For thousands of years, people have recognized that disease and diet are inextricably linked. The phrase “you are what you eat” is sometimes used. Although this may not be technically true, there is a direct correlation between the food people eat and their overall health. People’s eating habits—their dietary choices—have a big impact on their general health and ability to stay healthy.
Food can be beneficial in the fight against certain diseases and disorders in some situations. On a daily basis, nutrition has a clear, immediate, and amazing impact on one’s well-being. Furthermore, it can reduce the chance of — and even play a role in avoiding — both minor and life-threatening diseases, as well as help people live longer.
There has been a lot of study recently, notably since the 1980s, exploring ways to live longer, including so-called antiaging medications. People changing their diets for the better is the first and most effective strategy in the fight to live longer. It is now thought that with optimal nutrition, people could live to be 130 years old. Many studies demonstrate that making lifestyle modifications, including dietary adjustments, can help people slow down the aging process.
Because chronic diseases are a leading cause of death, persons who avoid diets that enhance illness risk may live longer and healthier lives. Foods heavy in cholesterol, saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium fall under this category. Simultaneously, people must monitor their calorie consumption and consume more nutrient-dense foods to help reduce illness risk.
A well-balanced diet consists of a variety of nutrient-dense foods as well as adequate fluids, especially water. People should consume a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, as well as lean meats and other protein sources and healthy fats. Fruits and vegetables (canned or frozen), lentils, whole grain breads and cereals, and low-fat dairy products are all part of a balanced diet. Fish, almonds, and tomatoes are also important. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish and nuts, are thought to boost the amount of lipids (fat molecules) in the circulation and contribute to better cardiovascular health.
The nutritional value of a person’s diet becomes more essential as they get older. Several studies have shown that good nutrition can help decrease the rate of immune system deterioration as people age. Poor nutrition in the elderly relates to a reduction in immune function and an increase in infection and cancer rates, according to a study conducted by Bruno Lesourd and his colleagues at the Charles Foix Hospital in France. According to Lesourd’s research, people can benefit from making healthy food choices on a daily basis as they get older.
Humans also live longer and better lives when they limit their calorie intake, according to studies. A calorie-restricted diet is thought to reduce the risk of oxidative damage. Numerous rodent studies, dating back to the 1930s at Cornell University in New York, have shown that mice and rats on a diet with 30% fewer calories lived up to 40% longer than a control group. Calorie-restricted mice also appear to be immune to many of the degenerative disorders that accompany aging.
While scientists do not have proof that a calorie-restricted diet leads to a longer lifespan in humans, they have gathered evidence to support the notion. Luigi Fontana, an assistant professor of medicine at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, has worked with the Calorie Restriction Society on substantial study. This group adheres to a low-calorie, high-nutrition diet. Fontana published a study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology in 2006 that found that those who maintained a calorie-restricted diet for an average of six years had more elastic hearts than those who did not. Furthermore, like the hearts of younger people, their hearts were able to relax between beats.
Researchers at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, discovered that participants who cut their calorie intake by 25% for six months had less oxidative DNA damage, which is thought to be a symptom of aging. According to John O. Holloszy, one of the researchers,
This study has laid the groundwork for future research into the long-term effects of calorie restriction in humans…. It’s going to be many years before we know whether calorie restriction really lengthens life, but if we can demonstrate that it changes these markers of aging, such as DNA damage and inflammation, we’ll have a pretty good idea that it’s somehow influencing the aging process at the cellular level.
Today, there are more obese Americans than ever before. According to the American Obesity Association, 61% of adults in the United States are overweight, and 26% are obese. Obesity and overweight are commonly defined by a person’s BMI (body mass index) (BMI). This is the ratio of a person’s weight to their height. Between 19 to 24.9 is considered a normal BMI. A person with a BMI of 25 to 30 is termed overweight, whereas someone with a BMI of greater than 30 is termed obese. According to a 2010 CDC research, general obesity rates in the United States doubled between 1986 and 2000 and are still rising. Additionally, children are not exempt from this trend. Obesity among American children aged six to eleven has more than tripled since 1980, according to the CDC, rising from 6.5 percent in 1980 to 19.6 percent in 2008.
Even more disturbing than these figures is the fact that being overweight is linked to nearly 300,000 fatalities each year. The location of excess weight—that is, where fat is stored—can have an impact on a person’s health. Excess weight around the midsection has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease. Excess weight raises the risk of cancer due to an increase in hormones. Estrogen, a female hormone, is generated in adipose tissue, and high estrogen levels have been linked to malignancies of the female reproductive system..
Furthermore, being overweight or obese has been linked to significant illnesses such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, digestive problems, gallbladder issues, renal disease, liver disease, stroke, and diabetes. Other obesity-related issues include abdominal hernias, respiratory problems, sleep apnea, and varicose veins.
Preventing Disease with a Healthier Diet
Obesity can develop as a result of overeating or a poor diet. Many of the problems connected with obesity can be avoided by switching to a healthy diet. The normal American diet has improved in certain respects in recent years, according to Jane E. Brody, a nutrition and personal health columnist for the New York Times. She says,
On average, we consume less red meat and saturated fat and somewhat more whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Our processed foods were recently stripped of artery-clogging trans fats, thanks to a campaign that challenged the food industry to better protect American hearts.
Even so, these changes in eating patterns are insufficient to halt the obesity pandemic and the health problems that come with it. Brody clarifies:
We are a long way from consuming the kind of diet most closely linked to a low risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, stroke and dementia. That diet need not be strictly vegetarian, but it should emphasize plant-based foods over the meat and other products that come from animals that eat plants. The closer to the earth we eat, the healthier—and leaner—we are likely to be.
A MEDITERRANEAN DIET
Many specialists agree with Brody when it comes to endorsing the Mediterranean diet. The name of this eating pattern comes from the region of the world where it is customarily practiced. The Mediterranean diet is high in nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts, fish, and shellfish, but low in meat and poultry, as well as low to moderate alcohol consumption. It also uses a lot of olive oil as the primary cooking and eating fat.
The health benefits of the Mediterranean diet are supported by research published in 2009 on the website of the British Medical Journal. For the study, lead researcher Dimitrios Trichopoulos of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts, looked at the eating patterns of 23,000 men and women. He discovered that a high intake of vegetables and fruits, a low intake of meat, and a moderate intake of alcohol resulted in significant health benefits. Furthermore, Trichopoulos claims that combining numerous critical dietary components, such as a high vegetable intake with enough of olive oil, has considerable health benefits.
“This eating style, in its original form, is most closely connected to a healthy body and mind as individuals age: a lower chance of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, breast cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease,” Brody says of the Mediterranean diet’s health benefits. She also emphasizes that the key to maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding the health concerns linked with obesity is to combine a nutritious diet with frequent physical activity.
Diabetes is one of the diseases that is most prevalent and directly linked to obesity. In fact, persons with a BMI of 28 or higher are three times more likely to develop diabetes. Diabetes is a dangerous condition that occurs when the body’s insulin production or absorption is insufficient. Type 1 and type 2 diabetes are the two types of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is the more frequent and, in most cases, the less dangerous of the two diabetes types.
According to the National Institutes of Health, roughly 11% of adults in the United States, or 24 million individuals, have diabetes, with type 2 diabetes accounting for up to 95% of cases. Diabetes, if left untreated, can cause a variety of issues, including stroke, kidney illness, eye illness, nervous system disease, and heart disease, as well as vascular disease severe enough to necessitate amputation. Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, may often be managed via diet and exercise rather than medication if discovered early. However, it is not always evident how to manage it with nutrition.
Many individuals feel that those with diabetes, or those who want to avoid having diabetes, should avoid candy and other refined sweets. This isn’t completely accurate. Diabetics can consume a modest amount of sugar, but they must keep track of their total carbohydrate intake, as well as their fat and protein intake to a lesser extent. To keep blood sugar levels steady, diabetics should consume a variety of healthy foods in modest amounts and stick to a regular eating pattern, according to the Mayo Clinic.
A ten-year study involving thousands of participants shows that diabetes can be avoided by following a healthy diet and exercising regularly. The Diabetes Prevention Program Outcomes Study was published in 2009 in the Lancet, a British medical magazine. The research was a follow-up to a previous study including 3,234 patients at high risk of diabetes. Over the course of ten years, researchers were able to examine the effects of lifestyle changes on preventing diabetes in the two studies. Researchers compared lifestyle adjustments to using an antidiabetic medicine in order to achieve and sustain modest weight loss; both groups were compared to a control group that did not receive any therapy. Reduced fat and calorie intake in the diet, as well as increased regular physical activity to 150 minutes per week, were among the lifestyle modifications.
The rate of new diabetes cases arising in the lifestyle modification group was 34% lower than the control group after 10 years. The rate was 18% lower in the anti-diabetes medicine group than in the control group. To put it another way, the lifestyle group had a four-year delay in the start of type 2 diabetes, while the medicine group had a two-year delay. This study found that lifestyle modifications were more effective than medicines in preventing type 2 diabetes, emphasizing the importance of food and exercise in preventing diabetes.
The Diabetes Prevention Program Outcomes Study was led by Jill Crandall, an associate professor of clinical medicine at Yeshiva University’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine. “The older patients had the most strong outcomes from the lifestyle intervention,” she says, “so it really should encourage folks that it’s never too late to start these diabetes prevention efforts.”
Antioxidants and Cancer
Other diseases, in addition to diabetes, can be avoided or mitigated by eating properly. Consuming antioxidant-rich meals, for example, may aid in cancer prevention. Although it has not been shown conclusively, research suggests that certain antioxidant-rich meals may help to reduce cancer risk. “You can reduce your risk of cancer by as much as 30 to 40% by making healthier diet choices,” according to the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. “In fact, some meals may aid in the prevention of certain cancers.”
Antioxidants include vitamins A, C, and E, as well as beta-carotene, selenium, and lycopene. Antioxidants are abundant in fibrous foods such as vegetables and fruits. These natural compounds protect human tissue from oxidation, which occurs when the body breaks down food or as a result of external influences such as tobacco smoke and radiation. Because this damage has been related to an elevated risk of cancer, antioxidants may help to reduce the disease’s risk. Berries, in particular, are a smart choice since antioxidants found in blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries are thought to minimize oxidative damage and inflammation, as well as boost cardiovascular and brain health and cancer prevention.
Dietary factors appear to play a substantial influence in the prevention of prostate cancer, according to research. In one study, mice fed a high-fat, high-cholesterol diet developed prostate tumors more frequently; furthermore, giving the mice a medication that prevents cholesterol absorption in the intestines decreased tumor formation. This implies that lowering cholesterol in the diet may help humans avoid prostate cancer. Prostate cancer affects one out of every six men in the United States, and it is the second most frequent type of cancer in males after skin cancer.
Eating five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables each day is another option for cancer prevention. Because high-fat diets are linked to some types of cancer, such as colorectal, prostate, and endometrial cancer, a low-fat diet is also necessary. Calcium may help prevent against colorectal cancer, so experts recommend eating low-fat or nonfat dairy products every day. Because heavy drinking has been linked to cancers of the colon, breast, and liver, it should be consumed in moderation or avoided entirely. Finally, it has been proven that keeping a healthy weight lowers the risk of numerous types of cancer, including breast, pancreatic, and kidney cancers.
The most crucial weapons in the fight against cancer and other diseases are proper nutrition and exercise. “Eating a plant-based, nutritious diet (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans) and being physically active is your greatest insurance to minimize your risk of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes,” according to the MD Anderson Center. A nutritious diet may also be one of the most effective methods to live a longer and healthier life. Developing and sticking to a well-balanced eating plan can have a significant and positive impact on daily living. After all, eating healthily is always a good idea.