The 10 Dietary Habits of Highly Successful Agers
Everybody knows or has heard of a remarkably long-lived person. Many have lived independently into their hundreds and passed away without experiencing the extreme debility we usually associate with very old age. And although everyone slows down, these exceptional people remain fit and sharp. I describe such individuals as members of the “Mindspan Elite,” people who not only live extremely long lives, but retain high cognitive performance and good physical health through their later years (I coined the term “mindspan” to mean the lifespan of the high-performance mind). Studies suggest that the Mindspan Elite age more slowly; in effect, are biologically younger than most people their age. It’s common to attribute such exceptional health to “good genes,” and that these golden genes put lucky bearers on a course toward happy and extreme mindspans.
Although good genes and medical advances can help some people live longer, healthier lives, most scientific investigations show that genes are responsible for only about a third of extended longevity, and that much of the rest is due to environmental factors above and beyond medical advances — improvements in lifestyle, such as diet, sleep, mental stimulation, mood, and exercise. It seems that just about everyone with a platform extols the health benefits of a certain diet. Indeed, complementary research has repeatedly demonstrated the importance of diet and nutrition to health and longevity — and the link between diet and longevity continues to grow.
Yet a hyperfocus on diet implies a “genes or diet” dichotomy, missing possibly the single most important point about the role genes play in longevity: genes and diet are interdependent. To promote cognitive and/or physical health, many gene variants require a complementary diet, one which matches an individual’s particular genetic makeup.
Diet May be The Most Controllable Determinant of Healthy Aging
When we think of a healthful diet, we often think of a Mediterranean diet, which numerous studies have proven as superior to most others — especially to a typical Western diet. Studies have also characterized Asian diets as healthful. And in fact, many of the longest-lived people in the world are Japanese. In my book, The Mindspan Diet, I note that the Mindspan Elite are highly concentrated in areas with diets recognized as healthful. A high proportion of centenarians and supercentenarians (people age 110 and older) live, for example, in Japan, near the Mediterranean Sea in parts of France and Italy, and in the region of Spain Northeast of Madrid stretching north and westward to the north and western coasts above Portugal.