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The best foods to eat for every decade of your life


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A number of doctors refer to the period between 50 and 70 as the grim sounding “Sniper’s Alley”. That’s because this is the time when the effects of the previous decades start to make themselves felt and people start to die. “Not from car accidents or terrible early-onset cancers but from preventable things like heart attacks, Type 2 diabetes and strokes, 80 per cent of which could be prevented with diet and lifestyle changes.”  

But surely this is largely down to the genetic cards we’ve been dealt? “Our genes aren’t precise agents of change,” says Dr Amati. She likens them to musical notes in a “concerto” of our lives. “How softly or loudly the notes are played depends on the conductor, or in this case our diet and lifestyle.” 

She has seen this play out first hand in her own family. Her beloved “papa” was diagnosed with colorectal cancer at 60, after years of struggling with his health. Dr Amati says her father stopped playing sports when her family moved to England from Italy, since his favourite activities were skiing, horse riding and swimming in the sea, none of which were accessible to him in London. His diet deteriorated and he gained weight. 

“None of his healthcare professionals intervened to speak to him about his diet or the importance of movement. He was told if he could lose weight that would be ideal, but nothing to worry about.” This advice, or lack of it, would prove catastrophic. He died at just 63. “He didn’t get to meet my kids. The last thing he did before being hospitalised was go to my wedding. I’m so glad about that. But I wish I knew then what I know now, I could maybe have kept him here for longer,” she says sadly. “So much of what I do now is thanks to him.”

Meanwhile her grandfather, who lived with Dr Amati’s family from the age of 83 (“we’re Italian”), changed his ways after a doctor he’d got chatting to on a bus told him he’d better quit smoking and lose some weight if he wanted to see his children grow up. “He never saw him again, but it really hit home.” Amazingly, he followed the directive. “My grandfather died at 97 and he was alive and kicking until his last week and the difference between [him and my father] was diet and lifestyle.”

She wants us to understand that it’s never too late to turn things around.

“If you’re in your 40s or 50s and you have stress and visceral fat, and you’re metabolically messed up (with high cholesterol or blood sugar) that’s not a great place to be, you can’t expect to live until your 90s. But you can change at that age, you can still have this pivot, and that’s what happened to my grandfather. Obviously that’s just one example but there are loads of examples of people who turn their lives around in their 40s, 50s, 60s or 70s.

“I often hear that it’s very confusing. But when you actually look at the science, it’s quite clear and the science is pretty basic. It really is, it really is just eating whole foods and a real variety of plants. There is space for animal foods, eggs, fish, chicken and meat and dairy, but that’s just not the main part of your plate.”

Key fact: You can still add seven years to your health span

“In your 70s you can still add an extra seven years to your health span,” says Dr Amati, quoting data from a recent UK Biobank study. But our physiology is changing and we need to be more aware of the impact of alcohol. “Our body gets less and less good at tolerating that level of inflammation from alcohol. So if you’re a habitual drinker I am a big advocate for reducing it, and for making it part of celebrations, as opposed to making it a daily thing. In the elderly, alcohol can cause what people think are the symptoms of dementia.” 

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