Dr Caroline Apovian, director of the nutrition and weight management centre at Boston Medical Center, USA, in her new book, The Age-Defying Diet, talks about how consuming certain foods can help you look young for longer than usual. Experts in India, too, agree that by addressing the dwindling levels of hormones (oestrogen for women, and testosterone for men), with the right kind of diet, it is indeed possible to slow down the process of ageing.
“Some foods can boost oestrogen and testosterone levels. Thereby, they play a crucial role in how we age. However, the key to maximise the effect of these foods, is to not wait until you turn 50, in order to start eating them. You need to incorporate the items in your diet in moderate amounts earlier in life,” says Dr Pradeep Gadge, consultant endocrinologist, Breach Candy Hospital, Breach Candy.
Eat right, stay young
Gender-specific foods help balance your hormones. Although, this concept is relatively new, it is slowly gaining popularity among nutritionists the world over. It targets the different nutritional requirements of men and women, with respect to the different phases of their lives. “The role that food plays in ageing is an interesting one. Though ageing is genetically programmed, we also age due to internal and external factors like hormones, stress, nutrition, smoking, pollution, sun-exposure, etc. Gender-based food can help slow down the process of ageing,” says Dr Apratim Goel, dermatologist and laser surgeon, Cutis Skin Studio, Bandra (W).
The onset of menopause is largely governed by one’s genetic make-up, and there is only a limited amount of control one can exercise over it. Since menopause is marked by the reduced levels of oestrogen in a woman’s body, the concept of gender-specific foods, in this case, involves consuming natural items that contain phytoestrogen. Doing so can potentially help delay menopause, and also assist women deal with menopausal symptoms a little better.
This also works for men, who undergo the lesser-known andropause or ‘manopause’. As men age, the testosterone in their bodies actually starts getting converted to oestrogen, leading to many behavioural changes. In this case too, by eating foods that can help boost the production of testosterone, the ageing process can be slackened.
When we are young, we can eat just about anything, and get away with it, thanks to our body’s metabolism rate. However, as one crosses the age of 25, it becomes quite hard to burn body fat because of the decelerated rates of testosterone and oestrogen production.
With age, the changes in the sex hormone levels of both men and women are associated with changes in body fat distribution. While women of childbearing age tend to store fat in their lower bodies (pear-shaped), older men and postmenopausal women tend to put on weight around their abdomens (apple-shaped).
In women, lower levels of oestrogen can also make them feel more hungry and lethargic. The result? They tend to put on weight easily. So, by eating in a way that helps balance the hormones, it becomes easier to stay in shape.
— With inputs from Carlyne Remedios, senior nutritionist, Center Of Obesity And Digestive Surgery, Gamdevi and Kanchan Patwardhan, clinical nutritionist consultant, Arogya Hospital, Thane.