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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Dietary Factors 

Aging baby boomers look like they may become the first generation in memory to be less healthy at retirement age than their parents. Admittedly, some of this may be due to their infinitely more incessant whining and hypochondriasis, or that the preliminary results aren't good, but it actually does make sense. This is a generation who are sedentary, eat a diet full of terrible things like high fructose corn syrup, trans-fat, and Splenda, and take myriad medications like no generation before. It's inconceivable that all this hasn't had an effect. And that effect is kinda terrifying, for those of us who are gonna have to take care of them.

One of the potential culprits is omega-6 fatty acids. Our ancestors ate omega-6 and omega-3 FA's in about a 3:1 ratio, but when food manufacturers found that omega-6's were more cost-effective in the early 20th century, Westerners' diets exploded with the stuff - we now get 15-17 times as much omega-6 as omega-3! Why is this bad? Well, it appears that higher omega-6 levels (maybe relative to omega-3 and maybe not) are linked to depression and inflammatory conditions (which can cause heart disease, high blood pressure, etc.). D'oh!

On the upside, another study has found that eating small amounts (about 3.5 oz.) of dark chocolate a day has similar blood-pressure lowering effects to beta-blockers like atenolol. This effect doesn't go for milk chocolate, as milk blocks absorption of the polyphenols responsible. A guaranteed cure? No. An excuse to eat chocolate? Of course!

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