by Ross Walker

One of the holy grails of modern medicine is to introduce strategies to at least slow down the ageing process and the “pot of gold” at the end of the rainbow, would be to reverse the ageing process.  Many researchers have proven in insects and some laboratory animals that one of the most effective methods for this laudable goal is calorie restriction.  In our modern world, where every celebration is centred around food and food is also freely available, it is often difficult to restrict calories. 

Professor Dean Ornish, who has been one of the most prominent researchers in the field of preventative cardiology for many years and is now the Professor of the Preventative Medicine Research Institute at the University of California in San Francisco, has performed a trial looking at the effects of lifestyle changes on ageing.

There are little caps on the end of DNA called “Telomeres” and measurement of telomere length is an indication of ageing.  Professor Ornish performed a study of two groups of men who had been diagnosed with low risk prostate cancer.  Both groups had no standard treatments such as surgery or radiation for the cancer and were basically monitored.

The first group was commenced on comprehensive lifestyle changes including:

  1. Adopting a whole foods plant based diet.
  2. Following a regular exercise program.
  3. Practising regular stress management techniques e.g. meditation, yoga.
  4. Behavioural techniques to improve relationships. 

The second group were used as a control group and no specific lifestyle changes were suggested.  At the end of five years, however, the length of their telomeres i.e. a good indication of ageing, was measured at the start of the study and at the end of five years.  Interestingly, the major result from this trial showed that in the men with  significant lifestyle changes, there was a 10 per cent increase in the length of Telomeres whereas, those who did not make any lifestyle changes reduced their Telomere length by 3 per cent. 

Although this is not a direct proof of reversing the ageing process, at present this is one of the only studies  that shows a strong link between significant lifestyle change and surrogate parameters that suggest a reversal of the ageing process.

During my radio shows, professional presentations and in my books and other articles such as this, I am constantly stressing the importance of:

  1. Having no addictions.
  2. Good quality sleep.
  3. A sensible eating program and less of it.
  4. Three to five hours of exercise on a weekly basis.
  5. The title of my recent TEDTALK, Happiness, the Best Drug on the Planet.

It is comforting to see that research is strongly supporting the five key principles of a healthy lifestyle.