How Nutrition Affects Our Life Span
What we eat profoundly influences how long and how well we live.
Hi, I’m Dr. Michael Roizen, chief wellness officer emeritus of the Cleveland Clinic and author of The Great Age Reboot. I’ve launched an app called the RebootYour Age app, designed to help you live better, longer!
Studies demonstrate time and time again that people who eat a Mediterranean-style diet – one that is rich in fruits and vegetables, healthy protein like salmon, whole grains, nuts and legumes – live healthily longer and have lower rates of type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease and cancer. People who followed a Mediterranean-style diet were 28 percent less likely to die from heart disease than those that made other diet choices.
Unfortunately, most Americans don’t follow a diet abundant in these foods. Instead, we eat a lot of processed products and meals heavy with red meat, refined carbohydrates that increase your blood sugar too much and too fast and unhealthy fats. These foods take a toll on our bodies and make us more likely to develop chronic illnesses that shorten our life spans and cause more disability in the years we do live.
These aren’t just diets of disease. They’re also diets of obesity. And obesity contributes to many conditions that compromise our longevity. Studies show that eating a Western diet can impair the brain and actually trigger us to overeat. Excess sugar can prevent your normal appetite-control tools from working properly. That’s one big reason obesity rates are climbing in the U.S.
What’s the payoff of switching from a Western to a Mediterranean-style diet? If you switch when you’re young, it can mean adding more than a healthful decade to your life, one recent study estimated.
But even if you make changes when you’re older, you’ll benefit from living more years that are healthier. For example, people who adopted a Mediterranean-style diet at age 60 added eight years to their lives. And those who were 80 extended their lives by three more years.
You also don’t have to go all in to reap the benefits. The study found that people who blended a Western diet with Mediterranean-influenced eating still added years to their lives.
The key is to eat foods you love that love you back—food is a relationship like a marriage—you wouldn’t marry someone who is trying to kill you every day—same goes for food –find foods you love that love you back.
So, if you want to make healthy changes to your diet, where do you start? The first step is to talk to your doctor. Your practitioner can help you establish goals and have a dietician advise on which foods you should be eating more of and which you should try eliminating.
The bottom line: You don’t have to completely change everything about how and what you eat. Remember, small simple changes that you love can pay off big over time. And what we all want is more time to enjoy doing the things we love.