March 2017

David Katz

Now, more than ever, it’s important to decipher fact from fiction when it comes to the news. We’re getting problems from both sides — actual fake news, purporting to be real news, with snake-oil salesmen trying to sell us on the latest and greatest “discovery,” and a new presidential administration that is trying to convince us that real news is fake. That’s why media and science literacy is so important — so you can tell the fact from the fiction. For starters, check out this guide from the BBC that includes advice from The Guardian’s health editor Sarah Boseley, BBC science and health reporter James Gallagher, and Stat News columnist Ivan Oransky.
Share the truth — not hype. 

For last month’s issue, click HERE.

What should really be the takeaways from the most buzzed-about health studies? We unpack it for you here.

Can camping
help my sleep?

The Study Conclusion

Research out of the University of Colorado Boulder and published in the journal Current Biology shows the impact of natural light exposure in the daytime and true darkness in the nighttime on our circadian rhythm — even for only a weekend.
Previously, researcher Kenneth Wright had found that study participants who went camping for a week in the summer seemed to experience recalibration effects with regard to their internal clocks, specifically the rise in melatonin levels. (Melatonin is a hormone that tells the body when it’s time to sleep and is integral to our internal clock. When it rises — usually about two hours before bedtime —it’s telling the body it’s time to get ready for bed; melatonin levels stay high throughout the night, but wane as daylight approaches and it’s time to wake up.)
In this new research, Wright and his team had study participants spend a week camping in the winter in one experiment, and in another experiment had one group of study participants spend a weekend camping and compared them with another group that just stayed home. They found that the camping seemed to shift the study participants’ circadian rhythms and timing of the rise of melatonin — and naturally reset our sleep cycles.
In the experiment involving those who went camping for a full week, the participants tended to sleep for a longer amount of time at night and go to bed earlier while camping; they were also exposed to more light during the day than they usually would be when not camping. And when researchers measured the timing of their rise in melatonin upon their return from camping, it was 2.6 hours earlier than before they embarked on the camping trip.
In the experiment involving comparing weekend campers with people staying home, those who went camping for the weekend maintained a regular sleep schedule, compared with those who stayed home (who tended to stay up later and wake up later). And among the campers, upon their return from camping, it was discovered their melatonin began to rise 1.4 hours earlier than before. 

“Getting people ‘back to nature’ through camping also got them back to natural light/dark cycles and natural sleep-wake cycles.”
– Joseph Ojile

A Look at the Media Coverage

Headlines included “Not Getting Enough Sleep? Camping In February Might Help” (NPR), “How Camping Helps You Sleep Better” (Time), and “Having trouble sleeping? Grab a tent and go camping, suggest researchers” (The Guardian). According to Joseph M. Ojile, MD, DABSM, a True Health Initiative council member and founder and CEO of the Clayton Sleep Institute, media coverage of the research was accurate and provided good insight for readers “about sleep, the sleep-wake cycle and measures available to achieve healthy sleep- wake behaviors.” 

How YOU Should Apply the Findings to Your Life

“Getting people ‘back to nature’ through camping also got them back to natural light/dark cycles and natural sleep-wake cycles regardless of the time of year, and artificial light and exposure to smartphones and other screens delayed the internal sleep clock by two hours in the summer and two-and-one-half hours in the winter,” Ojile explains. “The strategies health professionals encourage — keeping a regular bedtime and wake time, eliminating or minimizing use of electronic devices in the evening, exposing yourself to bright light in the morning — can help create and maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle.”
If your sleep-wake cycle is disrupted, talk to your doctor about strategies that could work for you, Ojile advises. “There is excellent standard light therapy and other measures that can improve the sleep-wake cycle as well as overall health.” 

What are telomeres, and why should I care about them?

What are telomeres?

You may have heard the word “telomeres” here and there, perhaps when you’re reading health articles online or perusing the wellness aisle at the bookstore (there’s even a new book out about telomeres by Nobel Prize winner Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn titled “The Telomere Effect”). But maybe you’re not really sure what they are, or what they might tell us about our health. THI council member, epidemiologist and biostatistician Dr. Shirin Anil, MBBS, MSC, author of “Healthful Eating As Lifestyle (HEAL): Integrative Prevention for Non-Communicable Diseases,” explains that a “telomere” — which is a word derived from the Greek word “telos,” meaning” end,” and “mero,” meaning “part” — forms the “end part” or “cap” of chromosomes, found in the nucleus of almost all living cells. A chromosome is made up of DNA that carries the genetic information in the form of genes.
“Telomeres serve three important functions in humans: organize 46 chromosomes in the cell nucleus, protect the ends of chromosomes — and hence not letting the chromosomes stick to one another — and allow chromosomes to be replicated properly during cell division,” she explains. Every time chromosomes replicate, they shorten and may lose genes. Telomeres, which form the caps of the chromosomes, are lost instead during cell division, thereby protecting the chromosome from losing genetic material. “If the telomere is shortened, the chromosome shortens to a critical length during cell division beyond which it cannot replicate, which leads to programmed cell death,” Anil says. Why is telomere length important? If telomere length is maintained or increased, aging of the cells is prevented, which ultimately prevents aging of the human body,” Anil says.

“If telomere length is maintained or increased, aging of the cells is prevented, which ultimately prevents aging of the human body.”
– Shirin Anil
This all begs the question: How can you increase telomere length, or at least maintain it? “Many studies have investigated leukocyte telomere length and age-dependent attrition rate, which are the biological indicators of human aging,” Anil says. She rounded up some key ones here: 
  • A 2008 study including 2,401 twins from the UK Adult Twin Registry showed that physical activity level in leisure time was positively associated with increased leukocyte telomere length. And, this association remained significant even after adjusting for age, sex, body mass index, socioeconomic status, smoking, and physical activity at work.
  • A 2014 study on 4,676 disease-free women in the Nurses’ Health study found that greater adherence to Mediterranean diet is associated with longer telomere length.
  • A 2010 study from the Nurses’ Health study showed that dietary fiber, specifically cereal fiber, is associated with longer telomere length. This study also found that polyunsaturated fatty acid intake (linoleic acid in particular) and waist circumference were inversely associated with telomere length.
  • A 2013 study on 4,029 apparently healthy postmenopausal women in the Women’s Health Initiative study found that short to medium chain saturated fatty acids intake is associated with shorter telomere length.
  • A 2014 study of 5,309 U.S. adults age 20 to 65 with no history of diabetes or cardiovascular disease found that sugar sweetened soda is associated with shorter telomeres.
  • The 2008 Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis and 2016 Strong Heart Family Study showed that intake of processed meat was associated with shorter leukocyte telomere length.
  • A 2017 study on 5,826 adults from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey showed that caffeine consumption was inversely associated to telomere length after adjusting for age, sex, race, education, marital status, housing, BMI, smoking, physical activity, coffee intake, and alcohol use.
  • A 2016 follow-up study on 5,624 participants in the Health and Retirement study showed that smoking is associated with shorter telomere length.

In other words: increase physical activity, eat a Mediterranean diet, increase fiber intake (specifically cereal fiber), decrease your waist circumference, decrease consumption of fat (short- to medium-chain saturated and poly-unsaturated fat), decrease consumption of sugar-sweetened soda, decrease consumption of processed meat, decrease caffeine intake, and stop smoking if you are a smoker. 

The True Health Coalition is home to thousands of members unified in support of the initiative's core principles. The Council of Directors now includes over 320 leading experts and influencers from over 30 countries, committed to cutting through the noise and educating on only the evidence-based, proven principles of lifestyle as medicine. Council members include physicians, research scientists, chefs, authors, journalists, and other opinion leaders.

Andrew Weil, MD

Dr. Weil is a world-renowned leader and pioneer in the field of integrative medicine. Combining a Harvard education and a lifetime of practicing natural and preventive medicine, Dr. Weil is Director of the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, where he also holds the Lovell-Jones Endowed Chair in Integrative Rheumatology and is Clinical Professor of Medicine and Professor of Public Health. The Center is the leading effort in the world to develop a comprehensive curriculum in integrative medicine. Graduates serve as directors of integrative medicine programs throughout the United States, and through its Fellowship, the Center is now training doctors and nurse practitioners around the world.

Dr. Weil is an internationally-recognized expert for his views on leading a healthy lifestyle, his philosophy of healthy aging, and his critique of the future of medicine and health care. He is the editorial director of the popular website,, and appears in video programs featured on PBS. Dr. Weil is the founder and Chairman of The Weil Foundation, and the the founder and co-Chairman of Healthy Lifestyle Brands. He is also a founder and co-owner of the growing group of True Food Kitchen restaurants. Dr. Weil writes a monthly column for Prevention magazine. A frequent lecturer and guest on talk shows, Dr. Weil is an internationally recognized expert on medicinal plants, alternative medicine, and the reform of medical education. He lives in Tucson, Arizona, USA. He is the author of many scientific and popular articles and of 13 books.


Monique Rainford, MD

Monique Rainford, M.D., is a medical doctor specializing in Obstetrics and Gynecology. She is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard Medical School where she has been recognized for her outstanding academic performance having been awarded the John Russwarm Award for Academic excellence and the Robert H. Ebert Award in Primary Care Medicine from each University respectively. She completed her residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Georgetown University Medical Center. She is a Diplomate of the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology and a Fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.She had done additional studies in Lifestyle Medicine and has been a member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine since 2013.  

In addition to practicing obstetrics and gynecology, Dr Rainford has found many avenues to assist underserved communities through outreach programs and her connection with Rotary International. She has worked in many communities in the United States and Jamaica including, Washington DC, Fort Lauderdale, FL, Kingston, Jamaica and currently Maryland.

When she was in private practice in Jamaica, Dr Rainford was very involved in the medical community and served as president of the Jamaica Menopause Society, the Jamaica Association for the Advancement of Midlife Health and was a volunteer colposcopist at the Jamaica Cancer Society. She was an active member of the Rotary Club of Kingston and served in leadership positions for many years.

She was a columnist for the Daily Gleaner, Jamaica’s largest daily newspaper and provided relationship advice for the South Florida Times. She has also published in the Journal of Reproductive Medicine. She has participated in several radio and television interviews on various topics in Obstetrics and Gynecology, relationships and Lifestyle Medicine.  She has also had numerous public speaking appearances discussing topics related to these three subject areas.  

Dr Rainford is the author of “The Maternal Glow – A Jamaican Woman’s Guide to Pregnancy” and has recently published “Please God Send Me A Husband.” She is happily married to Chester Ryan Bourne and they are the proud parents of Zane and Kia.


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