By Hwaa Irfan
As we notice more and more older people looking more healthy and fit today in a globalized world where ‘youth’ by any means is an obsession, especially if it can be done with the help of a plastic surgeon, an overly priced jar of cream, or that multi-vitamin that promises all, there seems to be
more fundamentals at play in that regard including one’s disposition.
Researchers at the University of Maryland took a look at the diet of 2,500 70 – 79 year olds over a ten year period, and had some interesting findings. The participants in the study were classified into those whose diets were mainly:
- “Healthy foods” (374 participants)
- “High-fat dairy products” (332 participants)
- “Meat, fried foods, and alcohol” (693 participants)
- “Breakfast cereal” (386 participants)
- “Refined grains” (458 participants)
- “Sweets and desserts” (339 participants)
Those who had led a life of healthy eating habits were those who had diets that consisted of a low consumption of low-fat dairy fruit, whole grains, poultry, fish, and vegetables. Their diet was also low in the consumption of meat, fried foods, sweets, and high calorie beverages and added fat, i.e. the western diet!
Control factors like gender, age, physical activity, smoking, and race was taken out of the equation.
The findings found that those who had a high fat (dairy products) had a 40% higher risk of
mortality than those who had a life of consuming healthy foods, and that those who had a diet of sweets and desserts had a 37% higher risk of mortality than those who had a life of consuming healthy foods. A healthy foods diet consists of high amounts of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, poultry, fish, and low fat dairy products due to the higher nutritional value, especially that present in raw foods, as too much cooking reduces the nutritional value – this improves not only one’s longevity, put also the quality of life when it comes to diet related diseases.
However, in the study who had a diet mainly of meat, fried foods and alcohol seemed to have almost the same longevity as those who had a diet of healthy foods, but as for the quality of life that is a question that the study has yet to reveal. However, it was found that the difference in consumption in between those who had a diet mainly consisting of meat, fried foods and alcohol, was less than 2 in higher consumption of meat, fried foods and alcohol.
It is known that the high consumption of red meat on the body takes its toll. A 2009 study by the National Cancer Institute on 500,000 American middle-aged and the elderly with a daily consumption of 4 ounces of red meat had a 30% higher risk of dying prematurely through
complications like heart disease, and cancer. Processed meats increased that risk.
Risk increases because cooking red meat generates cancer forming compounds (HCAs, a family of mutagenic compounds). The longer and hotter the cooking process, the greater the amount of HCA’s). Consumers also increase the risk of having high blood pressure and cholesterol.
People who eat red meat are more likely to have, which increases the risk of heart disease. Processed meats contain substances known as nitrosamines, which have been linked to cancer. Study leader, Rashmi Sinha commented to the Washington Post that:
“Although pork is often promoted as “white meat,” it is believed to increase the risk of cancer because of its iron content.”
Not surprisingly the American Meat Institute was up in arms at such findings detrimentally affecting consumption rate hence their profit margin!
The study investigated 545,653 white volunteers aged 50 – 71 over 10 years with the end result of 47,976 male and 23,276 female mortalities. Of those deaths with a daily consumption of 1 pound of meat:
- 36% females more likely to die for any reason especially cancer (20%), and heart
- 31% males more likely to die for any reason especially cancer (22%), and heart disease (27%)
Those that ate mainly white meat i.e. poultry were less likely to die by about 8% as poultry
contains more unsaturated fats.
High consumption of red meat also increases:
– Bad body odour
– High cholesterol
– colon, bowel, breast and prostate cancers
High consumption of high-fat foods: meat, dairy products, fried foods, and vegetable oils increases the production of estrogens in the female body, which provides the correct internal environment for the formation of breast cancer and other organs that are sensitive to female sex hormones.
It is also known that the high consumption of fats on the pancreas has a negative impact,
but how many of consider the well-being of our pancreas?
A healthy pancreas provides:
– Enzymes to digest our foods
– The hormone insulin
– Controls glucose blood level
High fat foods negatively impact on the pancreas through the production of triglycerides, also excessive consumption of alcohol leads to inflammation of the pancreas, which in turn prevents absorption of needed nutrients. The problem with inflammation of the pancreas is that it spreads
as toxins from the pancreas leaks into the abdomen damaging blood vessels. Also, the pancreas cannot cope with a high level of blood glucose as in those who consume a lot of sugar/sweet foods. This leads to a build up of fat on the muscles, and the liver causing damage to tissues and organs.
Let food be your medicine, not your illness!
“Diet and Cancer Research.” http://www.cancerproject.org/diet_cancer/facts/meat.php
Huget, J. R. “Study Links Diet To Longevity, But With Confusing Findings.” http://voices.washingtonpost.com/checkup/2010/12/this_healthful-eating_thing_mi.html?wprss=checkup
Stein, R. “Daily Red Meat Raises Chances of Dying Early.” http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/23/AR2009032301626.html