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Impact of nutrition on ageing and disease

Bengmark, Stig

Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care: January 2006 - Volume 9 - Issue 1 - p 2–7
doi: 10.1097/01.mco.0000171129.29278.26
Ageing: biology and nutrition

Purpose of review The globe is suffering a tsunami of chronic diseases, affecting especially the elderly and those with a dysfunctioning immune system. The fundamental principles of optimal health and optimal ageing are abstaining from smoking, modest alcohol consumption, regular physical exercise and a diet rich in fish and plants and low in condensed calories, sugar and dairy products.

Recent findings Dietary supply and production of advanced glycation end products leads to the accumulation of these products in the tissues and is strongly associated with ageing of the vascular endothelium, nervous system, eyes and other vital organs. Telomeres, which are not involved in DNA repair, remain unrepaired and loose with time. A decline in innate and acquired immunity is seen with increasing age and maintenance of low basal immune activity (degree of inflammation) seems important for health and longevity: ‘people who are predisposed to weak inflammatory activity may live longer’.

Summary Supplementation with vitamins has little effect on ageing/prevention of chronic diseases, but antiinflammatory molecules like polyphenols are more effective, especially when combined with reduced intake of calorie-condensed foods. The effect of probiotics on ageing needs further exploration. The effects of caloric restriction, proven effective in other species to control aging and prolong lifespan, have not been fully explored in humans.

Lund University, Lund, Sweden, and Departments of Hepatology and Surgery, University College London, London University, London, UK

Correspondence to Stig Bengmark MD, PhD, FRACS (hon), FRCPS (hon), Member Academia Europeae, Institute of Hepatology, University College, London Medical School, 69–75 Chenies Mews, London WC1E 6HX, UK Tel/fax: +44 20 7511 6841; e-mail:

© 2006 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.