While Prof Kenny says there is not enough evidence that vegans outlive vegetarians, she agrees that one of the best things we can do to live longer is reduce or cut out red and processed meat and follow a Mediterranean diet.
“A host of studies confirm the health benefits of a Mediterranean diet of wholegrains, fruits, vegetables, seafood, beans, nuts and olive oil – with no sugar or saturated foods,” says Prof Kenny.
2. Avoid red meat
“Processed meat, such as sausages and bacon, has been repeatedly shown to lead to faster ageing,” says Prof Kenny. Research from China suggests these foods are leading causes of cardiovascular disease, cancer, respiratory disease and neurodegenerative disease and that increasing total red and processed meat intake by 3.5 servings a week or more over an eight-year period is associated with a 10 per cent higher risk of death in the next eight years.
Processed meats can also interrupt the sleep pattern, as they contain high levels of tyramine, an amino acid which triggers brain alertness.”
However, eating fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, or sardines are said to help prevent dementia, prostate cancer, and age-related vision loss.
3. Eat little… and less often
Prof Kenny is a fan of calorie-restrictive dieting: lowering the number of calories you consume in a 24-hour period. She points to 2011 research from Newcastle University, led by Prof Roy Taylor, which helped revolutionise treatment for Type 2 diabetes after the groundbreaking study showed the disease could be reversed through rapid weight loss.
Until Prof Taylor’s research was published, Type 2 diabetes was thought to be an incurable, lifelong condition: the patients in his study went on a restrictive diet and many no longer needed medication. “Eating all your meals in an eight-hour window can also be helpful, as it lowers blood sugar and lessens ageing inflammation,” says Prof Kenny.
A study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, into how post-menopausal women respond to time-restricted eating, showed that those who abstained from food for 16 hours, or from 8pm until noon the following day, showed a small improvement in body weight (3lbs) and fat mass compared with the control group.
4. Feed your gut
Studies of the microbiome – the bacteria and other microbes that live in our gut – show that it is crucial to our immune system, heart and weight. “Research shows that it’s possible to shift the diversity of gut microbiome within 72 hours of changing our nutritional habits, and you can do this at any age,” says Prof Kenny. “Aim for a plate of highly-coloured food: raspberries, grapes and pickled foods such as sauerkraut or kimchi.”