The foods you eat might affect the aging process, new research suggests. According to a study published in the American Journal of Medicine, food that are processed, fried, or high in sugar have an adverse effect on the aging process. Such a finding may encourage some folks to carefully consider precisely what type of food they put into their mouths.
Tasnime Akbaraly from the University College of London and colleagues came to the above conculsion after an lengthy study which focused on whether adherence to a healthy diet would affect the aging process. To find the answer the research team assessed data from 5350 relatively young (average age 51.3 years) adult participants in the Whitehall II cohort study.
The Whitehall II cohort study investigates how social class affects health, making it ideal for examining the effects that diet would have on the aging process.
Akbaraly and colleagues assessed the participants' diets at the beginning of the study and used hospital data, screenings and registry linkage to gather information about mortality, chronic diseases and functioning every five years. After 16 years the research team had collected a robust amount of information about the associations between the participants' diets and the aging of their bodies.
Foods Effect Cardiovascular Health, Cognition and Muscular Function
Akbaraly and colleagues noted that "Western-type" diets i.e. consisting of fried foods, processed and red meat, refined grains, high-fat dairy products and sugary foods were associated with higher cardiovascular disease and noncardiovascular disease deaths.
On the other hand, participants whom adhered to the Alternative Healthy Eating Index (AHEI) tended to live longer and suffered fewer aging-related infirmaries than people who didn't follow it.
Essentially, Akbaraly et al present evidence that eating empty calorie foods that are high in fat and sugar aren't good for for.
Although the Whitehall II Study draws its data from a select population i.e. British civil servants rather than the general population, a vast store of research substantiates their findings.
Fatty foods are associated with inflammation and cardiovascular disease. For example, fat cells produce cytokines which are tiny molecules that perform a variety of biological functions including cellular communication. This comes in handy when the body requires white blood cell needs to fight off disease.
But cytokines molecules can also create chaos within the body. Take rheumatoid arthritis (RA), for example. RA is an autoimmune disease i.e. the body's immune system begins to attack other cells in the body.
Two primary symptoms of this disease - pain and inflammation - are caused by cytokines. With RA, one of the things that happens is the body goes haywire and produces far too many of these protein molecules which then instruct immune cells to attack healthy tissue. Immune cells are designed to kill organisms that pose a threat to the body, so you can imagine what happens when these cells are unleashed upon healthy tissue within the body.
(They also play a role in the inflammation associated with other forms of arthritis.)
Cytokines are also involved in inflammatory heart disease. For example, cytokines may interfere with the functioning of the muscle wall which can cause heart attacks. In fact there is such a large body of evidence surrounding the role of inflammatory cytokines in chronic heart failure that some researchers suggest targeting these proteins for the treatment of cardiovascular disease.
Another common symptom of aging is cognitive decline. Akbaraly's team noted that fatty foods are associated with decreased mental function. The finding that fatty foods can impair your judgement shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who has read my article "Diets High In Saturated Fat Make You Less Smart".
In that article I discussed how Harvard researchers, using data from participants in the Women's Health Study (WHS), observed that heavy consumption of foods high in saturated fats caused women to gradually become less intelligent over time.
On the other hand, women who consumed high amounts of monosaturated fats didn't suffer cognitive decline which suggests that saturated fat - and low density cholesterol - is not good for your brain.
Sugar has also been implicated in decreased intellectual abilities. Scientists in Australia and Pakistan independently demonstrated that excess sugar impairs cognitive function which adds to the ever growing mountain of evidence that what we take into our body can either help our harm us.
Then, of course, there's obesity. People tend to become heavier with age. Most often this is caused by poor diet and lack of physical exercise. But you might be surprised to know that fat cells release inflammatory cytokines, too.
In other words, eating large amounts of sugary foods e.g. ice cream or candy bars will not only increase the odds that you'll develop type 2 diabetes, but may also cause you to gain lots of weight, feel less energetic, inflame your tissues and make you feel absolutely miserable.
Upon looking at the results of their data analysis, Akbaraly and colleagues concluded: "By considering healthy aging as a composite of cardiovascular, metabolic, musculoskeletal, respiratory, mental, and cognitive function, the present study offers a new perspective on the impact of diet on aging phenotypes."
When you stop to think about the ways food can impact the quality and quantity of your life, keeping a mindful eye on what you're eating might be worth considering. Because what you eat right now, could accelerate your body's aging process.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor heavenly rulers, nor things that are present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).
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Akbaraly, T., Sabia, S., Hagger-Johnson, G., Tabak, A., Shipley, M., Jokela, M., Brunner, E., Hamer, M., Batty, G., Singh-Manoux, A., & Kivimaki, M. (2013). Does Overall Diet in Midlife Predict Future Aging Phenotypes? A Cohort Study The American Journal of Medicine, 126 (5), 411-419000 DOI: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2012.10.028
Damås JK, Gullestad L, & Aukrust P (2001). Cytokines as new treatment targets in chronic heart failure. Current controlled trials in cardiovascular medicine, 2 (6), 271-277 PMID: 11806813
"Fried Foods and Sugary Foods May Make You Old Before Your Time" copyright 2013 Living Fit, Healthy and Happy(SM). All Rights Reserved.