How To Age Well - Your Food

Tonight - How to Age Well: Your Diet is on ITV on Thursday at 8:30pm

We are living longer than ever before, but those precious extra years are often being spent in poor health. There's one area that can have a massive impact on that - our diet.

In the second of two Tonight programmes looking at healthy ageing, presenter and journalist Kate Quilton examines how the food we eat could be impacting on the quality of our lives - for better or worse.

An unhealthy diet can accelerate the ageing process and increase the risk of age-related diseases, whereas a healthy diet can help maintain bodily functions, quality of life, and reduce the risk of age-related diseases like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and dementia.

  • Dr Oliver Shannon, Lecturer in Nutrition and Ageing, Newcastle University

Poor diet is a major factor in cardiovascular disease - which kills one Brit every three minutes.  Tonight speaks to consultant dietician Marcella Fiuza and hears where she believes we’re getting it wrong.

As a nation we all rely too much on ultra processed foods… they often are high in unhealthy types of fat, high in sugar, high in salt, and they tend to be low in fibre.

  • Marcela Fiuza, Consultant Dietician

Following peer reviewed medical studies from around the world, many experts suggest the Mediterranean diet is the best for your health.  It’s a diet big on fresh produce such as fruits and vegetables, as well as oily fish, and legumes and pulses.  Implementing it into a diet could have implications for a number of diseases including dementia.

We've recently carried out a study where we showed that older adults who followed a more Mediterranean diet had about a 23% reduced risk of developing dementia compared with those who didn't follow this type of dietary practice.

  • Dr Oliver Shannon, Lecturer in Nutrition and Ageing, Newcastle University

One of the key ingredients in a Mediterranean diet is extra virgin olive oil.  Made from the juice of olives, it contains antioxidants and vitamins and could help lower cholesterol.  We visit Mar Fernandez-Garcia, an olive oil sommelier who tells us some of the surprising ways that she incorporates it into a diet:

You can put in porridge in the morning, you can have a salad, even for a fruit salad. Even in an ice cream.

  • Mar Fernandez-Garcia, Olive Oil Sommelier

It’s not just in dementia our diet could have an impact on how we age.  The NHS spends around £10 billion each year on treating diabetes - that’s one tenth of its entire budget.  The latest research indicates that for every 10 cases of Type 2 diabetes, seven are linked to poor diet. 

We meet Jane from Shrewsbury.  She discovered she was Type 2 diabetic after undergoing routine checks for another health condition.  Overweight, the diagnosis spurred her into action.

I stopped eating things that I knew were not good for me.  I started looking at packets and I was really, really surprised. There is so much sugar and carbs in food, in so much food…  Uh, so I've now been in remission for a full five and a half years and I am finding it easy to carry on doing it. 

  • Jane, Shrewsbury

Getting the right balance of nutrition, taste and proteins can be tricky. And when it comes to looking after our elderly, it can be even harder.  It’s estimated that one in ten - or around one million of all over 65’s in the UK are either malnourished or at risk of malnutrition.  

We visit a modern retirement community in the West Midlands who are putting an emphasis on good nutrition for its residents with its onsite bistro:

People like healthy food a lot.  We serve food, very rich in calcium and vitamin D, vitamin A, and of course iron.

  • Alphonso, Chef, The Shires

And we ask former firefighter Tim, a man looking to improve his diet, to try some healthier Mediterranean alternatives to his usual meals for a week.  But how will he get on and will it make a difference?

Find out at 8:30pm on Thursday 20th July on ITV1