Professor Gary Williamson, from the department of food science at Leeds University in the UK, has produced a list of 20 “lifespan essential” foodstuffs.
All are rich in naturally occurring chemicals, known as polyphenols, which have been linked to a variety of health benefits including protection against heart disease.
He said that foodstuffs on the list, which is dominated by fruits and vegetables, can also help to slow down the ageing process by helping to protect cells from the natural damage that occurs over time.
He said: “Epidemiology studies support the protective effects of polyphenol-rich foods. Lack of these components in the diet, because of low intake of fruit and vegetables, increases the risk of chronic disease.
“This means that they are essential to fulfil the maximum individual lifespan, and so I propose that they are ‘lifespan essential’.”
There is growing evidence that a diet high in polyphenols, which include naturally-occurring chemicals such as tannins, lignins and flavonoids, can help to increase an individual’s chance of reaching their genetically-determined lifespan.
A recent study carried out by scientists in the US, UK and Australia concluded that polyphenols could help protect against heart disease.
Speaking at his inaugural lecture as professor of functional foods at Leeds, Prof Williamson added: “Although they might not be essential for growth and development or the maintenance of major body functions, there is increasing knowledge concerning their potential for health maintenance or disease risk reduction throughout adulthood and during ageing.”
The 20 foods are:
- black tea
- cereal bran
- cherry tomatoes
- dark chocolate
- green tea
- red grapes
- red onions
(Credit for the above article to Richard Gray, Science Correspondent for Telegraph.co.UK).