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Eat like the Greeks

Australian Biology of Ageing Conference in Sydney finds Greece's version of Mediterranean diet is the secret to longevity

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28 April 2017

The Australian Biology of Ageing Conference hosted by the University of Sydney's Charles Perkins Centre earlier this week, was told that in order for Australians to live longer they need to start eating like the Greeks.

While this doesn't come as news for most of us, researchers in the British Journal of Sports Medicine say that coronary heart disease is caused by chronic inflammation, which can be lowered with a Mediterranean-style diet rich in nuts, extra virgin olive oil, vegetables, and oily fish, according to a study by La Trobe University.

Not so long ago a study of around 800 men in the Concord Health and Ageing in Men project run out of Concord Hospital in Sydney revealed that when Greek or Italian migrant men tried to follow the Australian dietary recommendations they suffered.

"They didn't do so well," researcher Rosilene Waern from the University of Sydney's Charles Perkins Centre told the Daily Telegraph.

According to Waern's findings, older Australian men who followed the dietary guidelines were in better health than those who didn't.

Greeks followed closely by Italians, had an overall a lower dietary intake of all the key nutrients as recommended by the Australian dietary guidelines (produced by the National Health and Medical Research Council) which resulted in more illnesses, medications, and an overall frailer health.
Even though at this point the study can't say with certainty that it was the diet and not the illnesses themselves causing the issues, the researchers have agreed that there are advantages of the Mediterranean diet over Australian dietary guidelines.

The men who were eating less red meat, sweets, and who avoided smoking and alcohol consumption lived longer.

Surprisingly, a carbohydrate diet combined with more fibre from tomatoes, spinach, and legumes, with an increased intake of seafood and unsaturated fat in comparison to what is considered ideal in Australia, has better results. Greeks also tend to consume less dairy than recommended by the Australian dietary guidelines.

Meanwhile, a new meta-analysis finding proves that saturated fats do not clog up the arteries and are not linked to coronary heart disease while a carbohydrate-based diet is also found to improve health and longevity.

At the same time another report reveals that reducing calorie intake significantly is linked to longevity and it urges people to try fasting a few times a year in order to detoxify their systems.

The study was also brought to the conference committee's attention by Rafael de Cabo from the National Institute on Aging, in the United States.

Experts also seemed to agree that polyunsaturated fats such as vegetable oils, safflower and sunflower oils commonly used to make margarines, cakes, biscuits, burgers, pizza, and chips have a negative impact on health whereas non-saturated fats from nuts, olive oil, avocado oil, and oily fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines have helped people improve their metabolism and overall wellbeing.

In addition, humans given spermidine, a polyamine helping cells remove damaged bits and keep DNA subscription and translation stable, had lower markers of cardiac failure.

This spermidine found in beans, fermented cheeses, meats, fruits, vegetables, and mushrooms can help you live longer according to researchers of ageing. Even though this has not been tested in humans, in other species, spermidine has also been found to delay age related memory loss and motor impairment.

Other compounds linked to longevity in rodents include the diabetes drugs metformin and acarbose and resveratrol, a chemical found in red wine; while rapamycin, a drug used to prevent organ rejection after kidney transplantation and in cardiac stents has been found to extend life span by suppressing cancers.

Having given old mice nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN), a vitamin that helps cells repair DNA damage, they lived 20 per cent longer and were able to run faster.

"The cells of the old mice were indistinguishable from the young mice after just one week of treatment," Professor David Sinclair of UNSW School of Medical Sciences and Harvard Medical School Boston told News Corp earlier this week.

All authors seemed to agree on one thing. Older men of Greek and Italian heritage who followed a Mediterranean-based diet has better performance and lived longer.

Lowering blood fats and cutting out dietary-saturated fat is definitely not the solution.

Mediterranean diet expert Dr Catherine Itsiopoulos from La Trobe University says for the average person this means:
Use extra virgin olive oil as the main added fat
Eat vegetables with every meal
Include at least two legumes meals per week
Eat at least two servings of oily fish like salmon, canned sardines
Eat smaller portions of meat (beef, lamb, pork and chicken) and no more than once or twice a week
Eat fresh fruit every day and dried fruit and nuts as snacks or dessert
Eat yoghurt and cheese (preferably goat cheese) in moderation
Include wholegrain breads (sourdough rather than pasta) and cereals with meals
Consume wine in moderation with meals
Have sweets or sweet drinks for special occasions only.

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Years ago I had the honour of being Vice President of the Hellenic Heart Health Committee of the Heart Research Council. My chair was then Chief Magistrate Nick Pappas. Our members included John Pandazopoulos MP and Murray Thompson MP, and world famous cardiologist Dr Alan Goble, amongst others. Alan had a simple message which we took across the state, in seminars, and talks, and activity programs... the Hellenic diet was the HEALTHIEST on the planet

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