to become the main cause.
This is being driven by two factors. More and more people are giving up smoking while rising numbers are becoming overweight and obese – and the lockdown has speeded up that process. As a result, it is expected that by 2040 obesity will have overtaken smoking as the leading preventable cause of cancer in women, a pattern that men will follow a few years later.
Among the cancers that have been shown to benefit from improved physical activity are breast and bowel cancers. Those who have been treated for primary tumours have better chances of their cancers not returning if they exercise more often and have improved diets, it has been found.
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