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December 11, 2012

6 simple steps that can help you age healthfully

(Continued)

AGEs are found in high quantities in processed foods such as American cheese, fast food and dark colas, in part because they are manufactured using high heat. Try substituting alternatives such as low-fat cheese, dried fruit, fruit juice and air-popped popcorn. Also, cook your food at lower temperatures: A fried egg has 10 times the AGEs of a scrambled egg, for example, and a steak has 10 times more AGEs than beef stew.

Skip a meal

Scientists have long been seduced by studies that have shown a rodent's life can be dramatically extended by cutting its food consumption by about 30 percent. Major studies on monkeys have not shown an increase in longevity by severely cutting calories, but other research, such as a study published in the Journal Nature in August, has demonstrated that adopting a low-calorie diet does improve the health of aging primates.

Of course, living this way is not fun. But what if many of the same benefits can be achieved by simply limiting food intake intermittently — for several hours a day, perhaps, or for a couple of days in a row? Experts on aging have found that short periods with little or no food appear to initiate protective mechanisms inside cells that "have the potential to reduce the risk for age-related diseases," said Mark Mattson, senior investigator for the National Institute on Aging and an expert on fasting. Mattson's review of intermittent fasting in the journal Cell Metabolism this month details various positive effects on brain health, for example.

Scientists have not come up with a single fasting protocol that would work for everyone; studies have used a variety of methods, such as limiting intake to 600 calories a day, two days a week. But other studies, including one published in Cell Metabolism in May, suggest that skipping the occasional meal or restricting the hours for eating may do your cells a lot of good. Check with a doctor, though, before you give this a try.

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