Study: Healthy Aging Begins with a Balanced Gut

shutterstock_290950880Early in life—and quite possibly starting in the womb—each of us begins to develop a unique population of bacteria inside our bodies called our microbiome. Those bacteria reside mainly in the gut and play an important role in overall well-being from birth to adulthood, but with age we often experience a decline in the “friendly” microbes known to support digestive and immune health.

With this in mind, scientists wonder if keeping the gut bacteria in balance could improve intestinal function and help ward off age-related disease. With the help of colleagues from the Scripps Research Institute in Florida, a team of researchers from the University of California Los Angeles recently conducted a study using fruit flies, in which they altered the gut bacteria of the flies to see if it would result in a longer lifespan.

Fruit flies were chosen because of their relatively short lifespan, which makes them ideal for a study like this one. As it turns out, changing the microbial population of the flies helped prevent a breakdown in the gut lining which typically occurs shortly before their death. According to the study findings, the flies’ health was significantly improved, and they were able to live about one and a half times longer than their normal lifespan.

“Age-onset decline is very tightly linked to changes within the community of gut microbes,” said David Walker, PhD, senior study author and a professor of integrative biology and physiology at UCLA. He and his team believe applying the same techniques in humans may one day help prevent diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, and more.

One of the most important ways we can support a balanced gut is by eating plenty of non-starchy vegetables, low-sugar fruits, fermented foods, healthy fats, and protein. Try to limit or avoid sugar, starchy foods, artificial sweeteners, and unhealthy fats.


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Curb the Sugar Cravings! 5 Simple Tips

shutterstock_218859526Ever get the feeling that sugar is controlling your brain? Studies show the more sugar we eat, the more our bodies crave it because of the happy feelings it triggers in the brain—which is why it sometimes seems impossible to say no to sweets. But research also tells us that a diet high in sugar is harmful to our health and increases the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and countless other health problems. Here are five simple tips to help curb sugar cravings throughout the day:

  1. Stay Satisfied with Protein. Studies show consuming plenty of protein throughout the day—and especially at breakfast—promotes healthy blood sugar levels and helps reduce the desire to eat sweets, especially during the late afternoon danger zone.
  2. Say No to Sugary Drinks & Diet Sodas. The added sugar in soft drinks, juices, flavored teas, and sports drinks are among the biggest sources of sugar in the American diet, but eliminating them can go a long way toward kicking the habit. And because new research shows artificial sweeteners are just as harmful to the body, experts recommend sticking with purified (filtered) water or sparkling water.
  3. Try a Piece of Fruit Instead. The natural sugars in fruit are a better alternative to the processed sugars found in pastries, cookies, cakes, and other packaged sweets. Opt for low-sugar fruits such as blueberries, raspberries, watermelon, and grapefruit, and combine with plain Greek yogurt or a dollop of fresh whipped cream.
  4. Get Moving! Sometimes the simplest way to put a stop to sugar cravings is to get up and get active so your brain focuses on something else. Grab the dog and head outdoors for a walk, get the laundry or other household chores done, or take a brisk stroll around the office if you’re at work. Remember to drink plenty of purified water daily to support healthy metabolism.
  5. Don’t Forget the Fiber. When included as part of a balanced diet, fiber has been shown to support weight management because of its natural appetite-suppressing properties.‡ Eating more non-starchy vegetables and low-sugar fruits is one of the best ways to increase your daily fiber intake.

Why worry about the sweet stuff? Americans consume at least 37 teaspoons of sugar daily (including the hidden sugars from starchy carbohydrates)—which is far more than the amount recommended by experts the World Health Organization and the American Heart Association, among others. By taking small steps to curb sugar cravings and reduce our daily intake, we are doing our part to ensure a healthier future for our generation and the next.


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