The thing I really love about the “healthy living” industry is that is that in no other business could you possibly make as much money telling the desperate and the gullible what they already know. And when it comes to those poor unfortunates’ chequebooks, January – to paraphrase the poet, T. S. Eliott – is the cruellest month. We’re all feeling a tad guilty after the over-indulgence of Christmas and the New Year, and as a result we’re more than usually willing to pay to be lectured on the blindingly obvious.
So, to save my faithful abcMallorca readers a few quid at this time of apparently bottomless recession, I’m going to get 2009 off to a fun start by sharing with you my four much-sought-after secrets of healthy living and virtually imperceptible ageing – all free, gratis and for nothing.
And by way of motivation, I’d advise you to keep in mind the following: the only rational reason to make sure you get fit and healthy in January is … so that you can indulge for the rest of the year, of course.
1. Take Exercise, Don’t Smoke, Go Easy on the Booze, and Eat Plenty of Fruit and Vegetables:
Right, did you ever hear any of that before? Of course you did. Did you take much notice of it? Probably not. But you still want to know how to have a healthy lifestyle? I see …
Well, let me tell you this: by doing that handful of things, all of which you’ve probably been told since you were teenagers, you can add, on average, 14 years onto your life, according to research by Cambridge University and the Medical Research Council of the UK.
“Our research shows that a large proportion of the population really could feel health benefits through moderate changes”, says Professor Kay-Tee Shaw of Cambridge. So it’s not a mystery after all.
2. You Need to Increase the Levels of the Enzyme, Telomerase, which slows Age-related Cell Damage:
Here I’m getting a little more technical, so do try and keep up. In our bodies we have things called telomeres, which cap and protect the ends of chromosomes housing DNA. As we age, those telomeres shorten, the cells are less protected, and it’s the death of cells, or even damage to them, which causes ageing and disease.
So what do we do, you cry? Well, according to The Lancet Oncology, a healthy lifestyle can increase the level of the enzyme, Telomerase, in our bodies – and Telomerase is what repairs and lengthens the telomeres. Sounds like science fiction, doesn’t it? Well, I assure you it’s not.
In this context, the three big no-nos are – surprise, surprise – smoking, obesity and a sedentary lifestyle.
3. Vitamin D helps Slow the Effects of Ageing:
Vitamin D is what’s manufactured when sunlight hits the skin – which is a good start, since there’s obviously plenty of that produced here on Mallorca. It’s also present in a small number of foods, including fish, liver, cereal and egg yolks …
Why do we need to know this? Because a study of more than 2,000 women aged between 18 and 79, carried out by King’s College, London, found that those with higher levels of vitamin D showed fewer ageing-related changes in their DNA.
For once there was no equivocation about the results. According to Professor Brent Richards, who led the study: “These results are exciting because they demonstrate for the first time that people who have higher levels of vitamin D may age more slowly than people with lower levels of vitamin D.” So off you go to the health food shop –and don’t let them sell you any of that dried seaweed stuff while you’re there …
4. If You Like a High-Fat Diet, it’s Not Your Fault – You’ve been Programmed:
We all justify our indulgences with the time-honoured get-out-of-jail-free phrase, “a little of what you fancy does you good”.
Okay, as you know I have a certain sympathy for a bit of indulgence. It’s good for the morale. However, what worries me when it comes to diet is that, according to the Journal of Neuroscience, we all tend to have a predisposition to liking the types of food our mothers ate while pregnant.
Tests on rats showed that those born to mothers fed a high-fat diet had many more brain calls specialised in producing appetite-stimulating proteins. That confirmed previous research on adults which revealed that when fats known as triglycerides circulate in the blood, they stimulate the production of proteins known as orexigenic peptides, which in turn stimulate the appetite. Which led Dr Sarah Leibowitz, the lead researcher, to this conclusion: “We are programming our children to be fat.”
So there you go. I’m a modest sort, but I’d be very surprised if any three-day course on healthy living would focus as clearly as that on four simple things that can change your life … and I’m not even trying to sell you six months’ supply of utterly useless anti-ageing cream at the same time.
The problem about the blindingly obvious, especially when it comes to lifestyle, is that nobody has much respect for good old-fashioned no-nonsense advice when they don’t have to pay through the nose for it. We all appreciate things that cost us the earth.
So as 2009 kicks off, take heart: if you are overweight, it’s your mother’s fault, not yours. Do the obvious: go for the odd walk, cut back on alcohol, don’t smoke – it’s a disgusting habit anyway – eat plenty of fruit and veg, buy a big pot of vitamin D and dose yourself daily and you’ll be fine.
If you follow this regimen from January 2 until the end of February, mark my words, you’ll be right as rain for the rest of the year, you’ll save a fortune on potions, spas and lifestyle weekends – and you can channel those savings to where they’ll make a real difference to the economy: fashion, jewellery, cars …