A new study by celebrity doctor Dean Ornish suggests that easy lifestyle changes can actually reverse the aging process.
Ornish conducted the study with Elizabeth Blackburn, who won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2009 for her work on telomeres,the parts of the chromosome that shrink as we age.
The study looked at 35 men with low-risk prostate cancer. Ten of the men were put on Ornish’s lifestyle regimen, and the other 25 were not. The 10 men who followed Ornish’s plan actually saw their telomeres get longer, while the control group saw their telomeres get shorter.
What was this magical fountain of youth? Ornish’s longevity plan included a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and few refined carbohydrates. It also included 30 minutes of walking, six days per week, and 60 minutes a day of stress reduction in the form of yoga or meditation, as well as a weekly hour-long support group.
The plan is similar to the plan Ornish devised to help people reverse heart disease, which has been shown to be so popular and effective that patients can now be reimbursed for training in the program by Medicare. Ornish has written six best-selling books based on his wellness programs.
The study doesn’t completely represent the fountain of youth, however. Critics cite the very small sample size and the fact that the study wasn’t randomized; it could be any of the individual factors of Ornish’s program that caused the telomeres to grow, all of them in combination, or none of them. In addition, the correlation of telomere length to lifespan remains somewhat controversial in the scientific community.
But the fact remains that a life filled with more fruits and veggies and less stress probably can’t hurt.