Women who eat a healthy diet may prevent or delay their physical deterioration. But what type of diet has the best effect? And how can specific nutrients, which are difficult to get from the diet, improve the overall effect?
A large new study that was conducted by scientists from Brigham Women's Hospital found that women who ate a healthy diet were significantly less likely to deteriorate physically later in life. According to Francine Grodstein, who headed the study, there are not many studies that look into how the diet affects physical function later in life. However, because such functions are so vital for our ability to remain mobile and manage on our own, the team of scientists felt encouraged to look into the matter.
The quality of the food matters
The researchers looked at 54,762 women, all of whom took part in another large study called Nurses' Health Study. Starting in 1980, the dietary habits of the women were logged every four years in special dietary questionnaires, and from 1992 to 2008 the women's physical capacity was also measured every four years.
The researchers found that higher intake of vegetables and fruit combined with lower consumption of sugary beverages, trans-fatty acids, salt, and alcohol was associated with a reduced risk of physical deterioration. The scientist found that oranges, apples and pears, romaine lettuce, or other types of green salad, and walnuts had a particularly great effect. However, they also observed that these specific foods generally had a lower effect compared with a healthy and balanced diet, which is generally known to contain substantially more essential nutrients. This indicates that it is more important to eat a diet with a rich variety of high-quality foods rather than to stick with a few specific food items.
Physical health is determining for your physical independence
According to Kaitlin Hagan, there is a lot of focus on chronic illnesses, cancer, and cardiovascular disease, whereas we don't think a lot about the general physical functions in our daily lives. Still, it is extremely important to remain physically healthy and strong, especially as we grow older, as this includes the most basic skills such as getting dressed, going for walks, and moving about without being helped by others. The study from Brigham Women's Hospital is published in the Journal of Nutrition.
Strengthen your heart - it is body's main engine
The heart is the body's main engine that pumps blood to all parts of the organism. Therefore, our heart is vital for our physical abilities throughout life. Although we stick with a healthy lifestyle and eat the right food, our energy levels decrease as a natural part of growing older. This is partly a result of producing less coenzyme Q10, a substance that is essential for cellular energy metabolism. Many of us notice that our vitality decreases after we reach our 50s. One of the main reasons for this is that levels of coenzyme Q10 in heart tissue go down because the body produces less of the substance. It is possible to compensate for the decreasing endogenous coenzyme Q10 production by taking a high-quality coenzyme Q10 supplement. In fact, it may pay off to include selenium, which is known to improve the effect of coenzyme Q10.
Q10 and selenium give increased physical endurance and reduce the risk of cardiac death by 50%
Dr. Urban Alehagen, a Swedish cardiologist from the University in Linköping, headed the well-known KiSel-10 study in which it was seen how a group of elderly men and women who got daily supplements of coenzyme Q10 and selenium had 54% lower cardiovascular mortality than another group of elderly people who got placebo (dummy pills). The supplement group also had improved heart muscle function, which contributes to increased physical endurance, mental well-being, and quality of life in general.
The combination of coenzyme Q10 and selenium is relevant for several reasons. First of all, the endogenous coenzyme Q10 production goes down with increasing age. Secondly, the Scandinavian soil is low in selenium. Thirdly, coenzyme Q10 and selenium work in synergy in the human body. Selenium also helps protein build muscle mass.
Older people need more protein for their muscle mass
Our muscle mass plays a determining role for our physical capacity throughout life. Unfortunately, there are many factors that influence the age-related loss of muscle mass. In terms of diet, researchers have become increasingly aware of the increased need for protein. The official daily recommendation for protein intake is 0.8 gram per kilo of body weight, but in recent years scientists have recommended that elderly people get at least 1-1.2 grams if possible, so they can maintain healthy muscle mass. The protein should preferably come from a balanced diet with both animal and vegetable protein sources. This ensures the presence of all amino acids.
Brigham and Women´s Hospital. For women, healthy diets may help with mobility when aging. ScienceDaily. 2016
Francesco Landi et al. Protein Intake and Muscle Health in Old Age: From Biological Plausibility to Clinical Evidence. Nutrients 2016
Linnane et al. Cellular redox activity of coenzyme Q10: effect of coQ10 supplementation on human skeletal muscle. Free Rad Res 2002
Alehagen U, et al. Cardiovascular mortality and N-Terminal-proBNP reduced after combined selenium and coenzyme Q10 supplementation. Int J Cardiol. 2012
Pernille Lund. Q10 - fra helsekost til epokegørende medicin. Nu Videnskab 2014
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