Study links variation in human dietary patterns with ageing process

Findings emphasize importance of taking a holistic approach to thinking about nutrients

The answer to a relatively concise question- how does what we eat affect how we age– is unavoidably complex, according to a new study at the Butler Columbia Aging Center at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, US. While most analyses had been concerned with the effects of a single nutrient on a single outcome, a conventional, unidimensional approach to understanding the effects of diet on health and ageing no longer provides us with the full picture: healthy diet needs to be considered based on the balance of ensembles of nutrients, rather than by optimizing a series of nutrients one at a time.

“Our ability to understand the problem has been complicated by the fact that both nutrition and the physiology of ageing are highly complex and multidimensional, involving a high number of functional interactions,” said Alan Cohen, PhD, associate professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia Mailman School.

“This study therefore provides further support to the importance of looking beyond ‘a single nutrient at a time’ as the one size fits all response to the age-old question of how to live a long and healthy life.” Cohen also points that the results are also concordant with numerous studies highlighting the need for increased protein intake in older people, in particular, to offset sarcopenia and decreased physical performance associated with ageing.

As per the study, elevated protein intake improved/depressed some ageing parameters, whereas elevated carbohydrate levels improved/depressed others. The research team also developed an interactive tool to allow users to explore how different combinations of micronutrients affect different aspects of ageing.

Image credit- shutterstock

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