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Growing up gracefully

Dr. Anjali Mukerjee on the old-age diseases and how each of them can be treated, prevented and their progress slowed by taking steps to slow down the ageing process.

health and fitness Updated: Jan 06, 2011 15:52 IST

What aspect of growing old do you dread the most? Cancer? Heart disease? Alzheimer’s? Osteoporosis? Each of these disorders can be treated, prevented and their progress slowed by taking steps to slow down the ageing process.



The secrets of ageing lie in your molecular biology. Ageing occurs when your cells are bombarded by chemical particles called free-radicals produced in the body by such functions as respiration, elimination, digestion, etc. Free radicals are also produced by pollution, cigarette smoke, alcohol, rancid fats, sugar-laden foods, etc. Free radicals damage cells, and accumulated cellular damage precipitates a disease, which degenerates the body.



Too sugary


When you have extra sugar in your bloodstream, the sticky sugar molecules attach themselves to proteins. The sugary proteins cross-link to form a new chemical structure, which starts the degeneration process. It can lead to cataracts, stiffening joints, and sagging skin. When a cell stops functioning properly, it may lead to cancer. When glucose attaches itself to protein molecules, the resulting end products circulate in the blood and have an adverse effect on blood fats. Diabetics have a high risk of precipitating heart diseases since excess sugar in the blood is damaging. Major body organs like the heart, kidney, blood vessels, eyes, skin and nerves are particularly vulnerable.



Excess fat

When it comes to ageing many of us are worried only about weight gain, wrinkles, greying of hair, etc. However, fats stimulate the production of free radicals, making your cells cancerous and dysfunctional. The body cannot cope up with so many free radicals and the cellular destruction that follows precipitates as age. Fats get rancid or peroxidised. These lipid hydroperoxide molecules are the worst free radicals. Once inside the body, they go on a rampage of cell destruction. They ignite one cell after the other in a chain reaction turning your body cells into malfunctioning junk. They attack the fatty membranes all over your body. Foods like potato chips, samosa, jalebi, puri, bhajia, fried sev, ghantia, papdi, pastries, and the like in excess can cause free radical damage to your body. Just as fried chips lying exposed to air begins to get rancid, the fat you consume too becomes oxidised.



In moderation


Now that you’re aware of what happens when you consume sugar- and fat-laden foods, you may not be able to enjoy another dessert again! But the idea is not to take the fun out of life. It is wise to eat in moderation and build your resistance and immunity in such a way that a little bit of sugar and fat eaten occasionally will not make you lose the battle against ageing.



What’s going on inside your body is of greater importance than your external appearance. Keeping your body detoxified and clean is the only way to live and remain in good health.



Dr Anjali Mukherjee is a nutritionist and founder of Health Total, a nutrition counselling centre.