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What Should Women Eat to Live Longest?

Why can’t we live forever? Some animals do, and I don’t mean some 200 year old whale–I’m talking immortal. There are actually species of animals that don’t age and could technically go on living forever–and why not? In a sense, humans are immortal in that a few of our cells live on as sperm or egg cells lucky enough to find each other. Each of our kids grow out of one of our cells, and that alone (the fact that a single cell can grow into an entire person!) should make, in comparison, the notion of keeping our bodies going indefinitely seem trivial.

Human longevity is certainly a hot research topic. Much of the research has focused on the role of DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone), the most abundant steroid hormone in the human body. DHEA may help counteract the effects of stress, preserve female fertility, and it appears to be a strong predictor of longevity. Caloric restriction is thought to extend the lifespan of many animals by upregulating DHEA, which normally declines as we age. DHEA is sold as a “fountain of youth” over-the-counter dietary supplement, but concerns have been raised about safety, side effects, and quality control. There is, however, a natural way to boost DHEA levels.

As I note in my 3-min. video The Benefits of Caloric Restriction Without The Actual Restricting, after just 5 days on an egg-free vegetarian diet blood levels of DHEA rise about 20%. Upon further testing, it seems that the bodies of those eating vegetarian weren’t necessarily producing more of it, but just losing less, something one normally only sees in fasting. Thus, by eating vegetarian one may be able to mimic the effects of caloric restriction, but without walking around starving all the time. For more on diet and life expectancy see Research Into Reversing Aging and Harvard’s Meat and Mortality Studies plus my 30 other videos on lifespan. If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

Recently, the risk factors for mortality were published for the Harvard Nurse’s Health Study, which is currently the most definitive long-term study ever on older women’s health. It is the subject of today’s video pick (watch the video above).

A similar comparison has been made between the risk of smoking and eating processed meat (see Prevention Is Better Than Cured Meat). Though healthy eating can help mediate the devastating effects of smoking (see Smoking Versus Kale JuicePreventing COPD With Diet, and Treating COPD With Diet), if you do smoke, please ask your doctor for help quitting. As a physician I’ve just seen too many good people die really horrible deaths from cigarettes.

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

Image credit: Sister72/Flickr

Harvard’s Meat and Mortality Studies
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Read more: Aging, Diet & Nutrition, Eating for Health, Heart & Vascular Disease, Videos, Women's Health, , ,

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Dr. Michael Greger

A founding member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, author, and internationally recognized speaker on nutrition, food safety, and public health issues. Currently Dr. Greger serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at The Humane Society of the United States. Hundreds of his nutrition videos are freely available at


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10:38AM PST on Feb 17, 2014

Interesting and thanks.

6:25PM PDT on Oct 9, 2013


7:18AM PDT on Aug 28, 2013


10:58PM PDT on Apr 29, 2013


11:09AM PST on Feb 13, 2013

Thank you.

5:19PM PST on Jan 8, 2013

I have never seen this article before. I am really impressed with it. Though I have a hard time believing dietary cholesterol has any influence on the total cholesterol in the body.

I personally tried this (true story): I would occaisionally eat eggs for breaks . I went for my yearly physical and had a cholesterol test. I decided to test the hypothesis that dietary cholesterol has any bearing on total choesterol in the body. So for 1 complete yr starting the day I got my cholesterol levels stats, I ate 2 eggs for breakfast every day. Every day for one year, 2 eggs and a piece of 100 percent sprouted grain, toasted bread with a tad of butter(real). At my next yearly physical, got my cholesterol test results back bad cholesterol had actually gone down, not my much, but down and my good cholesterol went up.

So at the very worst interpretation one can effect at all.

3:32PM PST on Dec 30, 2012

Thank you :)

8:14AM PST on Dec 21, 2012

to each their own

4:27PM PDT on Oct 7, 2012


4:40AM PDT on Sep 4, 2012


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