The Search for the Anti-Aging Diet

By Peter Jaret, November/December 2007

New studies suggest healthy eating may add years to your life.

"The point is, nutrient density, not calories, in food, is key. "

“What’s the secret to a long and healthy life?” When I asked my great-grandmother that question on the occasion of her 90th birthday, her answer took everyone by surprise. “I always make sure to eat the fat and gristle off meat,” she said.

Fat and gristle?

We all laughed at the time, Great-Grandma included, but no one dared argue with her. What her pet theory lacked in scientific evidence it more than made up for by personal example. She lived a jolly, healthy, sharp-minded life well into her nineties.

Since then, whenever the headlines tout a new breakthrough in longevity—whether it’s green tea, red wine or a supercharged antioxidant supplement—I haven’t paid much heed. Lately, though, I’ve begun to wonder if it isn’t time to take a fresh look at the field of anti-aging research—and not only because I’m halfway through my fifties.

Increasingly, serious scientists have joined the quest for a fountain of youth. The National Institutes of Health is spending millions to explore ways to increase life span, including research into drugs, nutritional supplements and calorie restriction. Last year, headlines announced that a new anti-aging drug, based on a substance called resveratrol found in wine and grapes was being tested in people. If the booming science of anti-aging medicine has turned up anything that really works, I decided, I want to know about it.

So a few months ago I set off on my own search for a fountain of youth. From the start I decided to rule out things like potions of mysterious-sounding Chinese herbs, anti-aging vitamin formulas and injections of pituitary-gland extract at mountainside Swiss clinics. Maybe they work, maybe they don’t; so little evidence exists either way that the claims are almost impossible to evaluate. What I really wanted to know was simple: can the foods we eat and the way we live make a measurable difference in life span? Beyond that, is there any way to actually slow the hands of time and push the limits of longevity?

I decided to start my investigation with the people who should know best—those who live the longest.

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