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Veganism and Aging – What Should Vegans Know About Longevity

Longevity-Aging-Vegan
8 min reading time

Veganism and Aging: What Should Vegans Know About Longevity?

There are many amazing benefits for being vegan. There is strong scientific evidence that many chronic diseases (type 2 diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers, and more) can be prevented and controlled with a healthy vegan diet. 

Often, people also have more energy, reduced inflammation, and they feel better overall after removing animal products from their diet. 

In addition to these benefits though, do vegans age better?

Truth is, you’re not going to look like you did in your 20’s forever no matter how healthy your diet might be. 

 

But, a well planned vegan diet can protect against disease, can promote better health in the long-term, can decrease wrinkles, and can even slightly increase longevity


Let’s talk about veganism and aging

Vegan-Aging

Do vegans age better?

Are you going to look young throughout your life if you follow a vegan diet? 

 

Even though I do receive compliments on my youthfulness and my relatives joke about my age on my birthday, I hate to break it to you but you will not stay young forever. None of us will!

 

This is because cellular damage occurs naturally as we age. However, we can slow and stabilize this cellular damage with a healthy vegan diet. In this way, vegan diets can promote longevity.

 

Vegan diets are high in nutrient-dense foods. Vegans usually have a higher intake of fruits, veggies, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds than their meat-eating counterparts. 

 

I believe that one of the keys to aging well is to focus on eating a variety of nutrients, avoid any deficiencies, and choose whole foods. Vegans that place emphasis on these can indeed age better

 

A lot of processed animal products (like cured meats and deli meats) have been linked to neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Avoiding these foods through a vegan diet can help you prevent these diseases as you age. 

 

All in all, a vegan diet won’t stop you from aging. But if it can help you age in a healthier way, I say that’s a major win for veganism and aging!

aging-longevity-Vegan

What even causes aging anyways?

Two of the main causes of aging are oxidative stress and inflammation.

A healthy vegan diet can promote anti-aging and help with both of these factors and reduce signs of aging overall.

 

Oxidative Stress

Oxidative stress is an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in the body, which can lead to cell and tissue damage. 

Oxidative stress plays a role in the aging process. It occurs naturally, but it can also be accelerated through harmful lifestyle choices. 

 

Free radicals are the main culprit for oxidative stress. These highly reactive molecules are normal byproducts of metabolism in our bodies, but they are also formed by things like UV damage from the sun, cigarette smoke, and toxins in the environment. 

 

Antioxidants are substances that neutralize or remove free radicals to help protect the body from oxidative stress. Antioxidants fight aging in many ways. They are anti-inflammatory, can slow the formation of wrinkles, protect the skin, and protect against age-related diseases. 

 

Plant foods have over 60 times the antioxidant content of animal foods! So a vegan diet focused on whole foods is likely to have plenty of antioxidants and promote longevity

 

Which foods are highest in antioxidants, you ask? 

 

Colourful fruits and veggies are a good rule of thumb. Specifically, dark green veggies (kale, broccoli, spinach, etc), garlic, onion, cabbage, and berries (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, cherries, etc) pack a punch. Green tea is also high in polyphenol, an important antioxidant. 

 

Including these foods in your vegan diet can support anti-aging

 

Inflammation

Inflammation is a response by our immune systems to foreign invaders in the body. 

 

Research shows that when inflammation becomes chronic and lasts too long, it causes damage in our body’s cells and tissues. This can lead to health challenges that can speed up the aging process.

 

Research has shown that vegans that consume high quantities of fruits and vegetables often have lower inflammatory markers (such as C-reactive protein) when compared to meat-eaters. Another win for veganism and aging

 

It’s important to note, however, that all the benefits of the vegan diet mentioned so far apply to those who eat whole and nutrient-dense foods. Not all vegan diets are healthy. 

 

For support on how to eat a balanced vegan diet, a registered dietitian can help. Remember that vegans who place an emphasis on healthy eating are the ones who will likely age better

Longevity-Vegan

Some vegans live longer

A 2020 study published by researchers at Harvard and Tehran Universities that looked at over 700,000 people found that increasing plant protein intake (like beans, nuts, and whole grains) lowered people’s risk for premature death by 5%. 

 

Another recent study published by JAMA Internal Medicine looked at the survival rates of more than 400,000 people who’d reported their diet and lifestyle information 16 years earlier (when they were 50 to 71 years old). Again, replacing animal protein with more plant protein was linked to a 10% decrease in death. 

 

These are significant findings that suggest eating more plant-based food and following veganism can increase longevity. 

 

Despite these findings, though, it’s worthwhile to note that other studies on vegetarians in the United Kingdom and Australia have reported that plant-based eaters are no more likely to live longer than non-vegetarians. 

 

Overall, it seems that some scientific studies suggest that plant-based diets may help people live longer, but these findings aren’t universal. 

Aging-Vegan-Longevity

Vegan diets and wrinkles

Wrinkles are caused by a variety of factors, some that we can control and some that we can’t. 

 Age

 As we get older, our skin naturally becomes less elastic. Decreased oil production   dries our skin and makes it appear more wrinkled. Aging also comes with fat loss   in the deeper layers of the skin which can cause skin to look loose and saggy.

 Ultraviolet radiation

 UV radiation from the sun is the primary cause of early wrinkling. UV radiation   speeds the natural aging process because it breaks down our skin’s connective   tissue. The main components that provide elasticity to our skin are elastin and   collagen. Without this connective tissue, our skin loses its strength and flexibility.

 Smoking

 Exposure to cigarette smoke is also a major contributor to wrinkling as the smoke   creates free radicals in the body, leading to oxidation. 

A systematic review published in 2020 found that whole-food vegan diets can help slow formation of wrinkles. This is attributed to the high antioxidant content of the whole-food plant-based diet which prevents cellular damage. 

To keep your skin glowing into your older years, focus on eating a diet rich in vitamins A, C, E, which are three powerful antioxidants. 

Healthy fats such as avocado, plant oils, nuts, and seeds can also help strengthen the skin. Sugar is known to damage the connective tissue below our skin, so reducing processed sugar intake can also help slow the process. 

A well-planned vegan diet can prevent wrinkles

Is a plant-based diet safe for seniors?

A well-planned vegan diet can be safe at essentially any stage of life. 

 

The biggest nutritional risk for plant-based diets in seniors has to do with muscle loss as a result of inadequate protein intake.

 

As we get older, we often move less and eat less. It is increasingly important to focus on the quality of our diet to ensure we get all the protein and nutrients we need as a vegan. 

 

A well-balanced plant-based diet should include proteins like legumes, seeds, nuts, beans, and quinoa. All of these offer plenty of protein and antioxidants. 

 

In addition, the body doesn’t absorb vitamin B12 as easily in senior years as it does during young adulthood. Vegan diets don’t provide much B12 as this vitamin is found in animal products. B12 supplements are needed for vegans at any life stage.

 

Osteoporosis also becomes more common with age and seniors are susceptible to broken bones and fractures. Calcium helps to protect against this. 

 

Seniors that follow plant-based diets should be sure to include calcium-rich green vegetables such as spinach, kale, turnips, collard greens, and broccoli in their diet. A calcium supplement might also be considered.

Take-home tips to reduce wrinkles and slow aging as a vegan

Here are some take-home tips for you to reduce wrinkles and age better as a vegan:

Antioxidants

Eat lots of colourful fruits and veggies. These are rich in antioxidants which neutralize the free radicals in our bodies. Examples of excellent antioxidant sources include onions, garlic, dark leafy greens, berries, carrots, green tea, and bell pepper. 

 

Whole foods

Focus on whole foods instead of relying on processed foods. Vegans that choose whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables are nutrient- and antioxidant-rich are more likely to age better

 

Limit UV exposure

 Protect your skin from the sun. UV rays cause oxidation in the skin, which can accelerate the wrinkle-forming process. Sunscreen is important!

 

See a Registered Dietitian

A vegan dietitian can support you and give you valuable advice on your vegan diet anti-aging journey.