Diet plays a role in many areas of health, including how well people age. As we grow older, changes in our genes (also known as epigenetic marks) occur. New research is exploring what causes these molecular changes and how diet affects them.
Researchers from the Institute of Food Research and Newcastle University, both in the UK, examined volunteers who were attending a colonoscopy clinic. Their specific goal was to look at the cells lining the gut wall to find certain epigenetic modifications to the volunteers’ genes. These particular modifications are associated with bowel cancer and are transmitted when cells divide.
The findings from this study showed that men are more likely to have these epigenetic changes than women. They also found that volunteers who had a higher amount of vitamin D in their bodies tended to have fewer of these changes, and the same correlation was found with high levels of selenium. These findings are consistent with known links between age and diet and the risk of bowel cancer.
On the other hand, some nutrients had a connection with a higher level of epigenetic change. Folate in particular was associated with these changes.
The researchers also examined the relationship between obesity and molecular changes. They found that excess body weight can cause a greater level of epigenetic change. The reason for this is still being investigated.
The biggest cause of an increased risk of bowel cancer is age. However, this new research shows that there are other factors at work. While you cannot control your age, you do have control over your diet and weight level. By ensuring that your diet is rich in vitamin D and selenium, you can lessen your chances of developing bowel cancer.
How Else Does Food Affect Aging?
The food you eat affects many aspects of how you age. A healthy diet filled with fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains will help your body stay at its best. Some foods are particularly helpful in fighting some of the more common symptoms of aging. Incorporating them into your diet will help keep you healthier for longer.
Fish: Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel or lake trout are high in omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids provide a number of benefits as you age. They help protect you from heart disease and can reduce your risk of stroke. Fatty fish can also have an effect on your mind and may even reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease. If fish is not your favorite food there is no need to worry – all you need is two servings a week. If even that is too much, consider talking to your doctor about fish oil supplements.
Dairy: Osteoporosis is a common problem that can severely affect your ability to enjoy life as you age. Consuming dairy gives you a steady supply of calcium and vitamin D. These nutrients help keep bones strong. Three servings of dairy a day will help strengthen your bones.
Whole Grains: Fiber-rich whole grains like oats, wheat, barley and brown rice can help keep your blood vessels supple and resilient. Three servings of these grains every day can also help lower your chances of developing type 2 diabetes. Whole grains are filling and relatively low in calories, making them an excellent choice for people who are watching their weight.
Vegetables and Fruits: Produce is the cornerstone of any healthy diet – aging is no exception. Eating a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables imbues your body with antioxidants, which help stop damage to your cells from free radicals. Vitamin C, zinc, and beta-carotene are found in dark green leafy vegetables and can help you avoid macular degeneration.
A diet that supports healthy aging is as much about what you avoid as what you eat. Just as foods that are considered healthy can help with aging, unhealthy foods can have a detrimental effect as you grow older. Trans-fats, hydrogenated oils, excessive sugar, and too much salt can all harm your health.
While some symptoms of aging are unavoidable, there are still steps you can take to make sure you stay as healthy as possible. As this new research into bowel cancer proves, everything from your gender to the food you eat can have an effect on your health.