New research from Japanese anti-ageing expert indicates that the traditional Asian, diet rich in coconut milk and oily fish confers anti-ageing benefits on the brain and the heart offering healthier, happier golden years, with delayed onset of degenerative and chronic diseases such as Alzheimer’s and heart disease.
The physical and social changes associated with ageing are combined with the debilitating effects of multiple, acute and chronic diseases – heart disease and stroke, hypertension, diabetes, kidney failure, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, dementia and the list goes on.
Being able to manage properly and efficiently an ageing population will be one of the biggest challenges for Malaysia, Malaysia’s ageing population, their caregivers and for healthcare professional.
In the light of Malaysia’s rapidly ageing population, this research has implications for elderly, working adults and for the young generation who will be caring for them.
For perspective, the number of Malaysians aged 60 years and above was 1.4 million in 2000, and is projected to increase to 3.3 million by 2020. The percentage of the Malaysian population above 60 years in the year 2020, is expected to double to 1 out of 10, compared to 1 out of 20 in 2000.
Professor Takuji Shirasawa from the Department of Ageing Control Medicine, Juntendo University, shared his latest scientific findings on the role of nutrition in anti-ageing & implementing anti-ageing research findings into the Malaysian diet ahead of his symposium at the Malaysian Dietitians Association’s National Conference on June 11, 2015.
Professor Shirasawa is regarded as one of Japan’s top specialist in preventive medicine for ageing and has written over 260 books becoming among the most popular published doctor in Japan.
“Our studies have shown that nutrition strategies incorporating certain key nutrients like Omega 3 and Medium Chain Fatty Acids and improvements in prevailing dietary pattern in South East Asia including Malaysia can help prevent premature onset of diseases, leading to extended healthy years,” Professor Shirasawa explained.
Alzheimer’s Disease is a chronic neurodegenerative disease that accounts for 60 to 70 percent of dementia. The most common early symptom is difficulty in remembering recent events (short-term memory loss). As the disease advances, symptoms can include: problems with language, disorientation (including easily getting lost), mood swings, loss of motivation, not managing self care, and behavioural issues. As a person’s condition declines, she or he often withdraws from family and society. Gradually, bodily functions are lost, ultimately leading to death.
Alzheimer’s disease is a common problem afflicting the elderly and is estimated to affect at least 5% of the population aged 65 years and above.
“In Alzheimer’s Disease, neurons cannot utilize glucose, but can use Ketone Bodies as fuel. This is whyAlzheimer’s Disease is now called type 3 Diabetes.
Coconut milk is a saturated fat rich in medium chain fatty acids such as lauric acid, caprylic acid and capric acid that may offer hope in preventing or reducing the degenerative affects of Alzheimer’s disease. Medium chain fatty acids are synthesised to Ketone Bodies in the liver and can be used as energy to fuel neurons that may help in delaying the onset or providing relief from Alzheimer’s disease.
“The traditional Asian or Malaysian diet that is rich in coconut milk may offer nutritional benefits for an ageing population when it comes to delaying the onset of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. This is an area that we cannot ignore as the ageing population grows and their healthcare needs increase. Preventive nutrition today can give them protection for their later years,” Prof Shirasawa said.
“For today’s adults, nutrition can play an imperative role to promote healthy aging while reducing the risks of degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. Our studies show that switching to a more protective diet even in adulthood confers some protective benefits that can help delay the onset of degenerative and chronic diseases such as Alzheimer’s, diabetes and even offers cardio-protective benefits,” Professor Shirasawa said.
For many adults dietary change can be met with resistance as taste preferences have been developed over many years.
However, Professor Shirasawa’s recommendations can accommodate the local Malaysian diet with a strong emphasis on oily fish such as sardines, deep sea fish such as tuna and the once medically maligned coconut milk.
He cited the effects of changing dietary habits when it comes to the consumption of fish as an example of how processed foods have negatively impacted health, including in an ageing population.
“The ideal ratio of consumption of Omega-3 to Omega-6 is in a ratio of 1 to 1 or 1 to 2. However, modern ‘processed’ foods that are high in processed vegetable oils can skew this ratio to a staggering 1 to 20 ratio. Omega-6 has since been proven to increase the rate of death by heart disease, while Omega-3 is cardio-protective. We should be boosting our intake of Omega-3, and cutting down the intake of Omega-6. The simple way is to eat more oily fish such as sardines, mackerel and salmon,” Prof Shirasawa said.
“The good news is that even for those in their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s there is still time to make positive dietary changes, and you can still enjoy the excellent Malaysian diet by making informed choice. Make the change now for healthier and happier golden years. Staying active and alert will add life to your years, and years to your life!” he said in closing.