Today’s Headlines: Old Age, Avocados and Antioxidants

Staying fit as you age keeps you young. We often hear that nothing stops the physical decline of aging. But new research out this week has found that highly active older adults are fitter than previously thought. “Scientists recruited men and women between 55 and 79 who were serious recreational riders but not competitive athletes. The scientists then ran each volunteer through a large array of physical and cognitive tests. The scientists determined each cyclist’s endurance capacity, muscular mass and strength, pedaling power, metabolic health, balance, memory function, bone density and reflexes.” In comparison to their younger counterparts, these active older adults performed far beyond expectations. “On almost all measures, their physical functioning remained fairly stable across the decades and was much closer to that of young adults than of people their age. As a group, even the oldest cyclists had younger people’s levels of balance, reflexes, metabolic health and memory ability.” Only muscular power, muscular mass, and aerobic endurance succumbed to the ravages of time. “If you gave this dataset to a clinician and asked him to predict the age of one of the cyclists based on his or her test results, it would be impossible. On paper, they all look young. The numbers suggest that aging is simply different in the active.” (NYT)

Antioxidants may not matter as much as we thought. Antioxidants have been touted as one of the central components of fruits and vegetables that make them healthy for humans and extend their life span. But new research has shown that doesn’t seem to be the case. “People who get a lot of antioxidants in their diets, or who take them in supplement form, don’t live any longer than those who just eat well overall, according to a long term study of retirees in California.” While many studies have shown that eating lots of fruits and vegetables lengthens your life, it was never clear if antioxidants or some other compound was responsible. The authors looked at antioxidant vitamins A, C and E. “There was no association between the amount of vitamins A or C in the diet or vitamin E supplements and the risk of death. Vitamin users may have different lifestyles or underlying disease states that are related to their risk of death.” The researchers say their findings emphasize that the benefits of vitamin supplements are still unclear and that they should not be used to replace a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables. (Reuters)

Avocados may help lower levels of bad cholesterol. In spite of their strange appearance, avocados pack a serious health punch and are full of healthy fats, vitamins and other nutrients. New research has found they may also help with your cholesterol. “The study, conducted by researchers at Pennsylvania State University, analyzed the effect avocados had on cardiovascular risk factors by replacing saturated fatty acids from an average American diet with unsaturated fatty acids from avocados. Researchers found that compared to the baseline average American diet, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) also known as ‘bad cholesterol’ was 13.5 mg/dL lower after consuming the moderate fat diet that included avocado – a significantly lower level than those consuming less fat without a daily avocado in their diet. In addition to lowering cholesterol, blood measurements taken during the study showed lower total cholesterol, triglycerides, small dense LDL and non-HDL cholesterol in patients on the avocado inclusive diet.”  The results held regardless of the weight of the participant on the diet. (Fox)