With baby boomers hitting retirement age, more and more people are looking for the secret to healthy aging and longevity. For some this means spending literally thousands of dollars on creams, surgery, and topical treatments to convey an image of youth.
Others take a more internal route with frequent detoxes, different diet programs, colonics, oil pulling, eating no calories or not eating an entire category of food. And then, of course, there’s the constant barrage of “latest and greatest” that some TV guru is featuring that week.
It can all become pretty tiresome and expensive—and according to recent research, completely unnecessary.
Fiber As the Fountain of Youth?
In an effort to cut through the noise, researchers set out to see if there was a simple dietary answer to our desire to age more healthfully and extend longevity.1 And given that previous research has shown that the simple act of adding adequate fiber to your diet can lower your risk of serious disease, including cancer and heart disease, they decided to start there.2-3
Researchers looked at participants of the Blue Mountains Eye Study—a group of 3,654 Australian residents aged 49 to 97 who were examined during 1992-1994, originally to study eye health.1
They looked at semi-quantitative Food Frequency Questionnaires filled out by participants. Specifically, they looked at how certain foods affected what they termed “successful aging”. The foods and food groups included:
- Glycemic index (GI)
- Glycemic load (GL)
- Carbohydrate intake
- Sugar consumption
- Fiber intake (including fruits, vegetable of breads/cereals fiber)
They found that there were a total of 1,609 adults age 49 and older who were “healthy” at the start of the study, meaning that they were free of cancer, coronary artery disease, and stroke.
Researchers followed the participants for 10 years, defining “successful aging” as the absence of disability, depression, cognitive impairment, respiratory symptoms, and chronic diseases such as cancer and coronary artery disease.
At the end of the 10 years, researchers found that just 15.5 percent of the group (249 people) had indeed aged successfully. When they broke down the data even more, they found that glycemic index, glycemic load, and carb intake were not significantly associated with successful aging. However, they discovered that fiber was a different story.
Those people who had the greatest total fiber intake were more likely to age successfully than those who at the least amount of fiber. Additionally, those who consistently fell below the average amount of fiber consumption as compared to the rest of the participants were less likely to age successfully.
Researchers concluded, “Consumption of dietary fiber from breads/cereals and fruits independently influenced the likelihood of aging successfully over 10 years. These findings suggest that increasing intake of fiber-rich foods could be a successful strategy in reaching old age disease free and fully functional.”
Fill Up on Fiber
Talk about your simple solution. No fancy plans, no elaborate skin care system, no weekly doctor’s appointment. Just get more fiber.
The study focused on dietary fiber in the form of whole grains and fruits and vegetables. Ideally you’ll want to aim for 25-30 grams of dietary fiber per day. However, if you are not even close to that, work to increase intake slowly to avoid cramps and constipation.
Instead, eat 15-20 grams for a week or two, then increase to 20-25 for another week or two, then start your 25-30 grams a day. Here is a quick chart to help you get a feel for which foods are considered to be high-fiber:
|Insoluble Fiber||Soluble Fiber|
|Dark leafy vegetables||Oat bran|
|Whole-grain breads, cereals and pastas||Carrots|
If you prefer, you can also used fiber supplements like apple pectin or psyllium husk. These are good additions, but should be used in conjunction with a healthy, high-fiber diet, not in place of it.
- Gopinath B, et al. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2016. [Epub ahead of print.]
- Erkkila AT and Lichtenstein AH. J Cardiovasc Nurs. 2006 Jan-Feb;21(1):3-8.
- Makarem N, et al. Nutr Rev. 2016 Jun;74(6):353-73.
Kimberly Day has spent the past 15 years uncovering natural and alternative health solutions. She was the managing editor for several of the world’s largest health newsletters including those from Dr. Susan Lark, Dr. Julian Whittaker and Dr. Stephen Sinatra. She has also penned several health-related newsletter and magazine articles, co-authored the book the Hormone Revolution with Dr. Susan Lark, contributed articles to Lance Armstrong’s consumer site livestrong.com, and created a number of health-related websites and blogs.
For tips, tools and strategies to address your most pressing health concerns and make a positive difference in your life, visit Peak Health Advocate.