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The anti-ageing recipe

Young at heart ... opt for the least processed foods to avoid inflammation.

Young at heart ... opt for the least processed foods to avoid inflammation. Photo: Stock image

What does a specialist in anti-ageing medicine eat for breakfast? Hint: there's no streaky bacon or snap, crackle and pop.

Most mornings Dr Joseph Maroon, senior vice-president of the American Academy of Anti-Ageing Medicine, sits down to porridge made from steel cut oats – the least processed of all oats - with ground flaxseed and blueberries, all washed down with the first of three daily cups of green tea. It's a portfolio of foods with a reputation for cooling inflammation - not the inflammation that erupts in response to infections and ingrown toenails, but the chronic low grade kind that sticks around in the body, setting the scene for problems like cardiovascular disease and dementia. Many researchers now believe this systemic inflammation is the body's reaction to 21st century lifestyles featuring denatured diets, inactivity and pollutants like tobacco smoke.

It's not that vigorous exercise stops you from ageing, he says – but it can put the brakes on things. 

Too much processed food can prod the body into producing inflammatory chemicals according to Maroon, who was in Melbourne recently to speak at the 6th Annual A5M Conference in Anti-Ageing and Aesthetic Medicine.

"But a Mediterranean style diet with a high intake of vegetables and fruit, lean protein, whole grains and nuts, along with exercise and - where possible - reducing stress and exposure to pollutants will reduce inflammation," he says.

His own diet mirrors this - lunches are salad with lean protein and wholegrain bread – and more green tea. Fish is on the dinner menu three or four time a week with more vegetables including 'a lot of broccoli', followed by three or four squares of dark chocolate. Sometimes there's a glass of pinot noir.

In health terms it's a diet you can't argue with. The controversial bit comes with his inclusion of supplements like curcumin and resveratrol. Curcumin, the pigment that gives the spice turmeric it's yellow colour, is an anti-inflammatory, which – in animal studies - shows promise against both Alzheimer's and cancer. Maroon takes it daily, popping open a curcumin capsule, and emptying its contents into a little olive oil with pepper – pepper boosts curcumin's absorption. Resveratrol, a compound found in the skin of foods like red grapes, is also being studied for its anti-cancer and anti-ageing effects – but again most research has been in lab and animal studies and more human studies are needed.

Maroon, a Professor of Neurosurgery at the University of Pittsburgh, became interested in anti-ageing medicine after seeing so many patients whose health problems were a result of lifestyle.

"I realised my job as a neurosurgeon was actually sick care not health care," he says. "I started to research more methods and treatments and nutritional factors that can contribute to disease reduction and prolonging of life."

At 72, he's a good advertisement for anti-ageing medicine. He's completed 70 triathlons events, including an ironman event only two years ago.

It's not that vigorous exercise stops you from ageing, he says – but it can put the brakes on things.

"You're going to lose some strength and endurance with age, but with progressive and consistent training you can markedly slow things down and many studies show this.

"The benefit of exercise to the brain is huge. I think it's the most important thing for preserving brain function and preventing Alzheimer's disease," he says. "Studies show that exercise increases production of a protein called BDNF, short for brain-derived neurotrophic factor which increases connections between brain cells and regenerates new brain cells."

A few weeks ago Maroon took part in a half ironman event in Indiana - that means a 1.9 km swim, a 90-kilometre bike ride, and a 21.1 kilometre run – and he added supplements of resveratrol, cocoa and green tea to his water bottle. Whether it was the water or his training schedule, he finished the race in a respectable six hours 30 minutes – 13 minutes faster than Tony Abbott's time in the 2010 Port Macquarie Half Ironman.

PS. I'm overseas for three weeks so the Life and Style editor will be doing most of the moderating of Chew On This comments - although I'll try and check in when I can. Paula

What do you do to stay healthier as you get older?

31 comments so far

  • Dr Joseph Maroon's eating plan sounds really tasty too!

    Date and time
    September 05, 2012, 12:30PM
    • Maybe Tony Abbott needs to stop getting so inflamed every time a woman does something, says something or dares to approach his sacred presence - and then his ironman times would improve?

      Date and time
      September 05, 2012, 12:43PM
      • Maybe if you spent less time worring on beat ups you might make it to 100. Take it easy Andilee chill out.

        Date and time
        September 06, 2012, 10:01AM
    • Juice 2 litres of organice green vegetables daily It's the most concentrated form of health and vitality. I've been doing it for 17 years and people often mistake me for looking as though I was at least a decade younger. Further, I seem to have unlimited energy

      Date and time
      September 05, 2012, 1:39PM
      • Why juice the vegetables? Isn't it better to just eat them whole? What a waste of all that valuable fibre. And actually a goodly amount of soluble fibre in the diet helps improve your HDL cholesterol levels. Very beneficial. Like you, I follow a healthy way of life, have lots of energy and a pretty clean bill of health for a certain age. My only vice is coffee and black tea, which I'd rather die than give up.

        Date and time
        September 05, 2012, 5:07PM
      • I do the same, but I make smoothies instead of just juicing. Keeps the fibre intact and my blood sugar level. I've never felt better.

        Audra Blue
        Date and time
        September 14, 2012, 10:07AM
    • Maybe daydream & you know that it is a daydream,there is none to verify this so you are a famous with so many invisible people looking for your autograph out there in another planet known only to you.
      Like Faulty Towers John Clease told to very slim man in his restaurant;this is not for you isn't while looking his slim body; what you eat? fruit?
      Get real & eat real food,that's how we come so far.

      Date and time
      September 05, 2012, 2:10PM
      • How do you make the green vegetable juice ?

        Date and time
        September 05, 2012, 2:22PM
        • You can chuck anything in the juicer. I like doing kale (or spinach or other dark green leaves), broccoli, celery, cucumber, and some lemon or apple to sweeten it.

          Date and time
          September 05, 2012, 2:34PM
        • Wouldn't it be better to just eat the vegetables raw?

          Date and time
          September 05, 2012, 3:35PM

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