By John Salak –
Age and added weight. They just kind of go together for virtually everyone save maybe Mick Jagger and Richard Simmons. Extra weight is not a good thing for anyone’s health, but the process of gaining pounds after 45 or 50 shouldn’t be surprising as people become less active, their metabolism shifts and they don’t maintain healthy diets.
Now, however, several recent studies have discovered that gaining weight early in life—as a child or young adult—actually speeds an individual’s premature aging process, exposing them to a slew of health issues that they would not otherwise encounter for decades.
This connection has created a health timebomb considering that almost 2 billion adults and 380 million children are overweight or obese, according to the World Health Organization. Canada’s Concordia University drove the point home recently with the release of a study where its researchers argued that obesity is akin to premature aging that predisposes people to acquiring diseases and or life-threatening conditions normally seen in older individuals. These problems include compromised genomes, weakened immune systems, decreased cognition, increased chances of developing type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease, cancer and other illnesses.
Concordia’s research focused on reviewing more than 200 papers on obesity and its impact on cells, tissue and the entire body. “We are trying to comprehensively make the argument that obesity parallels aging,” explained the project leader Professor Sylvia Santosa.
“I ask people to list as many comorbidities of obesity as they can,” she reported. “Then I ask how many of those comorbidities are associated with aging. Most people will say, all of them. There is certainly something that is happening in obesity that is accelerating our aging process.'”
The study further pointed out that obesity’s effects on cognitive decline, mobility, hypertension and stress are all similar to those of aging.
A separate study by California’s Salk Institute issued days after Concordia’s research also underscored the connection between excessive weight and aging. It concluded that restricting caloric intake can reduce body inflammation, delay the onset of age-related diseases and simply let people live longer.
Institute researchers acknowledged that the benefits of healthier, lower calorie diets have been long recognized. However, their work showed how restrictive diets have the potential to block aging in cellular pathways that can result in all sorts of detrimental consequences. The paper’s conclusions were based on work initially done with rats in China and the U.S.
“We already knew that calorie restriction increases life span, but now we’ve shown all the changes that occur at a single-cell level to cause that,” reported Salk Professor Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte. “This gives us targets that we may eventually be able to act on with drugs to treat aging in humans.”
The Salk paper noted that aging is among the highest risk factors for diseases such as cancer, dementia, diabetes and metabolic syndrome and that reducing caloric intake has been shown in animal models to be an effective way to block these age-related diseases. This new research will help researchers understand exactly how cells change from better or worse during this process.
If weight and age are harbingers of potentially crippling problems, there are ways to fight the battle of the bulge at any age. Certainly, embracing a healthy, active lifestyle complete with a balanced diet is critical for children, adolescents and young adults. Ultimately, being proactive is the best way to prevent weight gain early in life. But this doesn’t mean a healthy diet isn’t just as critical to those over 50.
“You have to feed your body good nutrition for it to run like it’s supposed to run. You have to have good maintenance. You have to start treating your body like you do your cars and your home,” Joan Salge Blake, a nutritionist and professor at Boston University, explained to Webmd.com.
It is also important to remember that bodies change as people age, which means they may need a different combination of foods and fuels to perform at their best. These shifts occur because older adults may take longer to digest foods, not drink enough water and may simply lose their taste for important food types that are essential to good health.
Consider the following foods as core components of a healthy, anti-aging diet for mature audiences, according to Webmd.com and Healthline.com
- Water: Think of it as a food because it is critical to a person’s wellbeing, keeping them hydrated and helping to fight fatigue, headaches and constipation.
- Blueberries: Delicious antioxidants filled with Vitamins C and E.
- Fiber: Vegetables, whole grains, fruits and legumes help keep digestive systems in order as well as lowering cholesterol, blood pressure and inflammation.
- Red Bell Peppers: High in Vitamin C, which is good for collagen production, they also contain powerful antioxidants called carotenoids.
- Fatty Fish: Salmon, mackerel and sardines are high in omega-3 fatty acids and heart healthy.
- Olive Oil: Great and tasty substitute for butter.
- Spinach: A hydrating vegetable loaded with Vitamins A, C, E, and K.
- Yogurt: Fortified with Vitamin D, it is also a great source of calcium to support strong bones.
- Avocados: High in inflammation-fighting fatty acids and key vitamins.
- Tomatoes: Rich in lycopene that can help fight prostate cancer and possibly lung cancer.
- Papaya: Rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that promote healthy complexions.
- Red Wine: Helps lower “bad” cholesterol, prevents blood clots and lowers blood pressure.
- Broccoli: High in fiber and chocked with vitamins and antioxidants.
- Nuts: A heart-healthy food loaded with omega-3s, unsaturated fats, fiber and protein.
- Pomegranates: High in Vitamin C and various antioxidants.
- Sweet potatoes: Loaded with antioxidant beta-carotene and Vitamins A, C and E.