Aging was once believed to be the ticking away of an internal time clock predetermined solely by the genes we inherited from our parents. The prevailing attitude was resigning oneself to lowered vitality and learning to live with age-related complaints.
The new view is much more optimistic. Today, more scientists believe it is possible to intervene in the aging process. Although we are stuck with our genes, we can control how we treat them. Research has been shedding light on how dietary measures along with smart supplementing can override defective genes and jump-start good ones to prevent, slow, or even reverse some of the signs and diseases of aging.
A diet that has consistently demonstrated the ability to deter aging and extend the life expectancy of animals by two to three times is a calorie-restricted diet. Such a diet limits the number of calories but is not lacking in essential nutrients. Unfortunately, studies found the animals were healthier but also meaner.
Calorie restriction can be tough for humans, too. Luckily, scientists have found an amazing nutrient that mimics the effects of calorie restriction, called resveratrol. Resveratrol is found in peanuts, grapes, and red wine, as well as supplements. Resveratrol is believed to be a key nutrient in traditional Mediterranean and French diets, which may account for the lower rates of heart disease inhabitants of these regions enjoy.
Another food reputed to deter aging is goji (Lycium). Goji berries are high in trace minerals and antioxidants, particularly beta-carotene. Goji was one of three herbs that Li Chun Yun, a Chinese herbalist, took daily. Legend has it he was 256 years of age when he died in 1933. The other two herbs he took are ginseng and ho-shu-wu (Polygonum).
We may not want to live forever. More important is quality of life. Each of us knows someone who looks very young for their age, and others who seem very old for their age. This suggests that in addition to our chronological age we have a biological age determined by how efficiently cells of the body are being repaired and replaced. Eating a high-quality diet, maintaining a positive attitude, and effectively managing stress are the keys to extending youthfulness.