lifestyle medicine: nutrition

Siobhan Kelleher continues her series on lifestyle medicine by exploring the role of nutrition on health and sustainable living.

In recent years, there has been a growing interest in lifestyle medicine and its impact on our overall health and wellbeing. 

Lifestyle medicine emphasises the importance of making positive lifestyle choices, such as adopting a nutritious diet and engaging in regular physical activity, to both prevent and treat chronic diseases. 

One crucial aspect of lifestyle medicine is nutrition, which significantly promotes optimal health and longevity.

A twin experiment

One notable study to shed light on the connection between nutrition and health is the Stanford study, which was featured in the popular Netflix series ‘You Are What You Eat: A Twin Experiment’. 

This research explored the effects of different diets (vegan and a healthy omnivorous diet) on identical twins’ health outcomes. The study revealed that adopting a plant-based diet can benefit our health.

Moreover, the documentary highlighted the importance of animal production’s detrimental environmental impact and sustainability. Animal agriculture, particularly beef production, has been linked to deforestation, including the cutting down of the Amazon rainforest. 

This destruction of natural habitats not only contributes to climate change but also leads to the loss of biodiversity. 

By reducing our consumption of animal products, we can help mitigate these environmental challenges and promote a more sustainable future.

DNA and telomeres

In addition to the environmental benefits, a plant-based diet has been shown to positively affect our DNA. Telomeres, which are protective caps at the end of our chromosomes, play a crucial role in maintaining the stability and integrity of our DNA. 

The research found that the twins who followed a plant-based diet in the Stanford study had longer telomeres, which is associated with increased longevity and a reduced risk of age-related diseases. 

This suggests that a plant-based diet may have anti-ageing effects at the cellular level.

Sustainable and affordable

One of the advantages of a plant-based diet is its accessibility and ease of cultivation. Plants are abundant and can be grown in various environments, making them a sustainable and affordable source of nutrition. 

By shifting towards a plant-based diet, we can improve our health and contribute to a more sustainable food system that can feed the growing global population.

Summary

In conclusion, lifestyle medicine and nutrition are integral to promoting health and sustainability. 

The Stanford study showcased in the ‘You Are What You Eat: A Twin Experiment’ Netflix documentary highlights the benefits of adopting a plant-based diet for our health and the environment. 

By reducing our reliance on animal production, particularly beef, we can mitigate the environmental impact, including the deforestation of the Amazon. Furthermore, a plant-based diet has been shown to positively affect our DNA, increasing telomere lengths and potentially promoting longevity. 

Embracing a plant-based diet benefits our health and contributes to a more sustainable and resilient future. 

References 

  • Collings C (2021) The power of lifestyle medicine to treat disease. Presentation, American college of lifestyle medicine
  • Katz DL, Frates EP, Bonnet JP, Gupta SK, Vartiainen E, Carmona RH (2018) Lifestyle as medicine: the case for a true health initiative. Am J Health Promot 32(6): 1452-1458
  • Sagner M, Eggar G, Binns A, Rossner S (eds) (2017) Lifestyle Medicine (3rd ed). Elsevier 

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