In times past, an article in Sputnik magazine, published in the Soviet Union, claimed that Russians living in high altitudes enjoyed long lives due to uphill walks, a diet rich in yogurt and pollen tablets. These anecdotes also spoke of the healing properties of special trees’ exhaled air in hospital gardens, inhaled by patients for recovery.
Yet, not all longevity stories are as they seem. Old commercials featured seemingly age-defying Russian villagers, attributed to a particular yoghourt brand. However, the true secret was later revealed – they lied about their age. This deception was not isolated; Ecuadorians, too, fabricated claims of centenarians, with investigations uncovering plans for lucrative “weeks of longevity” for wealthy Americans.
Despite the existence of hoaxes and myths, the pursuit of methods to slow ageing continues. While humans have the potential to live up to 115 years, the average life expectancy in the USA is around 74 years. Researchers emphasise the role of good nutrition in achieving a long, healthy life. Alfred E Harper, Ph.D., notes that dietary modification can mitigate genetic and pathological conditions, prolonging survival within the biologically determined life span.
While a well-balanced diet won’t guarantee immortality, it can contribute to longevity. Diets play a role in disease prevention, with some doctors emphasising their impact on combating free radicals, guided by the free-radical theory of ageing. Free radicals, molecules with unpaired electrons, can damage tissues by stealing electrons from other molecules, leading to cell death or mutation. While some reactions are nonlethal, the cumulative damage over time is implicated in ageing-related degeneration. Antioxidants, such as Vitamins E, C, and A, selenium, and beta-carotene, act as natural rust proofing agents, controlling free radicals and supporting cellular health.
Water, often overlooked, is vital for ageing individuals. Dehydration risks increase with age, exacerbated by decreased sensitivity to thirst signals. Consuming adequate liquids, around one to one and a half quarts a day, helps flush out waste and supports essential biological functions.
Research continues to unravel the complexities of ageing, and while there’s no miracle food, maintaining a healthy, balanced diet can minimise the impacts of ageing. While the precise causes of ageing and the optimal nutrient balance remain elusive, ongoing discoveries provide valuable insights into promoting overall well-being throughout the ageing process.
Er Mohammad Ashraf Fazili is former Chief Engineer