The link between the foods we eat and the length of our life expectancy is firmly established. Eating healthily can bolster your defences against a host of chronic diseases, not least heart disease – a major killer worldwide. Extensive research has extolled the virtues of healthy eating.
Health bodies routinely advocate eating a diet that is full of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, fish, poultry, and vegetable oils.
For good reason too. In a study published in The Journal of nutrition, people with diets consistent with a healthy dietary pattern had a 31 percent lower risk of heart disease, a 33 percent lower risk of diabetes, and a 20 percent lower risk of stroke.
Much emphasis is placed on the foods we eat but less is understood about the frequency of our eating habits.
Speaking to the Express.co.uk, Dr Sarah Brewer, Medical Director of Healthspan and Author of Live Longer, Look Younger, shed some light on the current research in this area.
“Restricting your calorie intake can significantly extend your lifespan, although you may argue that life quality is reduced,” she said.
Unfortunately, as Dr Brewer explained, you need to restrict calorie intake to 60-70 percent of your normal daily needs to prolong your lifespan by 30-50 percent.
This can be a tall order, especially if you have a mentally and demanding lifestyle.
However, eating every other day (i.e. fasting one day, and eating what you like the next) appears to produce similar effects with health benefits starting within as little as two weeks, noted Dr Brewer.
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This insight comes from researchers writing in the journal Medical Hypotheses.
As Brewer reported, the researchers suggested this strategy might improve insulin resistance, asthma, allergies, infections, autoimmune diseases (eg asthma, rheumatoid arthritis), osteoarthritis, heart problems and menopausal symptoms.
It may also delay, prevent or improve neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis.
Other important tips
Rethinking your eating habits should not come at the cost of regular exercise, however.
“Exercise can partially reverse the effects of the ageing process on physiological functions and preserve functional reserve in the elderly,” said Dr Brewer.
Numerous studies have shown that maintaining a minimum quantity and quality of exercise decreases the risk of death, prevents the development of certain cancers, lowers the risk of osteoporosis and increases longevity.
One notable study involving more than 10,000 men found that exercise reduced the number of age-related deaths from all causes by almost a quarter – even if exercise was not started until middle age, reported Dr Brewer.
“In particular, deaths from coronary heart disease were reduced by 41 percent and risk of stroke reduced by 50 percent,” she said.
Regular exercise has also been shown to prevent diabetes, with the protective effect appearing strongest in those with the highest risk, said Dr Brewer.
“Both the Finnish Diabetes Prevention Study and the Diabetes Prevention Program found that changes in lifestyle of high-risk overweight subjects with impaired glucose tolerance reduced the risk of type 2 diabetes by 58 percent,” she reported.
Furthermore, exercise appears to reduce the risk of certain cancers, especially those of the colon, rectum and uterus, she added.
According to the NHS, adults should do at least 150 minutes (two hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as cycling or fast walking, every week.
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