A study by Columbia University researchers found that ALS sufferers who eat a lot of vegetables and fruits fare much better than those who eat a lot of meat and dairy products.

ALS, short for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is the terrifying autoimmune condition that entered the public spotlight through the Ice Bucket Challenge, which saw celebrities on Facebook pouring buckets of cold water on their heads to raise awareness.

I am not sure why they chose to pour buckets of icy water over their heads, but I can imagine that receiving an ALS diagnosis must feel something like that. In most cases, the diagnosis means a death sentence and the way of dying is not exactly what most would chose.

The condition kills neurons responsible for voluntary muscle movement, which leads to a gradual loss of control over one’s limbs, facial muscles, the ability to swallow and eventually the ability to breath.

Most people die by suffocating within two years from receiving the diagnoses but there are also some long-term survivors, the best known of them being physicist Stephen Hawking.

The Columbia University study involved 302 individuals who were asked to keep a detailed food journal. The researchers found that those who had reported eating lots of fruit and veg were functioning better than those whose diet was less than optimal.

“It appears that nutrition plays a role both in triggering the disease and why it progresses,” said Jeri W. Nieves, PhD, associate professor of Epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

“For this reason, ALS patients should eat foods high in antioxidants and carotenes, as well as high fibre grains, fish, and poultry.”

The Columbia team is not the only one pointing to the link between diet and ALS prognosis. Functional medicine rock star, Iowa University professor Terry Wahls, who reversed her multiple sclerosis with a carefully researched diet, says she’s had patients suffering from ALS that have seen their condition improve by following the Wahls Protocol.

Exercise and healthy diet for a better working brain

You clearly don’t need to wait for an ALS diagnoses to start eating better. We all are getting old, inevitably. Research suggests that the way we are going to age will depend on what we eat and whether we exercise or not. In fact, you don’t need to wait for the old age to reap the benefits. A recent study by Canadian researchers looked at a pretty large sample of 45,522 individuals at 30 to 80 years of age. They compared self-reported data about how those people ate with their performance in a test assessing mental processes such as thinking, memory and problem solving.

Across all the age groups, those eating 5 to 10 portions of fruits and veg a day and exercising performed much better in the test than those who ate barely any fruit and veg and did not exercise.

Unless you live in a vacuum, you have probably noticed that some people appear ageless while for others adding years seems like a curse.

We all know that Jane Fonda is gorgeous at nearly 80 but let’s look at someone even older who doesn’t have Jane’s resources to keep fit. Watching 90-year-old German gymnast Johanna Quaas performing her exercises is simply inspiring. I don’t know how about you but I want to be able to do all that at her age.

A study by Swiss and Swedish researchers also found that physically fit people deal better with work-related stress.

Smoking a pack a day for a year causes 150 mutations in lung cells

Smoking is bad – we all know that. I used to smoke when I was a teenager and well into my twenties and I certainly wish I did not. Now being a health freak in my thirties, I am quite concerned about all the damage I have caused myself.

A recent study published in Science found that smokers accumulate an average of 150 extra mutations in every lung cell for each year of smoking one packet of cigarettes a day. DNA mutations happen as we age but with smoking they happen much faster – and they can lead to cancer and other nasty stuff.

“Our research indicates that the way tobacco smoking causes cancer is more complex than we thought,” said Professor Sir Mike Stratton, joint lead author from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. “Indeed, we do not fully understand the underlying causes of many types of cancer and there are other known causes, such as obesity, about which we understand little of the underlying mechanism.”

The good thing is that while we can massively hurt our DNA, we can also repair it, at least to a certain extent. If you have ever smoked, you may want to start eating more dark leafy greens, which are known for their ability to facilitate DNA repair and switch the bad genes off again. Stress reduction techniques such as meditation and exercise contribute to the process as well.

More about epigenetics and how to silence your bad genes and promote the good ones in my article about Terry Wahls and her work and this interview with Chad Larson about autoimmunity.