Anti-Aging Foods

Research is finding that the best anti-aging foods are those that have been processed the least.

Echoing numerous animal studies published in years past, research on humans is learning that a diet full of whole, naturally-nutrient-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains appears to slow the aging process.

Body Temperatures, Insulin

Research from Louisiana State University, for example, recently compared healthy overweight people following a typically calorie-rich American diet with healthy, overweight people on a 900-calorie-a-day diet rich in whole natural foods like fruits and vegetables.

After six months, the whole-food eaters not only lost a lot of weight but also had significantly lower insulin levels and body temperatures compared to the American-style, high-calorie eaters.* Both animal and human studies have shown that those with lower body temperatures tend to live longer, as do those with lower fasting insulin levels, wrote lead author Dr. Eric Ravussin and team.

What’s more, less DNA damage was occurring in the whole-food dieters, which is very important information, pointed out the authors, because one of the many theories of aging is that there is more DNA damaging happening. Smokers, for example, have more DNA damage.

Anti-Aging Foods

In related research, scientists from Washington University in St. Louis compared 28 adults who had been following a whole food (about 1,800 calories daily) nutritionally-packed diet for the last 3 to 15 years with 28 adults eating a typical high-calorie Western diet (about 2,700 calories daily).**

For both groups, the scientists measured several biochemical indicators linked with aging and longevity, including a thyroid hormone called T3, involved in the control of body temperature and cell metabolism. Low levels of T3, lead investigator Dr. Luigi Fontana and team explained, may slow down aging. They observed reduced concentrations of T3 only in the low-calorie, whole-food dieters.

Also, levels of two other thyroid hormones – T4 and TSH – were normal, indicating that this whole-food group was not afflicted with a thyroid disease called hypothyroidism.

An earlier study by Dr. Fontana and colleagues also affirmed the anti-aging, disease-fighting power of low-calorie, nutrient-dense diets for humans. The scientists compared 18 people who for several years had been following diets ranging from 1,100 to 1,950 calories daily with 18 other people who ate 1,975 to 3,550 calories per day.***

The Right Carbs For Anti-Aging Foods

One key dietary difference between the two groups: the low-calorie dieters ate mostly fiber-filled, unrefined carbohydrates like fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains; the higher-calorie group ate a lot of “white” carbs – refined, processed carbohydrates like white bread and potato chips as well as sugar-rich drinks.

Compared to the higher-calorie diet, the low-calorie diet had “profound and sustained beneficial effects on the major atherosclerotic risk factors that usually increase with advancing age,” including total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, levels of inflammation, insulin resistance, and blood pressure, concluded the authors.

The average blood pressure of the low-calorie group was about 100/60, akin to the blood pressure of a healthy 10-year-old.

BIG Foods

What’s the optimal diet for people wanting to cut calories?

The late Dr. Roy Walford of UCLA, who in the 1970s and 80s spearheaded research linking low-calorie diets with longevity, recommended the Pritikin Eating Plan because its abundance of high-volume foods wouldn’t make people feel as if they were on a calorie-restricted diet. Plenty of BIG foods like fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains, staples of the Pritikin diet, do a great job of helping people fill up on a minimum of calories.

Plus, the high-nutrient content of these natural, fiber-packed foods would help ensure that those on very low-calorie diets were getting all their essential vitamins and minerals.

Concludes Dr. Jay Kenney, Nutrition Research Specialist at the Pritikin Longevity Center in Aventura, Florida: “If you follow a low-calorie-dense, nutrient-rich diet like Pritikin and exercise regularly, you give yourself the best chance of staying thin without having to live with chronic hunger, and the best chance for living a longer, healthier life.”

* JAMA, 2006; 295: 1539.

** Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism published May 23, 2006, as doi:10.1210/jc.2006-0328.

*** Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2004; 101: 6659.

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