Healthy aging: many people would like to do that. What role can food play in this? And is there a time in life when it’s too late to adopt healthier habits?
Berlin – The search for sources of eternal youth and long life has accompanied humanity for centuries. At least for longevity, scientists believe they have found a very important factor: the right diet. Unlike genes or certain life conditions, it can be influenced. Increasingly, it is not only a question of what is put on the plate, in what quantity and quality, but also when.
American aging researchers Valter Longo and Rozalyn Anderson summarize the current state of knowledge in a general article in the specialized journal “Cell”. Calorie bomb friends like burger, fries and soda menus or duvets like white chocolate now have to be very strong: the duo say it’s best to limit energy intake and fast more often to minimize risk disease and increase life expectancy.
Diet: These foods can prolong life, experts say
They describe the core features of what is likely to be the optimal form of nutrition, initially quite technically, as follows: medium to high carbohydrate intake (45 to 60 percent) from high-quality sources; little but enough protein from mainly vegetable sources; 25 to 35 percent mostly vegetable fat. (Read here: More and more vegetarians or vegans: But how healthy are substitute products?)
Translated for everyday life in the kitchen, this means: “Lots of legumes, whole grains and vegetables; some fish; no red or processed meat and very little white meat; low in sugar and refined grains; good amounts of nuts and olive oil and a bit of dark chocolate,” says Longo. It is optimal to eat only within a daily time window of eleven to twelve hours and insert several fasting phases per year.
Longevity is Longo’s life theme, so to speak: he is director of the Longevity Institute at the University of Southern California in the US and the author of several books. On the home page he gives advice on how to stay young and lists the so-called recipes for longevity. They may disappoint meat lovers, but they don’t sound entirely unfriendly to pleasure: couscous with fish, Tuscan bread salad, and pasta with aubergines. Longo also founded a company with products for fasting concepts, which he states in the study addendum.
Recommendations of scientists.
Vegetables: They’re rarely on the menu for many, but researchers say they should be a key part of a healthy diet that prolongs life. These include lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans, peas, soybeans, lupins and, although the name might not suggest it, peanuts.
Fish: As bitter as it is for meat lovers, the healthiest thing is not to eat it. Fish, on the other hand, may be on the menu more often, but not in large quantities. Salmon, mackerel and halibut are considered particularly healthy and provide valuable fats. But lean fish also helps tremendously in eating healthy.
Vegetables: Too much is almost impossible: vegetables should be part of every meal if possible, and not in the unpopular supporting role, but preferably in the leading role. If you then pay attention to the variety of vegetables and prepare them carefully (steaming is better than deep frying!), you will do a lot for a longer life.
Walnuts: The science is largely in agreement: everyone should eat nuts regularly if they want to live a healthy life. On the one hand, they provide valuable fats, but also many valuable substances for the body, such as potassium, magnesium, iron, zinc, B vitamins and vitamin E. Walnuts in particular enjoy a good reputation.
Whole grain: All bodies need carbohydrates, and not very few. However, many people eat primarily the “wrong” simple carbohydrates. However, for a long and healthy life, the proportion of complex carbohydrates should be as high as possible, and they are found in whole foods.
Longo and Anderson emphasize that an anti-aging diet must be individualized. There is no single solution that is as suitable for a fit 20-year-old as it is for a 60-year-old with metabolic disease. Gender, age, lifestyle, health status and genes should be taken into account. So people over 65 may need extra protein.
For Kristina Norman, researcher on aging at the German Institute for Human Nutrition, such adjustments are a very important point: “As we age, it is often difficult to get enough protein. Too little can lead to muscle breakdown and thus an increased risk of falls and fractures. Therefore, it may be advisable to eat a little more meat than is generally recommended.”
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“A study where a group is put on Longo’s recommended diet and ends up comparing their longevity to a control group would be very difficult to implement. Therefore, the authors converge in summarizing disparate evidence,” said Norman. He finds Longo’s and Anderson’s theses to be convincingly documented. (Also read: Fulda nutrition expert calls for a critical look at food waste)
There are many parallels with known recommendations, such as those of the German Nutrition Society, and also with a menu that scientists proposed some time ago for a healthy and at the same time environmentally friendly diet. “Contrary to popular belief, recommendations for healthy eating don’t change every few years. In general, they are very stable,” said Norman.
For Bernhard Watzl, former head of the Institute for Physiology and Biochemistry of Nutrition at the Max Rubner Institute, the review article shows above all that the quantity and quality of nutrition are crucial for a long life. “It’s better to take in too little energy than too much.” When it comes to fasting, Watzl is less convinced by the data available to date: “Fasting is only for people who can’t limit their energy intake,” he says. saying. In general, it’s never too late for a healthy diet throughout life, emphasizes Watzl.