Thursday, September 3, 2009

What is the real key to longevity? Exercise? Diet?

The conversation around the dinner table this evening concerned our observations of humans' eating habits. We eat too much, we keep eating when we're full AND we are (as a society) quite overweight. Many of us seem to make other choices than those that revolve around our eating behaviors and subsequent body composition and health. But what are the eating habits of those people that live long (and healthy)lives? Numerous studies using animal models (mainly rats and mice) suggest that calorie restriction, without malnutrition, leads to longevity - but is there any evidence to show that this is the same for humans? A quick visual test on our Canadian population would be suffice to let us say with some conviction that Canadians have not heard about this research on animals OR if they have heard about it then they are in frank disbelief and/or they are not doing anything about what they have heard. The sad fact is that a large proportion of Canadians of all ages are overweight, even moving up to morbid obesity with age related weight gain.

It has been suggested that a diet rich in green leafy vegetables and yellow root vegetables, soy, small amounts of fish and meat, resulting in adequate amounts of nutrients (including vitamins and minerals) in combination with regular physical activity levels promoting a lifelong stable body composition AND little age-related weight gain play an important role in long lives. All this based on centenarians living in Okinawa, Japan.

It is difficult to imagine that positive energy balance (e.g., overweight) promotes longevity. Your overall lifestyle is an equally important indicator of health, and weight needs to be examined in context with other issues such as diet and physical activity. All the more reason to look at the eating habits and physical activity behaviors of Canadians in a little more detail.

As part of my PhD research in the School of Dietetics and Human Nutrition at McGill University I am conducting research on the eating habits, physical activity levels, body composition and health of Canadian women runners who participate in organized running races of at least 10 km in distance (including running as part of duathlons and triathlons). This nutrition-focused research will help further our understanding of food choices and eating habits that are essential for women involved in regular vigorous physical activity to maintain healthy weights and attenuate age-related weight gain.

Quick Facts about the iRunWomen Survey
. This is a web-based survey for ALL women runners, including:
o low-to-moderately physically active women runners, o ! recreationally competitive women runners, AND o elite competitive women runners.
. The survey is anonymous.
. The survey needs to be completed all at once.
. The survey will take approximately 25-35 minutes to complete.
. The survey is available online from May until October 2009

Over 900 women runners from across Canada have completed the survey but we need more women runners to know about the survey so that they may add their input. Please pass this information on to any women that you know who run regularly!

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