There are a multitude of erosive forces in our bodies that accelerate the pace of the aging process. Many facets of our lifestyle directly influence these erosive forces; such as our nutritional status, activity level, sleep quality, stress levels and hormone balance, to name a few. Of these, none is more influential than our dietary choices. This knowledge is empowering. What we eat on a daily basis and the nutrient quality of the foods we choose can undoubtedly influence how well we age!
Every year we are all getting chronologically older; however, science has clearly shown we can slow the aging process with lifestyle interventions. Think of the aging process as a gradual deterioration in our health. With aging, our immune system, cardiovascular system, nervous system, metabolism—in fact, all internal systems—become less effective. As a result we are more susceptible to illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, dementia, osteoporosis and so on.
In essence, we eat well, sleep well, balance stress, improve hormone balance and exercise to slow the aging process. When we slow the deterioration of aging, we dramatically improve our health span.
Let’s look specifically at how eating a nutrient-dense Paleo diet—full of healthy proteins, healthy fats, and low in carbohydrates—can influence some of the erosive aging forces we face daily:
Controls Blood Sugar Levels
Poor diets, full of processed carbohydrates, elevate blood sugar levels too high and too long. Elevated blood sugar levels damage cells throughout our body through a process called glycation. Glycation accelerates aging via the production of Advanced Glycation End products (AGEs). AGEs are formed because the high blood sugar “sticks” to cell components causing damage to the body’s cells. A Paleo diet effectively controls blood sugar levels, decreasing the rate of glycation and decreasing the production of AGEs.
Balances Insulin Levels
Insulin is a powerful hormone that is released when our blood sugar rises. When we eat poorly, our blood sugar is excessively elevated leading to high insulin levels. High insulin stores the elevated blood sugar as fat causing weight gain and a sluggish metabolism. In addition, high insulin levels lead to a condition called Insulin Resistance, which contributes to heart disease, dementia, metabolic disruption, hormone imbalances and accelerated aging. A Paleo diet balances insulin levels within weeks.
On metal, oxidation is the process that causes rust to develop. In our bodies, oxidation injures cells, increases our risks of degenerative diseases and accelerates aging. We are all aware of the term ‘antioxidant.’ Nutritious food supplies our bodies with high-quality antioxidants. In addition, quality nutrients stimulate natural antioxidant production in our bodies, such as glutathione and superoxide dismutase (SOD). When we eat nutrient-poor, processed foods, we not only provoke oxidation, we fail to provide our bodies with the antioxidant reinforcement that is contained in the healthy food found in a Paleo Diet.
Although an acute inflammatory process is pivotal to our immune response when we are ill or injured, chronic inflammation is an age accelerator. Chronic inflammation influences aging to such a degree that many aging experts refer to inflammation as “inflamm-aging.”
A typical American diet, full of processed oils, sugars, gluten and grain products, not only directly increases inflammation, but raises blood sugar levels and insulin levels as noted above. The dynamic duo of elevated sugar and insulin levels ratchet-up inflammation in the body to dangerous levels, putting the aging process on the fast track. Fat cells also release several inflammatory chemicals that stoke inflammation even further. When we eat well and burn more fat cells we lower inflammation and slow aging. While the Standard American Diet (SAD) is a PRO-inflammatory diet, a Paleo diet is an ANTI-inflammatory diet.
Decreases Stress Levels
Any type of stress to our body elevates the stress hormones, the main one being cortisol. Although we need stress hormones to survive, chronically elevated stress hormone levels are another powerful aging force on our bodies. When we eat nutrient-poor, processed foods, the blood sugar roller-coaster effect that we experience daily is a significant stress our body must respond to by releasing stress hormones at higher levels. The Paleo diet ends this continual onslaught of elevated stress hormones that leads to weight gain, muscle loss, memory impairment, hormone imbalance and rapid aging.
Hormone deficiencies and imbalances contribute to accelerated aging. Unfortunately, when we eat high-carbohydrate, low-fat processed foods, the resulting increase in blood sugar, insulin and cortisol levels lowers healthy hormone production such as human growth hormone (HGH), thyroid and testosterone. In addition, we require high-quality proteins and fats to produce adequate hormone levels. HGH and testosterone keep us strong, help us efficiently burn fat and keep us younger. Because of the positive impact of a Paleo diet on our hormone levels, we are able to burn fat and lose weight while simultaneously maintaining and even building muscle and bone. This positive impact on our body composition is virtually impossible to maintain on all other types of diets.
Many of us have experienced the benefits of eating Paleo—enhanced energy, better fat-burning metabolism, increased mental clarity, improved exercise stamina and recovery and quality sleep. How exciting to know that along with these benefits, we are also slowing the aging process, extending our health span and greatly enhancing the quality of our life!