Loose Women: Dr Hilary discusses how to live longer
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The Japanese population, on average, outlives those in other G7 countries (France; Germany; Italy; Japan; the United States; the United Kingdom, and Canada), according to an international comparison published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition last year. This trend owes in part to the remarkably low mortality rates from ischemic heart disease and cancer (particularly breast and prostate). Research published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) suggests the Japanese diet may account for the life expectancy figures.
The National Centre for Global Health and Medicine in Tokyo tracked the eating habits and well-being of nearly 80,000 men and women over the course of 15 years.
They found that people who had closely followed food and dietary guidelines published by the Japanese government in 2005 tended to be in better health than their peers.
The 2005 guidelines recommended the number of “servings per day” of different food types:
- Five to seven servings of grain-based foods (rice, pasta, noodles, bread)
- Five to six servings of vegetables
- Three to five servings of meat and fish
- Two servings of fruit
- Two servings of milk and dairy products.
Eating snacks and sweets and drinking alcohol were advised in moderation.
Adhering strictly to these guidelines constitutes a diet low in saturated fat and with few processed foods, but high in carbohydrates.
“Our findings suggest that balanced consumption of energy, grains, vegetables, fruits, meat, fish, eggs, soy products, dairy products, confectioneries, and alcoholic beverages can contribute to longevity by decreasing the risk of death, predominantly from cardiovascular disease, in the Japanese population,” the researchers concluded.
The researchers behind the international comparison suggested that the Japanese diet also incorporated the best aspects of the Westernised diet.
“The typical Japanese diet as characterised by plant food and fish as well as modest Westernised diet such as meat, milk and dairy products might be associated with longevity in Japan,” they wrote.
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What to avoid
In general, you should shun foods high in saturated fat because these will increase the levels of “bad” cholesterol in your blood.
Bad cholesterol, also known as LDL cholesterol, is a waxy substance that collects on the inside of your artery walls.
According to the NHS, foods high in saturated fat include:
- Meat pies
- Sausages and fatty cuts of meat
- Ghee – a type of butter often used in Indian cooking
- Hard cheese
- Cakes and biscuits
- Foods that contain coconut or palm oil.
“You should also try to avoid too much sugar in your diet, as this can increase your chances of developing diabetes,” warns the health body.
The other key tip to boost longevity is to engage in regular exercise.
Exercise can reduce your risk of a host of chronic diseases, such as cancer and heart disease.
Aerobic exercise generally confers the greatest health benefits.
As Harvard Health reports, nearly all of the research regarding the disease-fighting benefits of exercise revolves around cardiovascular activity, which includes walking, jogging, swimming, and cycling.
“Experts recommend working out at moderate intensity when you perform aerobic exercise — brisk walking that quickens your breathing is one example,” advises the health body.
“This level of activity is safe for almost everyone and provides the desired health benefits.”
Additional health benefits may flow from increased intensity.
“In general, 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity can give similar health benefits to 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity,” says the NHS.
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