Good food makes us live longer and healthier lives

Good food makes us live longer and healthier lives

June 03, 2016

Good food makes us live longer and healthier lives

To live longer and healthier it is important to focus on lifestyle, including good food. But it’s only a winning strategy if started in early childhood and continued for a lifetime.

Life expectancy is constantly growing and as a consequence the global population is living longer and longer. Between 1950 and 2010, there has been a 13% average annual increase in people aged 65 and over and it is predicted that by 2050 there will be just under two billion over 65s. This change in the composition of the population is capable of generating huge problems in terms of health, given that almost 80% of people of this age have at least one chronic illness and about 50% have two or more.

Goal: to age healthily

Ageing is not an illness in itself, but rather a physiological process experienced by all living organisms. It is important, however, to highlight that with the passing of time the organism does lose strength, particularly if we don’t take of the perfect machine that is our human body.  

The most effective “maintenance” we can do is lead a healthy lifestyle, which is fundamental if we are to prevent the positive phenomenon of higher life expectancy turning bad with an increased number of years spent ill with a poor quality of life. For this reason the problem of age-associated illnesses cannot only be tackled when the threshold of 65 has been passed or when illnesses appear: we need a preventative approach that starts in infancy.

What the science says

Lifestyle plays a fundamental role in influencing the ageing process and even though it cannot stop time, it can in a certain sense help slow it down, keeping age-associated chronic illnesses at bay, primarily obesity which in turn is a risk factor for diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular diseases. And to convince the sceptics here is a fact: a healthy lifestyle full of good food, no smoking and regular physical activity extends average life expectancy by 5 to 14 years.

Experts are in no doubt: healthy eating significantly contributes towards being active and healthy in old age. In the case of type 2 diabetes (the type that appears in old age), diet changes are the main strategy for preventing and managing the illness and its complications. Many other illnesses that frequently occur over the age 60, such as cardiovascular diseases, some tumours, osteoporosis and even some neurodegenerative diseases (like Alzheimer’s) can in part be prevented by the choice of what you put on your plate. In Eating Planet BCFN experts have compiled food advice for different age groups all based on the Mediterranean diet.

Basic mechanisms

Research into the link between food and ageing is going full steam ahead. New data shows the mechanisms behind the interaction between food and the body, down to the level of individual cells and DNA. For instance, a bad diet acts as a “fuel” for so-called “silent inflammation”, slight and constant inflammation of the tissues and organs which appears to play a critical role in the development of many chronic illnesses. The food we put on the table therefore influences our body’s response to inflammation. Research into the relationship between food and health at a cellular level has demonstrated the benefits of restricted calorie intake, i.e. the number of calories consumed throughout the day. According to many recent studies this represents a powerful tool for slowing down the phenomenon of cell degeneration and increasing life expectancy, and its applications need to be studied further over the years to come.

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