Extraordinary Health Magazine Volume 41 - Page 29

acids , as well as powerful pro-resolving mediators ( PRMs ), which are cell-signaling molecules that have been linked to studies showing a reduction in inflammation . Lastly , beans . Beans contain prebiotics , which can support gut microbiome health by inducing the growth or activity of beneficial microorganisms . Overall , this is a diet that is robust in sustainable proteins with complex amino acid composition . This fact , in combination with the presence of plant fibers , results in a very low impact on blood sugar , which is a factor that is relevant to many of our modern-era chronic conditions .
Let ’ s take a deeper dive into one of the foods that you ’ ll find in just about every household on Ikaria : olive oil . Indeed , you likely have olive oil in your own kitchen . But turns out that the olive oil produced locally on the island has some remarkable properties . For one thing , it has an astringent taste . This is because it contains very high levels of healthy phytochemicals , including tyrosol , hydroxytyrosol , and oleuropein . These three compounds have been found to play very important roles in rejuvenating the immune system . How ? They have the ability to influence the activation of the immune system and lower its inflammatory potential . You may be tempted to think that the special composition of Ikarian olive oil links to the olive trees that grow there . That ’ s absolutely true , but there is also another very important factor : the soil . Different types of soil can feature different amounts of immune-active olive phytochemicals . In comparative studies , Ikarian virgin olive oil has been found to have a healthenhancing impact .
Immune rejuvenation — as already mentioned — is a natural process in the body . A more technical term that you may have heard is autophagy . In 2016 , a researcher named Yoshinori Ohsumi was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for discovering the mechanisms by which autophagy works . The term autophagy has Greek origins : auto , meaning self ; phagy , meaning to eat . The word describes the process by which the body eliminates damaged cells . Some people like to use the metaphor of cellular housekeeping . Over the past decade , numerous scientists have demonstrated that certain phytochemicals found in foods associated with the Mediterranean diet are capable of supporting selective autophagy of aged immune cells , which clears the way for new and healthy replacement immune cells . This is a technical explanation for the reduction in immune age that was seen in some participants in the NU-AGE study .
It is important to recognize that the power of the Mediterranean diet relates to the overall composition of the diet , not just one food or one phytochemical .
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Here ’ s a Snapshot of How That Works :
red wine contains resveratrol , which supports glucose tolerance
cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage provide phytochemicals like sulforaphane and indole-3 carbinol , both of which support detoxification
quercetin supports immune renewal , and that compound is found in whole grains
prebiotic fibers support a healthy microbiome
proteins from fish and plants that contain unique amino acid peptides help to favorably modulate the immune system
Exciting research is emerging all the time . In 2018 , a paper was published with the title “ Health Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet : Metabolic and Molecular Mechanisms .” This was collaborative work done in both the United States and Italy that focused on demonstrating the association between consumption of a Mediterranean diet with a reduced risk of developing multiple chronic diseases , as well as an increased life expectancy . The authors indicate that the five most important effects of the Mediterranean diet are the following : 1 ) blood fat lowering effect ; 2 ) reduction of oxidative stress ; 3 ) normalization of hormones and growth factors ; 4 ) improvement in immune function through specific protein amino acid and phytochemicals ; and 5 ) favorable impact on the gut microbiome .
The MediHealth Project is a multisite effort involving numerous universities and companies both within and outside of Europe . These groups have partnered to determine how specific nutrients found in the Mediterranean diet can favorably influence the aging process . More than 200 health , nutrition , and medical researchers are involved in collecting and analyzing data . The main goal of this project is to employ an integrated systems approach to the discovery of active substances in the Mediterranean diet that are associated with the promotion of biological processes linked to healthy aging . I follow this work with great interest because it closely aligns with my own research efforts . In 2008 , my colleagues and I conducted a study that was published in Nutrition and Metabolism under the title “ Enhancement of a Mediterranean Diet with Specific Phytochemicals Improved Cardiometabolic Risk Factors in Subjects with Metabolic Syndrome in a Randomized Trial .” The results of this study demonstrated that by supplementing the Mediterranean diet with specific immune-active phytochemicals , health outcomes were improved over use of the Mediterranean diet without supplementation .
More than a decade has passed since the Blue Zones and the Mediterranean diet became a part of just about every conversation about longevity . About eight years ago , the medical community took special notice when a landmark paper was published in the New England Journal of Medicine : “ Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease with a Mediterranean Diet Supplemented with Extra-Virgin Olive Oil and Nuts .” Today , you will find doctors all around the world not only recommending Mediterranean dietary approaches to their patients , but also following them . It ’ s all because tremendous progress has been made in identifying how components of the Mediterranean diet contribute to immune rejuvenation , improved metabolic function , and the achievement of healthy aging .
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