IT IS no secret that we are living longer than our ancestors.
In prehistoric times, the average life span was only 20-35 years.
By the 1700s, people were living between 36-48 years and this average increased to about 51 years in the 1800s.
In 1960s the average life expectancy was around 70 years and now it is about 82 years.
Why are we living longer?
History has defining moments such as: understanding the importance of hygiene, discovering penicillin and the advancement of other medicines, and also improvements in our nutrition that have contributed to increasing our life span.
We are not only living longer, but also getting taller.
In between 1899-1999, Australians are growing taller by at least 1cm per decade.
This rate of height increase seems to have reduced during the last decade and the reasons for this is unclear.
Could it be that our food and medicine improvements have reached their potential or could it be due to lifestyle changes?
Nutrition experts such as accredited dietitians and doctors are on the ongoing quest to determine the ideal dietary elixir for a long and happy life by studying the research.
Research studies in nutrition can be controversial. Sometimes the studies don't include enough subjects or the variables are not well controlled or the statistics are manipulated to confess to the desired results.
Therefore, it is important to know the quality of the research and appreciate the complexity of the topic before making broad and simplistic recommendations.
It is also important to understand that we are very different physiologically and psychologically and that "one diet does not fit all" of us.
In summary, nutritional advice is complex and individual and therefore dietary recommendations should be left to the nutrition professionals, such as accredited dietitian nutritionist who can give you evidence-based and personalised individual advice.
So before avoiding whole food groups from your diet, see a professional for nutritional advice based on the most current research.
Maya McColm is a Buderim-based dietician nutritionist and is chief executive of Nero Resources (Nutrition Education Resources Online). This is the final part of a four-part series done for Healthy Weight Week. http://www.nero4me.com.au
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