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Can a plant-based diet prevent aging?

  • Food & Nutrition
  • 28 Sep 2017

Can a plant-based diet prevent aging?

We often find celebs claiming that the secret to their beauty and glamour is plant-based diet. But do you feel it’s just a Hollywood hype or is there some other significance behind? Let’s find out.

To understand the influence of plant-based whole food diet on aging, we need to understand the aging process first.

What is aging?

Aging is generally associated with onset of disease and decrease in health status. The cellular manifestations of aging may include changes in the process of cell division and its frequency, changes in the gene expression that regulates this process and other cellular changes such as mitochondrial dysfunction and stem cell exhaustion.1

Aging is a complicated process where the physiological functions reduce and the risk of pathological diseases increase. The theories related to aging shows that a gross damage to mitochondria and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) occurs due to ROS (reactive oxygen species). Oxidative stress affects the replication and transcription of mtDNA which leads to decline in mitochondrial function. Therefore ROS (reactive oxygen species) increases and this cause further damage to mtDNA.2

We all know that each cell of a human body consists of 46 chromosomes. Each of these chromosomes has a cap at the end of the DNA strand known as telomere. With growing age the telomere shortens and eventually expire leading to death. If we can slow or reverse this process, aging can be delayed or reversed. The study further explains that a plant-based whole food diet may help to achieve it. The study was funded by the US Department of Defense and the results showed that 3 months of plant-based whole food diet may help to significantly increase the telomerase activity.3

The effect of plant-based whole food diet on aging:

1. Prevents effect of aging on the eye: The dark leafy green vegetables, carrots, sweet potatoes are a rich source of Vitamin A, which keeps our vision clear and healthy even at night. Usually with age, the night vision reduces, so these vegetables help to keep your vision perfect. Flax seed which is rich in anti-oxidants and omega 3 fatty acids prevents macular degeneration due to ageing.  The anti-oxidants (carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin) found in leafy green vegetables, prevent cataracts by reducing damaging free radicals in the retina.4

2. Prevents effects of aging on cardio vascular health: Plant-based whole food diet also protects you from cardiovascular disease, osteoarthritis, decreases and regulates cholesterol levels of the body and also reduces the risk of cancer.5 Plant-based also helps to lower the risk of complications in chronic kidney disease.6 Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease, the causes can be traced back to hereditary, metabolic, developmental and other mechanical aspects. Plant-based whole food diet helps to reduce the symptoms of osteoarthritis and prevent diseases progression.7

3. Prevents age-related muscle-loss: Did you know body builders like Mike Tyson, Brendan Brazier, and Carl Lewis depend on plant-based diet? This breaks the myth that you get protein only from animal-based food. Therefore, plant-based food gives you sufficient amount of protein and also prevents you from the adverse effects of animal-based foods. This helps you to stay strong and healthy for a longer period of time. Age-related muscle loss generally occurs with age, after the age of 50 years. This usually occurs because of factors like high calorie intake from processed or animal-based food, sedentary life style that paves the way for age-related diseases etc. Plant-based diet which is rich in plant-based protein, less in calorie and high in the nutrition level, helps to maintain a youthful muscle structure.

4. Prevents skin aging: With age, our skin becomes wrinkled, sagged in appearance. This is mainly due to loss of collagen from the skin. Plant-based diet is rich in anti-oxidants, vitamin C and lysine. This helps to boost the collagen at the cellular level, which in turn helps to keep the skin stay supple and prevents wrinkles by maintaining the elasticity of the skin. Vegetables rich in beta-carotene like carrots, apricots, kale, spinach, tomatoes etc helps to keep the skin healthy and glowing. According to Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, acne and acne related scars can be healed if there is reduction in dairy and processed foods from the diet and increase consumption of low glycemic diet including fresh fruits and vegetables. Plant-based diet helps you keep going while age tries to bring down your energy levels. Fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains are healthy for our digestive system and keep our gut healthy and disease-free. Vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, walnuts and garbanzo beans are good for our brain health. This keeps our mind active, healthy with a good memory even with age. In short, plant-based whole food diet helps you to look, feel and age like celebs keeping your health and glamour intact.

Reference:

1. Rebecca K.Lane et al. The role of mitochondrial dysfunction in age-related diseases.Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) - Bioenergetics. Volume 1847, Issue 11, November 2015, Pages 1387-1400.

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0005272815001085

2.  Hang Cui et al.Oxidative Stress, Mitochondrial Dysfunction, and Aging. J Signal Transduct. 2012; 2012: 646354.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3184498/

3. Ornish D et al. Increased telomerase activity and comprehensive lifestyle changes: a pilot study. Lancet Oncol. 2008 Nov;9(11):1048-57.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18799354

4. Paul S. Bernstein et al. Lutein, Zeaxanthin, and meso-Zeaxanthin: The Basic and Clinical Science Underlying Carotenoid-based Nutritional Interventions against Ocular Disease. Prog Retin Eye Res available in PMC 2017 Jan 1.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4698241/

5. Krithiga Shridhar et al.The Association between a Vegetarian Diet and Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) Risk Factors in India: The Indian Migration Study. PLoS One. 2014; 9(10): e110586.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4208768/

6. Anna Gluba-Brzózka et al.Vegetarian Diet in Chronic Kidney Disease—A Friend or Foe. Nutrients. 2017 Apr; 9(4): 374.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5409713/

7. Chelsea M. Clinton et al.Whole-Foods, Plant-Based Diet Alleviates the Symptoms of Osteoarthritis.Arthritis. 2015; 2015: 708152.

 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4359818/

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