Although none of us can escape the Grim Reaper, there is plenty we can do to delay his arrival. In fact, a sensible lifestyle eating at least two organically grown fruits a day, avoiding allergens, pollutants and other noxious agents, keeping to your correct body weight, taking antioxidants and exercising moderately can add years to your life.
Eating fresh fruit daily can reduce the risk of death from other diseases. A long-term British study tracked 11,000 people all generally eating a healthy diet over 17 years. They were asked about their consumption of food like wholegrain bread, bran cereal, fresh fruit, raw salad and so on. The researchers concluded that only consumption of fruit was associated with reduced risk of death (BMJ, 1996; 313: 775-9).
Coronary heart disease is a major killer of the elderly. Yet a number of studies show that taking nutritional supplements can reduce the risks substantially. The US National Institute on Aging reports that the death rate among elderly people taking regular doses of vitamin E was about half that of their peers not taking the vitamin. In fact, the supplement group had a lower rate of death from any cause. Those taking both vitamin E and C did even better than those taking vitamin E alone (vitamin C is known to protect against vitamin E oxidation) (Am J Clin Nutr, 1996,: 64: 190-96).
The Cambridge Heart Anti-Oxidant Study had equally impressive results. Participants given daily supplements of either 400 or 800 IU vitamin E for around 18 months had an astonishing 77 per cent reduction in the number of new, non-fatal heart attacks (Lancet, 1996; 347: 781-6).
Angina pectoris, another scourge of old age, has also been shown to be helped with modest doses of vitamin E (50 mg a day), together with beta-carotene (JAMA, 1996; 275: 693-8).
Vitamin C supplementation can protect against respiratory problems, which also afflict many elderly people. Researchers from Cambridge University looked at blood vitamin C levels and two measures of respiratory function in 1900 people aged 45-75. They found a clear link between improved respiration results and higher levels of vitamin C in men although less so in women (Eur J Clin Nutr, 1996; 50: 573-9).
The US National Institutes of Health recently showed that the current recommended daily allowance for vitamin C is too low and should be increased to 200 mg a day (Proc Nat Acad Sci, 1996; 193: 3704-9).
The risk of bladder cancer can be substantially reduced by a combination of nutritional supplements and diet. Researchers in Seattle, Washington State, compared the eating habits of patients with bladder cancer with those of healthy people the same age. They found that long-term daily use of a multivitamin reduced the risk by half. Regularly eating fruit and taking a daily vitamin C supplement were both also shown to substantially lessen the risk.
Those eating fruit every day had a 32 per cent lower rate of death from strokes; a 24 per cent lower death rate from heart disease; and a 21 per cent lower death rate from all causes, compared with those eating fresh fruit less often.
Another long-term, wide-scale study of 10,000 people in America over 14 years found a significant link between increased longevity and a consistently varied diet (J Am Coll Nutr, 1995; 14: 233-8).
Moderate exercise can increase longevity and improve the quality of later life (N Eng J Med, 1985; 312: 1159-68).
Actuarial tables consistently show that being extremely underweight or even moderately overweight can reduce lifespan (R Weindruch & RL Walford, Retardation of Aging and Disease by Dietary Restriction, Charles C Thomas, 1988).
Harald Gaier is a registered naturopath, homoeopath, and osteopath.