The road to 100 | SeAnne Safaii-Waite & Sue Linja | TEDxBoise

January 23, 2020 0 By William Morgan

Translator: Desiree Kramer
Reviewer: Rhonda Jacobs Sue Linja: If you could be
relatively healthy and have a sharp mind, would you want to live to be 100? Chances are at least a couple of you
in this room will reach your century mark. SeAnne Safaii-Waite:
By the year 2050, it’s estimated that there will be over 800,000
centenarians living in the United States. What if one of them was you? Whether or not you’ve had the opportunity
to meet a centenarian or not, haven’t you ever wondered
what their lifestyle was like? How they lived? And what they ate? Well, as a nutrition researcher and a dietitian specializing
in gerontology, we wondered. So we asked, and we heard stories, and we drew conclusions. SL: Our road to 100 took us places
far and wide, cities small and large, so right over from Nampa, Idaho,
to Hiroshima, Japan. From Singapore to Cuba,
to Sardinia, Italy. And SeAnne and I had
some evidence-based type questions we were going to ask the centenarians. And we did. But the answers we got were
sometimes unexpected and often funny. But through it all,
some common nutrition themes emerged. Centenarians grew their own food
or knew where their food came from. They thanked their God every day
for what they had to put in their mouth. Sometimes they didn’t have much. Food was scarce,
so there were times of starvation. But the food they had
they shared with family and friends. Centenarians worked hard,
often to physical exhaustion. They had structure
in their meals and their dining. They ate very little sugar
and even less meat. And the thing we’re going to spend the majority of time talking
to you about today is centenarians eat vegetables. Lots and lots of vegetables. So please join us on our road to 100 as we blend the science and stories
of centenarians and their vegetables. So, the very first person
we interviewed was Regina. And 100-year-old Regina
had some centenarian secrets for us. And the first one was obvious because when we came in to meet her, she was holding her hot,
freshly brewed cup of black coffee. And so Regina told us that coffee had been
important for her for her whole life, whether it was driving the big truck
or feeding farm hands, or dealing with her nine kids. But that’s where the caffeine ended
and the vegetables began. So Regina’s from Idaho, and she wanted us to share
that potatoes were her favorite. But she also grew a wide variety
of vegetables her entire life in gardens. She ate vegetables
pretty much for every meal. So whether they were fresh or frozen,
dehydrated or canned, she ate vegetables, lots of them. She actually chuckled when she said to us, “Ladies, I’ve preserved
a lot of vegetables in my day, maybe that’s why I’m preserved too.” (Laughter) SSW: Veggies, we love them. But we’ve had it wrong all of these years calling the food group
‘fruits and vegetables.’ It really should be
‘vegetables and fruit,’ with an emphasis on vegetables. Looking at the chronic diseases that keep us from reaching
our 100th birthday, we see heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer and even
Alzheimer’s disease top the list. But there’s convincing evidence that diets high in vegetables
can prevent these chronic diseases. If we look at some of the longest
and largest nutrition studies, we see that those who ate five servings
of vegetables or more per day had a 30 percent less chance
of having a heart disease or stroke. We also know that 35 percent
of cancers are related to diet. And we also know
that diets high in vegetables can help lower blood pressure, and in some cases to the point
where no medication is needed. So, what does the science say? Well, we know that food is medicine. But if we specifically look
at foods related to disease, we see that for heart disease
and Alzheimer’s disease leafy green vegetables are very important. And we’re talking about spinach, kale,
romaine lettuce – those types of things. For cancer, we know
that the cruciferous vegetables, which are broccoli,
cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, are incredibly important, as well as the bright-colored vegetables, the oranges and the yellows
that contain the carotenoids. Also, we know that for men, lycopene, which is a phytochemical
found in tomatoes, is important and may be beneficial
in preventing prostate cancer. So, the last thing
we know about vegetables is that those who consume
large amounts of vegetables have a healthier body weight. And we know that a healthier body weight
means less obesity, less type 2 diabetes, and less Alzheimer’s disease. SL: 103-year-old Dr. Antonio Cadoni didn’t appear to have a problem
with Alzheimer’s disease. When he first entered the room
for our interview, he had his vintage three-piece suit
and he was using his cane, and SeAnne and I thought maybe
we’d be dealing with a feeble old man. Nothing was further from the truth. He had the mental clarity, vision
and hearing of someone half his age. So Dr. Cadoni talked to us about
how he felt a secret to his long life was consistency
with what he ate every day. He also introduced us
to a term that was new to us, “Cibi genuini.” And of course that sounds new
because it was Italian, right? But it’s genuine foods. So in his community in Sardinia, Italy, Dr. Cadoni had only eaten
fresh, local, in-season produce. And so he actually
lectured us a little bit and said, “Why would anyone
put something in their mouth if they didn’t know where it came from?” So in my best Italian:
“Mangiare cibi genuini,” SSW: which means, “Eat genuine foods.” So over the last decade
we have seen a change – or a lot of public concern
regarding our food production methods, our food origin and food safety, and it’s really changed the landscape
of how consumers shop. There’s much more demand for local foods. And well there should be
because local food is better for you. The shorter the time
from the farm to the table, the higher the nutrient content. But did you also know that local food
helps promote genetic diversity? And if you think about this,
large-scale operations select food for production based
upon their ability – the food’s ability, to ripen uniformly, withstand packaging,
withstand transportation, and sit on the shelf
for a long period of time. If you contrast that to local farms, we see that food at the local farm level
is genetically diverse because they want food to last
and extend for the whole harvest season. SL: SeAnne and I got to see a lot of farms because we drove down
the center of Sardinia to this little town to visit
the famous Melis family. So the Melises became famous
in the Guinness Book of World Records, for the highest combined age
of living siblings. And they also were studied
in the Blue Zones from around the world. And, unfortunately,
a couple of months prior to our arrival, the 108-year-old sibling had passed away. But we did get to meet four
of the remaining eight living siblings with Claudina being the eldest at 103. So Claudina – delightful,
you can tell by the picture, smile from ear to ear,
and she was so fun, and her family said that she’d
been extra spunky that morning – got out of bed
a little earlier than normal because “The Americans are coming!” She was super excited to have us there. And so we got the opportunity to ask her what she felt she ate through her life
that helped her to get to 103, and she broke into song, literally, “Fagioli e patata!” “Fagioli e patata!” So beans and potatoes, two of the ingredients that were
the backbone of the minestrone soup, that was written up in The Blue Zones. So along with olive oil, garlic and onion,
beans and potatoes made up that backbone. SeAnne and I really feel
there’s more to this story and the secret is in the
perpetual nature of their soup. So depending on what
was coming out in that harvest, or that time of year, those crops, the face of that soup changed – could change, you know,
throughout the year, various times, and up to 20 different vegetables
might be in the soup. So, Claudina shared with us that she’d
had soup that morning for breakfast, and maybe she was going to have
soup for lunch and dinner too. So, we wonder,
and perhaps you’ll wonder too: Does the perpetual nature of that soup lead to this family’s
seemingly perpetual lives? SSW: Soup-making
might just be the new juicing. Soup – the new trend – soup, contains the pulp,
the rind, the seeds and the skin that juicing often discards. That’s good news for those of you
who don’t like salads. So, we know from the research that those who consume soup
prior to a meal tend to eat about 20 percent less, meaning soup fills you up
and you eat less. We also know that most soups
are plant based, and plant-based diets are low-risk, cost-effective ways
to prevent chronic disease. So, healthcare providers should recommend plant-based diets
to most of their patients, especially those who have
chronic disease risk factors. We’re talking about diets such as
the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet. But, a plant-based diet doesn’t
necessarily mean a vegetarian diet. It means a diet
where the majority of your plate is filled with nutrient-dense plant foods
with minimum serving sizes of processed foods,
animal foods, and fats and oils. SL: So the very moment that we saw Tommie, we had to wonder if maybe she’d eaten
a plant-based diet all her life, or what was it that she did
to have her complexion be so beautiful? So, we thought, well,
through the translator we’ll ask. “Tommie, is there something that you do
to have your skin be so radiant?” And Tommie said, “Yes. Every morning I get up
and I do the same thing.” And so we are, like, prepped, right?
We are so excited about this. “I put on make up.” (Laughter) But Tommie truly did have
centenarian diet secrets to share with us. Tommie survived the Hiroshima bomb. She had cancer three times,
and was living to her 100th birthday. So she described
her garden as her lifeline. And not necessarily the fresh foods
coming out of the garden, but the foods that were fermented. So every day of her life, whether it was the cabbage
turned into kimchi, or the eggplant or the cucumbers
that were fermented, Tommie had a fermented food every day, sometimes more often than that, and she said that’s what sustained her. SSW: So fermented foods
have been around for a long time. Wine and beer fermentation
were ways of ensuring safe drinking water. And fermented foods
were the preservation method used to make sure
that vegetables lasted all year around. So this has been around for a long time. In the fermentation process bacteria is introduced
to the food that breaks it down and it also introduces something
we call probiotics. And probiotics – we’re just beginning to not only be able to identify different strains
of probiotics, we’re also being able to,
through research, understand the benefits of probiotics in our trillions of gut microorganisms
that we have in our stomach. So, we know that probiotics are important
in protecting our immune system, we know that they’re important
in preventing diarrhea and constipation, and the newest emerging research
talks about probiotics as being important in insulin resistance, and that is very important
for preventing type 2 diabetes. So, what types of foods
are we talking about with fermentation and how often should we eat them? Well, foods that are listed up here, but the most common ones
you probably already are eating: yogurt with live cultures, sauerkraut that has been
refrigerated, or homemade, because you want
to keep the bacteria alive, and you’ll notice a trend
in the grocery stores for kombucha. It’s everywhere these days. So those are some
of the three most common, and it’s recommended,
a daily dose of those. SL: So, over a glass
of delicious “fermented” red wine, SeAnne and I got to meet
two amazing gentlemen, both named Michael,
both shepherds in Italy. One was a shepherd of goats
and one a [sheepherder]. And these gentlemen talked about
how they had hard times in their lives, where they would maybe
leave for a week at a time with only a loaf of bread
and a chunk of pecorino cheese. And they had to forage off the land, they had to find ways to survive. And so they learned what plants
they could and couldn’t eat, and Michael N. was particularly funny
because he had the goat herd and he said, “I just watch my goats,
and if the goats won’t eat it, damned if I would eat it.” (Laughter) So, we laughed like that too, and it actually allowed us
the opportunity to ask them about wine, or vino, in their diet. And Michael S., you know,
he was quick to raise his hand and tell us how he felt that’s what helped him
live to be a strong, older man, and he said, “Remember, water is for washing, vino is for drinking.” (Laughter) SSW: Ah … wine. Should we drink the wine,
or shouldn’t we drink the wine? And what does the research say? I know everybody wants to walk out of here
knowing the answer to that question. Well, we know that, with inflammation – wine is linked to inflammation – and we know that with heart disease,
and dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease the body responds – has an inflammatory response. So, drinking wine, which has the polyphenol,
which is a phytochemical – it has a polyphenol – red wine –
in it called resveratrol, and resveratrol is a very,
very important anti-inflammatory. So, drinking one to two glasses
of vino per day may not be a bad thing. But, there’s also anti-inflammatory
components in plants, vegetables in particular,
and nuts and seeds. And if you look at the research,
you will find time and time again, leafy green vegetables
come up over and over again as being particularly protective. So, we’re not here to tell you how to incorporate vegetables
into your diets, but we are here to encourage you to do it. And if you don’t listen to science
and if you don’t listen to two dietitians, perhaps you’ll listen to the centenarians. SL: So, as you can see we got to meet
some really amazing centenarians, actually over 20. And through those interviews
we discovered and confirmed that vegetables were important
to reduce chronic disease risk and increase the chance
of living to be 100. So, whether or not you’re
one of those people in the room that’s going to reach your century mark, or maybe you just want to have the end
of your years be as healthy as possible, we wanted to leave you
with these centenarian takeaways. We also feel like Regina,
at 100 years old, said it best, when she said, “To live to 100,
you must have a purpose in life, love your God, and eat your vegetables.” Thank you very much. (Applause)