New study reveals the No. 1 predictor of a long, healthy life
As I was writing the article on the benefits of beer on page 4, I started thinking about the infamous French paradox. In the 1980s, researchers found that the French population had half the rate of heart disease, but double the government’s favorite risk factors for heart disease, at that time (including drinking wine, eating dietary cholesterol and fats, and smoking).
So, because the facts didn’t fit the mainstream researchers’ flawed and failed theories, they decided it simply had to be chalked up as a “paradox.”
It turns out, of course, that the real science showed there was no paradox at all—mainstream medical research was just all wrong, all along. And they allowed their myths about diet and so-called cardiovascular “risk factors” to get in the way of a true understanding of how nutrition and lifestyle influences chronic diseases.
Now, a new generation of researchers has stumbled into another health paradox—the so-called “obesity paradox.” And it’s just as dangerous and ill-advised as the French paradox…
The faulty thinking behind the obesity paradox
At the heart of the obesity paradox are two sets of conflicting observations.
First, numerous studies show that a higher body mass index (BMI) can lead to inflammation and metabolic syndrome, which is the culprit behind many chronic diseases and may influence longevity (as I discuss on page 1).
But other studies show that, in older people and in people with heart disease, kidney disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), being a little overweight can actually extend their lifespan.
To try and make sense of this, researchers have come up with the obesity paradox—stating that a high BMI can actually increase some people’s longevity.
But one of the key flaws behind the obesity paradox is the mainstream’s insistence on relying on BMI as an indicator of excess body fat—and the health conditions associated with obesity.
When I first started as a researcher at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), I saw many of multimillion-dollar studies that used BMI as the standard indicator of body fat, weight, and body composition.
But BMI is just a statistical manipulation (a ratio of weight to height)—which, of course, appeals to the statisticians who rule the roost at NIH when it comes to diet, nutrition, and disease research.
On the contrary, anthropologists, human biologists, and the real experts on nutrition research already knew the importance of using more accurate ways of measuring body fat and body composition, which allows for better studies with more precise results. But the medical statisticians stick with their lousy methods for estimating excess body weight, just like they stick to their lousy methods for estimating dietary intake (as I often report).
These sloppy methods and failed myths about diet have led to a generation of “nutritional science” that was, again, all wrong, all along.
Which leads me to a new study that beautifully details this concept…and shows what really matters when it comes to lifespan.
Your gait is a true predictor of longevity
The study involved nearly 2,230 people, ages 60 or older, who had been admitted to a hospital with heart disease.1 Before they were discharged, their BMI and gait speed (how fast and well they were able to walk) were measured.
The patients were then split into two groups based upon their gait speed. One group walked faster than two and a half feet per second, and the other group walked slower. Then, those groups were split into another two groups based on whether they had higher or lower BMIs.
The researchers ran more tests on all four groups, and found that the group with higher BMI and a faster gait speed had better survival than the group with higher BMI and a slower gait speed.
This study reinforces what I’ve been telling you for years—that the single most important predictor of how long you’ll live is the quality and speed of your gait. NOT how much you weigh… especially as you get older.
So the next time your doctor tries to hassle you about a little extra body weight—especially if you’re older—but you still have a normal gait and are able to walk efficiently and quickly, just go ahead and walk away.
And there are ways to help ensure your gait stays steady as you age. Start by maintaining good balance. Balance allows your brain to rapidly process and integrate information from your eyes, inner ear, and limbs to help keep you upright and on your feet. In addition, be sure to build and maintain muscle mass, as strong muscles support a healthy, brisk gait.
You can do this by adopting a healthy, balanced, whole-food diet (like a Mediterranean-type diet) that includes plenty of protein with every meal, engaging in regular, moderate exercise daily (I recommend 20 minutes daily, or a total of 140 minutes per week), and staying away from cholesterol-lowering drugs, as they actually damage your muscles (I’ll reveal all the latest alarming findings about cholesterol and statins in next month’s issue, so stay tuned).
1“Impact of Gait Speed on the Obesity Paradox in Older Patients With Cardiovascular Disease.” Am J Med. 2019 Dec;132(12):1458-1465.e1.