Below is a compelling research report from UF Health Newsnet, which
provides news releases on the latest medical and health advances from the
University of Florida Health Science Center. Although the subjects of this study
were younger adults, people of all ages should be interested in the results!
The cheeseburger and French fries might look tempting, but eating a serving
of broccoli and leafy greens first could help people battle metabolic processes
that lead to obesity and heart disease, a new University of Florida study shows.
more plant-based foods, which are rich in substances called phytochemicals,
seems to prevent oxidative stress in the body, a process associated with obesity
and the onset of disease, according to findings published online in advance of
the print edition of the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics.
To get enough of these protective phytochemicals, researchers suggest eating
plant-based foods such as leafy greens, fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes at
the start of a meal. Using what is known as a phytochemical index (which
compares the number of calories consumed from plant-based foods with the overall
number of daily calories) could also help people make sure they remember to get
enough phytochemicals during their regular meals and snacks, said Heather K.
Vincent, Ph.D., the lead author of the paper.
"We need to find a way to encourage people to pull back on fat and eat more
foods rich in micronutrients and trace minerals from fruits, vegetables, whole
grains and soy," said Vincent, an assistant professor in the UF Orthopaedics and
Sports Medicine Institute. "Fill your plate with colorful, low-calorie,
varied-texture foods derived from plants first. By slowly eating phytochemical-rich
foods such as salads with olive oil or fresh-cut fruits before the actual meal,
you will likely reduce the overall portion size, fat content and energy intake.
In this way, you're ensuring that you get the variety of protective,
disease-fighting phytochemicals you need and controlling caloric intake."
The researchers studied a group of 54 young adults, analyzing their dietary
patterns over a three-day period, repeating the same measurement eight weeks
later. The participants were broken into two groups: normal-weight and
Although the adults in the two groups consumed about the same amount of
calories, overweight-obese adults consumed fewer plant-based foods and
subsequently fewer protective trace minerals and phytochemicals and more
saturated fats. They also had higher levels of oxidative stress and inflammation
than their normal-weight peers, Vincent said. These processes are related to the
onset of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and joint disease, she added.
"Diets low in plant-based foods affect health over the course of a long
period of time," Vincent said. "This is related to annual weight gain, levels of
inflammation and oxidative stress. Those are the oxidative processes of disease
that debilitate people later in life."
Oxidative stress occurs when the body produces too many damaging free
radicals and lacks enough antioxidants or phytochemicals to counteract them.
Because of excess fat tissue and certain enzymes that are more active in
overweight people, being obese can actually trigger the production of more free
Because many phyotchemicals have antioxidant properties, they can help combat
free redicals, Vincent said. Phytochemicals include substances such as allin
from garlic, lycopene from tomatoes, isoflavones from soy, beta carotene from
orange squashes and anythocyanins from red wine, among others.
"People who are obese need more fruits, vegetables, legumes and wholesome
unrefined grains," she said. "In comparison to a normal-weight person, an obese
person is always going to be behind the eight ball because there are so many
adverse metabolic processes going on."
Instead of making drastic changes, people could substitute one or two choices
a day with phytochemical-rich foods to make a difference in their diets, Vincent
said. For example, substituting a cup of steeped plain tea instead of coffee or
reaching for an orange instead of a granola bar could increase a person's
phytochemical intake for the day without even changing the feeling of fullness.
Over time, replacing more pre-packaged snacks with fresh produce or low-sugar
grains could become a habit that fights obesity and disease, Vincent said.
"We always want to encourage people to go back to the whole sources of food,
the nonprocessed foods if we can help it," Vincent said. "That would be the
bottom line for anyone, regardless of age and body size, keep going back to the
purer plant-based foods. Remember to eat the good quality first."
Currently, there are no recommendations for how much of these plant compounds
people should be getting each day, says Susanne Talcott, Ph.D., an assistant
professor of food science and nutrition at Texas A&M University. Using the
phytochemical index could be a good way to come up with these recommendations,
Like Vincent, Talcott also cautions people to try and stick to the whole
sources of foods and be wary of processed foods that promise benefits from added
"Consumers should stick with what we have known for decades and eat fresh or
frozen fruits and vegetables," she said. "Stick with those kinds of foods rather
than reaching out for a tropical wonder pill or juice."
SFA author Jim Evans is a 41-year veteran of the health-fitness
industry and an internationally recognized senior fitness consultant. Today Jim
offers a discouraged would-be exerciser some sound motivational advice.
DEAR JIM: My wife has been bugging me to get in shape for years -- I'm 67 --
and, while I've tried to follow your exercise advice, I have a terrible time
staying motivated. I've tried just about everything without success, and I'm
really disappointed in myself. Do you have anything new or different I can try
to get back on track and stay on track? BUGGED IN BELOIT
DEAR BUGGED: Motivation is not easy when it comes to exercise, so don't be so
hard on yourself. After all, exercise is, by itself, not particularly
pleasurable for most people until it becomes a habit. But take my word for it:
you start experiencing the positive results from your exercise regimen (which
usually takes at least 30 days), the motivation often takes care of itself. You
will start feeling more energetic, and every time you look in the mirror you
will start seeing the "new" you. It's all a matter of getting into the habit of
So, what to do to get you moving in the right direction? Try exercising with
your wife. You know that old saying, "Behind every good man is a good woman"?
Well, it can be especially true when it comes to exercise. You and I can both
remember how we used to show off as youngsters every time there was a girl in
the vicinity. We ran a little faster, we threw the ball a little harder, we
tried a little harder at whatever we were doing -- you know what I mean. But now
there is something more than just anecdotal evidence to back it up, and age has
nothing to do with it.
A German doctor has found that men exerted themselves in a bicycle stress
test 12 percent more when supervised by a female doctor as opposed to when they
were supervised by a male doctor (Men's Health, February 2009). And they
complained about it less, too. Sound familiar? Dr. Christian Jung claims that
"working out with a woman might help you push harder, probably because men are
evolutionarily programmed to impress women." No kidding.
The bottom line is that this might be a unique opportunity to add some spice
and motivation to your workouts by asking your wife to join you and bring out
your innate "evolutionary" programming. You probably won't both have the same
strength level, and you may not like the same kind of exercise but, with a
little give and take, you should be able to find some form of exercise that you
can both enjoy together. Worse case scenario (and it isn't a bad case scenario)
is that you can walk around the block together holding hands!
There have been numerous studies touting the benefits of a same gender
workout partner in providing more motivation, but working out with a female
seems to offer a different -- and apparently effective -- twist for men. I don't
know if working out with you will make any difference for your wife, but what's
good for the gander may just be good for the hen, too. At least she won't bug
you anymore if you invite her along for the ride.
The American Senior Fitness Association (SFA) thanks all the Experience!
readers who took part in last issue's internet search contest "The Game Is
Afoot" and congratulates our three winners!
Following are the questions with their best answers:
1. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, how many Americans were
age 65 and over in 2006?
This was the hardest question to answer and we accepted a range of
justifiably "correct" answers from credible internet sources including
37,000,000, 37,191,004, and 37,300,000.
2. SFA president Janie Clark's article "Ramping Up Senior Fitness"
was written for which organization?
The article was written for Parks & Recreation magazine, the
official publication of the National Recreation and Park Association.
3. What specific SFA service earned the NCOA Health Promotion
Institute's 2009 "Best Practices in Health Promotion and Wellness Award"?
SFA was proud to accept the National Council on Aging's Best Practice
Award for "professional education systems that prepare older adult physical
fitness trainers, instructors, and recreational activity leaders."
Our three winners, selected in a random drawing from a pool of all
participants providing correct answers, are:
3rd place: Malka Y. of Massachusetts receives the book Spark:
The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain.
2nd place: Carol A. of Illinois receives the DVDs The Brain
Fitness Program and Brain Fitness 2: Sight & Sound.
1st place: Amanda J. of Missouri receives SFA's professional
education program Brain Fitness for Older Adults.