Nutrition Intervention at the Fountain of Youth

June 30, 2008


NEW ORLEANS—June 30, 2008—An anti-aging pill is not yet an over-the-counter phenomenon, but it’s never too late to start eating better to live a longer, healthier life. Studies prove that consuming more fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains, as well as fewer calories, results in prolonging a healthier lifespan.

“Fountain of Youth: Nutrition Intervention in Aging” was a session at the Institute of Food Technologists’ Annual Meeting Sunday in New Orleans.
“The food industry has a receptive market in the aging population,” said Mary A. Johnson, Ph.D., a professor of gerontology in Family and Consumer Sciences at the University of Georgia in Athens, Ga. “Older people want to be healthy, to live healthfully, to have a good time. ... Some science suggests that older people might benefit more from improved nutrition than younger people”.

Johnson points out the benefits of higher doses of Vitamin B12 for bone health and balance, as well as higher amounts of Vitamin D in slowing aging. Today, 1,000 International Units of Vitamin D is the current recommendation for older people.

Berries and nuts, especially walnuts, continue to gain prestige as foods that protect against aging’s deleterious effects like memory and coordination loss.

Compounds in such fruits and vegetables as strawberries, blueberries and spinach help the brain to counteract stress and inflammation, which contribute to aging diseases like Alzheimer’s and arthritis, said Jim Joseph, Ph.D., lead scientist at the neuroscience lab of the Human Nutrition Research Center for Aging at Tufts University in Boston, Mass.

It doesn’t take much of these foods to make a difference. A pint of strawberries or a spinach salad a day works a lot better in keeping older people vital than a wonder drug, he said.

A tougher way to go to gain years is to eat fewer daily calories by 30 percent. Studies with rats and monkeys show increased lifespan and decreased occurrence of disease when animals consume fewer calories (though they have to be nutritious ones). Human calorie restrictors, a self-selected group that follows a low-calorie diet, have lower fat, body mass index, triglycerides, low density lipoprotein and blood pressure.

Does decreasing calories by one-third for several decade account for a reasonable prescription for the good, long life in this food-rich society?

Not likely, said Donald Ingram, Ph.D., at Louisiana State University’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La.

Research shows that stress levels soar with a severe reduction of calories. However, Ingram said, there is a “fruit and vegetable connection to longevity. You have to select your foods better.”

Substances such as reserveratol in grapes and polyphenols in cranberries and blueberries protect an organism from aging.

Eat nutritious foods, not supplements the scientists warn. Toxicity can occur when you get too much of a good thing.
“Stop trying to make drugs from these foods,” said Joseph. “Better to eat the foods than swallow the supplements. If you overdose on the food, you know what will happen (as in stomach discomfort). The evidence is overwhelming that it’s better to get these substances in real food.”

Donald Ingram, Ph.D, Pennington Biomedical Research Center, LSU, Baton Rouge, LA.,
James A. Joseph, Ph.D.
Neuroscience Laboratory, HNRCA at Tufts University, USDA,
A, Johnson, Ph.D., Professor of nutrition and gerontology in Family and Consumer Sciences at the University of Georgia,


About IFT
Founded in 1939, and with world headquarters in Chicago, Illinois, USA, the Institute of Food Technologists is a not-for-profit international scientific society with 22,000 members working in food science and technology and related professions in industry, academia and government. As the society for food science and technology, IFT brings sound science to the public discussion of food issues.