…Learn the Secrets of Anti-Ageing from Within
By Gosia Desmond
Every day we are bombarded with advertisements promising the newest anti-ageing quick-fix. These ‘treatments’ often cost a pretty penny, and there are no guarantees. Worldwide, people attend their naturopaths or nutritional therapists enquiring about ways to remain youthful. Is there a way? What can we do? The great news is that according to the latest advances in medical science, we do not need to spend a fortune to get the best anti-ageing treatment available. Scientists are now advocating that we can significantly slow down the metabolic ageing process and live up to a decade longer in good health simply by adopting a healthier lifestyle – eating the right diet, exercising regularly and effectively managing stress in our lives.
In a society obsessed with appearances, ageing is often associated in our communities with wrinkles and grey hair. In actuality, the ageing process is much more complex and affects all of our internal organs, our immune system, our nervous system, and our mental processes. In this article, it will become clear that the choices we make during our lives will have a profound effect on how young we are both on the outside and on the inside.
Lessons in Longevity
When examining lifestyle choices that will result in a longer and healthier life, we need to look to the example of people living today who embody health, well-being and longevity. Residents of Okinawa, the Hunza Valley, and Seventh-day Adventists from Loma Linda in California, live longer and healthier lives than just about anyone else on Earth. These groups produce a high rate of centenarians, only suffer a fraction of the diseases that commonly kill people in other parts of the developed world, and enjoy full health late into their lives.
This is no accident. Of course, it begins with inherited good genes, but it is maintenance of good habits more than good genes that make a centenarian.
The Secrets of Healthy Centenarians
Of the groups mentioned above, it is the Seventh-day Adventists that have given researchers the best opportunity to answer fundamental questions about human health and longevity, as other residents of California with the same ethnic background live shorter and ‘sicker’ lives when compared with their Seventh-day Adventist neighbours.
Two major research programmes conducted over the last 40 years by the Californian Loma Linda University on 24,000 and 34,000 Californian Seventh-day Adventists (funded by the US National Institute of Health) have given us detailed insight into the secrets of long and healthy life.
This research indicates that Seventh-day Adventists live 5-10 years longer than average and have a much lower rate of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis and hypertension. What do they know that the rest of us do not? Essentially, for nearly 140 years, Seventh-day Adventists have been encouraged to follow an unrefined, plant-based diet, avoiding meat and consuming 5-9 servings of fruits, vegetables and nuts in their diets on a daily basis. In addition, they take regular exercise and have a positive mental attitude.
The Science Behind a Plant-Based Diet
As the studies of the Seventh-day Adventists show, through a combination of healthy diet, regular exercise and positive mental attitude, we can actually slow the metabolic ageing process. Looking at diet alone, how does an unrefined, plant-based diet work at increasing longevity?
High Nutrient Density
Fruit and vegetables contain not just vitamins and minerals but also phytochemicals (e.g. carotenoids and flavonoids). Through their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, they may provide the necessary protection to prevent a number of ageing parameters. The antioxidants neutralise free radicals, which are highly reactive substances that damage cells, contribute to ageing and encourage many serious diseases, such as heart disease, dementia and cancer. Moreover, plant phytochemicals can boost our internal detoxification system and plant phytonutrients can have direct effects on neuronal communication, boosting our mental power.
Low Caloric Density
Excess calories produce numerous metabolic disturbances within the body that can contribute to degenerative diseases such as diabetes and cancer. Additionally, excessive caloric intake is thought to be one of the most important factors in the ageing process. In unrefined form, we can eat as much fruit and vegetables as we like without consuming excess calories, and at the same time providing our bodies with all the valuable nutrients and antioxidants that slow down the ageing process. Fruit and vegetables are the most important food components in a healthy weight loss.
Low in Saturated Fat
Excess saturated fat ages our arteries and our immune system. It can lead to increased insulin levels in the body and can also increase our levels of AGEs (Advanced Glycation End-products), which are powerful promoters of ageing, especially skin ageing. Lastly, high fat diets can age our brain, contributing to cognitive decline.
High in Fibre
Fibre helps to minimise the process of AGE (Advanced Glycation End-products) formation, decreases the levels of insulin, keeps our cholesterol down and helps to reduce inflammation! It is a truly powerful anti-ageing diet component.
Following an unrefined, plant-based diet, taking regular physical exercise and encouraging a positive mental attitude can work miracles. This lifestyle does not only work for Seventh-day Adventists – rather, it has been proven in numerous scientific experiments to reverse advanced coronary artery disease, to control/reverse diabetes (type 2) and most recently at Harvard University to reverse the growth of prostate cancer by altering the genes responsible for tumour growth.
The evidence for the efficacy of a plant-based diet is increasing all the time. In fact, the American Institute for Cancer Research have launched a campaign to challenge the current food pyramid and to convince Americans to adopt a more plant-based diet. Its anti-ageing properties are well-known to celebrities like Demi Moore, Tiger Woods, Brad Pitt and Clint Eastwood, all of whom follow this diet and lifestyle.
Five Top Tips for Implementing the Centenarian Way of Eating
1. Increase your fruit and vegetable intake – remember 9 is the new 5!
2. Minimise intake of red meat
3. Minimise intake of processed meats
4. Be careful with oils – even plant oils should only be taken in moderation
5. Replace refined grains in your diet with whole grains
Gosia Desmond (M.Sc. BSc Nutritional med. M.IANT) is head of nutrition research at the College of Naturopathic Medicine (www.naturopathy.ie). She will be hosting a seminar on the evening of January 15th 2009 concerning the role of nutrition in combating ageing. For more information or to book a place, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 01-2353094 Cost 15 euros.