Is there such a thing as the perfect diet?

This past weekend I have been reading New Scientist.

I am a subscriber but I have to admit not everything is of interest to me. I can’t get my head around ‘time’ or quantum physics but I do love an article on anything about the human body. And especially about diet and lifestyle.

So this week when my copy came through the postbox, I couldn’t wait to get reading.

The cover story is about the research around a diet that could add years to your life and has been coined the ‘longevity diet’.

This topic is very relevant to me and to midlife women that I work with.

So what did I learn?

The ‘Longevity Diet’

This diet is being researched for its potential to help us to live longer and age slower.

Sounds great, doesn’t it?!

Could it be the perfect diet? And how is it different from what you may already eat?

The ‘longevity diet’ includes around 40% more vegetables, some fruits and a portion of nuts daily. It also includes more fish, whole grains, and legumes such as chickpeas and lentils than most people currently eat.

And less; dairy, refined foods, meat, sugar and sugar-sweetened drinks and less alcohol… Alcohol is limited to just 5 units instead of the current 14 unit recommendation.

I don’t know about you but I am quite keen on slowing down the ageing process. But what I don’t want is to live longer with poor health. I would like to have a quality of life. I would like the years that I have left to be free from pain and chronic disease.

So, I am pretty invested in what I eat, drink and how I live my life.

I am also a Nutritionist, I walk my talk, and many of my current health habits have been put in place based on scientific research.

I help my clients to do the same.

So adding a decade or so of quality years to my life, now that is interesting…

What causes ageing?

A diet high in processed foods, sugars and saturated fats could lead to an increased risk of heart disease, cancers and diabetes.

Over the last 20 years, the average daily calorie intake has increased by around 500 calories in the United States and is likely to be similar in the UK and other Westernised countries.

Researchers in Norway have been looking at diets and diet-related diseases using data from 195 countries.

They have also looked at what could happen if Western-style diets were changed to what they consider to be an optimal diet.

Their hypothesis is that by switching to a ‘longevity diet’ you could gain an extra 10 years of life (dependant on your age when starting).

This is probably linked to a reduced risk of cancer and heart disease. One of the key reasons for this is controlling the hormone insulin.

Alongside the ‘longevity diet’, fasting and time-restricted eating could also help to do this.

There are currently few studies on human populations due to the difficulties of asking people to stick to a restricted diet for a long period of time.

However, a clinical trial for testing this specific diet on around 250 people has been given the go-ahead.

A further 250 people will be monitored but asked to stick to their normal diet and the results will be compared over a period of 18 months.

How can this be put into context for perimenopausal and menopausal women? Could this be the perfect diet? 

Two of the biggest causes of death in post-menopausal women are heart disease and cancer.

Women can also become less sensitive to the hormone insulin at this life stage.

The ‘longevity diet’ is believed to have the potential to reduce insulin and reduce the risks of chronic diseases.

It sounds hopeful, although I suspect that the ‘perfect’ diet is still one that is tailored to suit an individual’s specific needs and unique biology.

It will be interesting to hear what happens in the forthcoming trial.

In the meantime, I think I will be following at least some of their advice…

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