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There are a number of factors at play when it comes to how long we live. While some of these are invariable, we can change others. One such factor is diet, which is known to have a huge influence on our overall health and wellbeing.
According to one doctor, a certain diet could even extend your life expectancy by a significant amount.
Doctor Shireen Kassam recommended a plant-based diet for longevity – with several studies backing this claim.
The founder of Plant Based Health Professionals explained: “We have known for decades that a healthy diet can positively impact lifespan and healthspan (the number of years lived in good health).
“It is more useful to consider healthy diet patterns rather than individual foods that promote longevity.
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“However, all healthy diet patterns share in common an emphasis on certain food groups.
“These foods are fruit, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds. Obtaining protein from plant-based sources in preference to animal sources is also an important aspect of any longevity diet.
“A useful source of information are observations from the five regions around the world where people live the longest, healthiest lives, termed the blue zones, and are more likely to reach 100 years of age than anywhere else in the world.
“The blue zones share in common a diet that is predominantly or exclusively plant-based, with an emphasis on consuming beans as the main source of protein.”
The blue zones include Okinawa in Japan, Sardinia in Italy, Nicoya in Costa Rica, Ikaria in Greece, and Loma Linda in California.
Dr Kassam said: “Recent studies have confirmed that shifting to a more plant-based diet at any age is beneficial.
“The reason being is that plant foods are full of health promoting nutrients such as fibre, polyphenols, vitamins and minerals and hundreds of phytochemicals that act together to reduce the risk of chronic conditions by promoting better gut health, reducing inflammation and improving glucose regulation.
“For example, a large global analysis showed that shifting to a more plant-based diet from age 20 years could increase life expectancy by 10.7 years in women and 13 years in men.
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“The largest gains were shown to occur by eating more legumes (females: 2.2 years; males: 2.5 years), whole grains (females: 2.0; males: 2.3 years), and nuts (females: 1.7 years; males: 2.0 years).
“Even a shift to a healthy plant-based diet at age 60 years was predicted to add years to life.
“Similarly in this study of more than 300,000 men and women from the Million Veteran Program in the US, a more plant-based diet was associated with a 36 percent reduction in risk of early death.”
“In contrast, foods that have been consistently associated with an increased risk of premature death include processed and unprocessed red meat, free sugars (such as high consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages) and diets high in ultra-processed foods,” Dr Kassam advised.
“These foods have become typical of the so-called Western diet pattern widely consumed in the UK.
“This type of diet is lacking in the healthy nutrients present in plant foods and also exposes us to harmful substances, including cancer-causing agents.
“In general, diets high in meat and ultra-processed foods are associated with an increased risk of chronic conditions including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, fatty liver and dementia, all of which reduce both life span and health span.
“We must not forget that alcohol should be considered a ‘food’ that negatively impacts all aspects of our health, including increasing the risk of heart disease and cancer and is best avoided.”
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