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Foods that really can boost your immunity

Foods that really can boost your immunity

A few days of stress, poor sleep and skipped meals won’t just leave you vulnerable to catching a cold, it could put you at risk of life-changing diseases. That’s because your immune system is one of the body’s five key defence systems — immunity, stem cells, gut bacteria, blood vessels and DNA protection — and when any are weakened, it can open the door to myriad health problems. All this week we have been serialising a groundbreaking new book, Eat To Beat Disease, by U.S. doctor and scientist Dr William Li. It explains how each of the body’s defence systems work, and shows you the sometimes surprising foods that can be added to your diet to support these systems and help your body stay healthy. In today’s pullout — part of the Mail’s Good Health for Life month — he explains how to incorporate the important information given throughout this series into your diet, and pick the foods that will help you fight specific conditions and diseases. He also reveals the importance of the immune system, and the foods that can make it more effective — and those that slow it down when it runs amok and starts to cause illness itself. When it’s on top form, your immune system protects the body from any invasions by viruses, bacteria and parasites through an ingeniously designed system of pattern recognition. This allows your immune cells to identify and destroy threats while leaving healthy cells alone. It is (or should be) a system on perpetual standby, like the fire brigade, ready to leap into action when an alarm is sounded.
A healthy body automatically knows whether to turn up or turn down its immune response. Neither inactive nor overactive, it operates from a point where all forces are carefully balanced and constantly alert. But the stresses and strains of modern life can render it weak. Obesity puts you at risk of this, as does diabetes, malnutrition (which includes an unhealthy diet, as well as insufficient food) and too much alcohol. A weak immune system doesn’t just let rogue infections slip through the net, it can also cause it to become confused and start attacking its own harmless cells. These exaggerated immune responses are seen in allergic reactions, where the immune system adopts an overkill response to an otherwise harmless allergen, such as pollen or a certain food. The same reaction can lead to asthma.
Immune system overactivity can also manifest as serious autoimmune diseases including type 1 diabetes, lupus (a condition causing inflammation of the joints, skin and organs), multiple sclerosis, psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis. These are all the result of damage to cells caused by a trigger-happy immune system viewing something innocent as a foreign invader. Regular exercise, proper sleep, and lowering and managing your stress levels will all help your immune system stay healthy. But recent discoveries have changed our understanding of the immune system. The study of food compounds has advanced significantly in recent years, and we know that what we eat and drink can turn the two arms of immunity — the under-performing immune system and over-functioning immune system — up or down to defend our health. You can boost your body’s resilience with foods that support our immune defences, and foods that can calm it when it becomes overactive.
Turn to the back page to read about the specific foods that can fine-tune your immune system and help you thwart disease. And, overleaf, discover how diet changes can be used to fight serious diseases. Strengthen defences to tackle cancer We have always blamed genetics, smoking, the environment, a bad diet, and other external factors for cancer. But the truth is that, regardless of its cause, cancer only becomes a disease once malignant cells escape being destroyed by the immune system. Normally, when the earliest signs of cancerous growths are spotted by first-responder immune cells, they send out cancer-killing cells. Sometimes, cancer cells use camouflage to dodge this process, and wrap themselves in some friendly proteins to fool immune cells into thinking they are normal. By hiding like this, these cancer cells are able to grow. If your immune system is weakened, cancer cells can be missed, and are able to multiply freely without fear of attack.
A staggering one in two people in the UK will develop cancer at some point in their lifetime, and its toxic treatments are often feared as much as the disease itself. If you’ve got it, had it, or you’re worried about getting it, then it is important to shore up your defences and help your body destroy the cancer cells — or support it through treatment. When working well, your own immunity is so powerful it can protect you against cancer. Indeed, some of the most revolutionary cancer treatments are now aimed at activating the immune system. If you have cancer, you need to protect your immune system —especially if you receive high-dose chemotherapy and/or radiation, both of which deliver a smackdown to immune defences. If you are receiving one of the new cancer immunotherapies, which rely on your immune system to wipe out cancer cells, it’s critical to get it into prime shape. The food you eat will play a role in this goal. You’ll get extra cancer-fighting support if you call in your body’s other defence systems, too. That’s because all cancers depend on weaknesses in angiogenesis (the formation of blood vessels) to grow; have rogue stem cells that need to be destroyed; are riddled with DNA mutations; and can be wiped out by your body’s immune system defences.

I recommend that you eat:
Foods with ‘anti-angiogenic’ properties — rogue angiogenesis feeds the cancer — that can starve a tumour by cutting off its blood supply, such as tomatoes and blueberries.
Foods that help get rid of tenacious cancer stem cells, such as purple sweet potatoes, which improve the odds that the cancer won’t come back following treatment.
A diet that activates the immune system (see back page) and foods that promote a healthier microbiome (the community of bacteria in your gut), which can assist in cancer control and elimination (look out for these in tomorrow’s pullout).
Foods that protect DNA (oysters, oyster sauce, or herbs) so your body can both shield you and repair any errors in your DNA that could lead to cancer.

Exercising while cutting calories may be bad for your BONES

Exercising while cutting calories may be bad for your BONES

Combining exercising with cutting calories is often the go-to for weight loss. But research suggests being active while restricting how much we eat may be bad for our bones. Scientists put mice on a restrictive diet and 'running routine' for six weeks. They lost weight, which the team thought would make their bones more robust. The researchers were therefore surprised to discover the rodents' bone volume had actually decreased by 20 per cent.
From a 'human perspective', the researchers warn cutting calories while exercising could have a 'great impact on bones', particularly in women, whose bones naturally weaken with age. The University of North Carolina study comes amid a growing trend for calorie-restricting diets, such as the 5:2 or 16:8 eating patterns. 'These findings were somewhat of a surprise for us,' lead author Dr Maya Styner said. 'Past studies in mice have shown us exercise paired with a normal-calorie diet, and even a high-calorie diet, is good for bone health. 'Now we're learning this isn't true for exercise along with a calorie-restricted diet. 'Looking at this from a human perspective, even a lower calorie diet that is very nutritionally sound can have negative effects on bone health, especially paired with exercise.' Exercise has been shown to support bone strength, the researchers wrote in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research.
However, the effect of calorie reduction on this process was less clear. To learn more, the researchers fed mice a normal diet or one with 30 per cent less calories. For context, the US Department of Agriculture recommends a 'moderately active' 30-year-old woman eats 2,000 calories a day. A 30 per cent reduction would take her to 1,400 calories, which is around the amount suggested to help women lose weight at a healthy rate of 1lb (0.4kg) a week. Some of the rodents in both groups were allowed to be sedentary, while the remainder were put on a 'running exercise'. After six weeks, the 'diet group' weighed 20 per cent less than the mice on the regular diet, which the researchers put down to their food and not their activity levels. The team measured the animals' thigh bones via 3D MRI scans. They found bone volume was 20 per cent less in the calorie-restricted mice.
The calorie-restricted rodents were given supplements to match the vitamin and mineral intake of the animals on the regular diet. Their reduction in bone health was therefore down to cutting calories rather than a lack of nutrients, the researchers said. Another surprising result was the increase of bone marrow fat in the calorie-restricted mice, despite them losing weight overall. Bone marrow fat is thought to make the bones of mammals, including mice and humans, weaker, the researchers claim.
'This was mild caloric restriction and we found a significant increase of fat in the bone marrow,' Dr Styner said. 'This group also had a decrease in bone quantity - they had less bone overall due to the cut in calories.' Although the study was carried out in animals, the researchers believe similar results could apply to humans, particularly women. 'This is important for women to consider because as we age our bone health starts to naturally decline,' Dr Styner said. 'Your calorie intake and exercise routine can have a great impact on the strength of your bones and your risk for break or fracture.' The researchers are planning further studies to uncover the purpose of bone marrow fat, and how it is affected by diet and exercise.
Calorie-restricted diets have surged in popularity in recent years, with more and more people turning to fasts, like the 5:2, low-carb plans, such as Atkins, and juicing 'cleanses'. As well as promoting weight loss, fasting alone has been linked to a longer life, stronger immune system and even a reduced risk of cancer. Limiting carbs may help lower blood pressure, prevent diabetes and boost heart health.

HOW MUCH EXERCISE DO YOU NEED TO DO?
To stay healthy, adults aged 19 to 64 should try to be active daily and should do:
at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity such as cycling or brisk walking every week and
strength exercises on 2 or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms)
Or:
75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity such as running or a game of singles tennis every week and
strength exercises on 2 or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms)
Or:
a mix of moderate and vigorous aerobic activity every week – for example, 2 x 30-minute runs plus 30 minutes of brisk walking equates to 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity and
strength exercises on 2 or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms)
A good rule is that 1 minute of vigorous activity provides the same health benefits as 2 minutes of moderate activity.
One way to do your recommended 150 minutes of weekly physical activity is to do 30 minutes on 5 days every week.
All adults should also break up long periods of sitting with light activity.

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