A 2011 study of 17 industrialized countries-13 in Europe, plus the U.S., Australia, Japan, and Canada-found that American men, whose life expectancy is 75.6 years, ranked dead last, and the U.S. Women, at 80.7 years, ranked 16th. Worse, according to an article in the AARP (3/13) magazine, is that the gap has been widening for the past three decades! Why? America spends more than twice as much on health care as the second place country. The National Institutes of Health ordered a broad study of U.S. deaths involving drugs and alcohol, obesity and diabetes, lung disease, heart disease, infant mortality, injuries and homicides, and HIV and AIDS. Researchers found what they called “a pervasive pattern of shorter lives and poor health” crossing all socioeconomic lines. Americans eat too much, exercise too little, and get medical care that is often unaffordable and inaccessible. While Americans drink and smoke less than their peers in the other countries, we eat more calories per person, use seat belts less, are more prone to gun violence, and have higher rates of drug abuse, both legal and not. Bottom line: proper eating habits, exercise more, avoid smoking, and deal with stresses better (without turning to drugs, alcohol, etc). Personally, I find that exercise’s shadow carries over into other healthy lifestyle choices. Remember, we are biologically programmed to exercise. If we are to thrive, there is no other choice but to exercise.

Another lesser-known omega-3 fat is beginning to make headlines. An article in the  3/15/13 issue of the AZ Republic’s Your Health section, written by Dr’s Oz and Roizen, espouses the benefits of alpha-linoleic acid, or ALA. ALA is a plant-based omega-3 found in abundance in walnuts, avocado, flax, and chia seeds. Getting just 1 gram (about 5 walnut halves) reduces odds for heart attacks significantly. Getting 3.4 grams a day  (18 walnut halves, or 4-5 tablespoons of ground flaxseed) can lower LDL cholesterol by 7-13 %. ALA also reduces lipoprotein a, which adds gunk to your arterial walls. ALA can also heighten sensitivity to insulin, thus lowering blood sugar levels and decreasing the odds of diabetes. I toss chia seeds into cereal, yogurt, salads. I eat walnuts for a snack at least 5 days a week. I’ve also started adding the green, purslane, to my salads. Purslane is also rich in ALA.

Watch your salt intake! Three new studies suggest salt may be a prime suspect in a wide range of autoimmune diseases, including multiple sclerosis (MS), psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, and arthritis of the spine. There has been a huge increase in autoimmune diseases, especially MS and type 1 diabetes, suggesting more than bad genes are at work. “The diet does affect the autoimmune system in ways that have not been previously recognized”, says Dr. David Hafler, a professor of neurology and immunobiology at the Yale School of Medicine. His study is one of three published in the March 6 issue of the journal Nature that show how salt may overstimulate the immune system.

I have some more information on wheat. When I decipher it, I’ll report it to you.

Eat well, move well, stay well, John R Blilie, M.S.