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Healthy diets can counteract effects of ‘InflammAgeing’ [Interview]

Article-Healthy diets can counteract effects of ‘InflammAgeing’ [Interview]

Sandra Einerhand.jpg
As the world rapidly ages, the category of healthy ageing food products will significantly grow. How do specific dietary interventions help to slow down, control or reverse low-grade inflammation (InflammAgeing)? Can rebalancing the gut microbiota prevent age-related functional decline? We interviewed Dr Sandra Einerhand, Head of Einerhand Science and Innovation about the role a healthy diet plays in the quality of life of seniors.

What is the connection between diet and the quality of life of seniors?

“A good diet promotes the quality of life of seniors by averting malnutrition, preventing dietary-related diseases and promoting both physical and mental well-being.”

“The past century was a period of increasing life expectancy and it is currently at its highest. However, despite living longer the quality of life of the senior population hasn’t improved a lot. This is mainly because the onset of most health problems like dementia, depression, diabetes, heart disease, sarcopenia and osteoporosis has not decreased markedly. Many seniors still suffer ill-health or disability in the last 15 to 20 years of life.”

“A healthy diet, like the Mediterranean diet, can help to improve the quality of life and stimulate healthy ageing. It protects against heart disease, stroke, and other common diseases mentioned earlier.”

Should there be a special category of products for seniors? What should be their characteristic?

“The Mediterranean diet consists of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, fish, and olive oil. The food ingredients within this diet are known to have anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and prebiotic effects.”

“These active ingredients counteract two underlying pathophysiological processes in ageing: “Inflammageing” and the dysbiosis of the gut microbiome both play key roles in ageing.”

“From an ingredient point of view, food products targeting the healthy ageing population should ideally contain the above-mentioned ingredient types. As the world is ageing rapidly, this category of healthy ageing products will significantly grow. In today’s world with the partial lockdowns, also seniors start to do their groceries shopping online and cook more at home. Especially, sales of convenience products and meal kits that are easy to prepare at home has increased during the pandemic.”

What is ‘inflammaging’?

“Ageing is characterized by an increase in the concentration of inflammatory markers in the bloodstream. “InflammAgeing” is the underlying pathophysiological process in ageing and is linked to low-grade inflammation and oxidative stress. Low-grade inflammation is associated with age-related decline of many physiological functions leading to an increased risk of ill-health, poor well-being and mortality.”

“InflammAgeing is influenced by gut microbiota and by diet, with a protective role for healthy diets and foods. As mentioned before, specific dietary interventions can help to slow down, control or reverse low-grade inflammation (InflammAgeing) and rebalance the gut microbiota and prevent age-related functional decline. Especially, a prudent or Mediterranean diet are effectives ways to intervene. Or macro- and micronutrients like vitamins C, D and E, poly- and unsaturated fatty acids, polyphenols, plant proteins, carotenoids, slow release carbohydrates, pre- and probiotics.”

How is the microbiota affected by aging? What should seniors consume to maintain good gut health?

“During ageing, the gut microbiota gradually loses its complexity and becomes less diverse and this correlates to an increased susceptibility to disease. Diet, nutrition, hygiene and drugs are several key factors that influence microbiota diversity as we age. Especially, pre-, probiotics, synbiotics, postbiotics, polyphenols and fermented foods are key food components that help to rebalance microbiota.”

What are your predictions for the F&B industry over the next 3-5 years?

“I would like to emphasize what opportunities I foresee for the industry rather than predicting the future as in today’s world predicting the future  is very hard to do.”

“Opportunities for the F&B industry:

  • Nutritional focus on counteracting ‘inflammageing’, oxidative stress and rebalancing the microbiome;
  • Health focus on those illnesses for which there is no cure today;
  • Product focus on convenience and easy to use at home, facilitating online shopping and easy/rapid delivery at home;
  • Diet focus on whole grains, fish, vegetable, fruits and nuts (e.g. Mediterranean diet);
  • Ingredient focus on those ingredients present in abovementioned diets and with a proven benefit.”