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Nutrition key to positive aging

Evidence proving that eating the right food is vital for positive aging was the theme of a symposium for 100 health professionals at Massey University on April 11.

The one-day event entitled Evidence-based Nutrition for Positive Aging featured a line-up of international speakers and leading professionals with both academic and practical experience in applying the latest nutrition research findings to best practice.

HPF’s senior health strategist Viliami Puloka who specialises in Pacific Health said the clear message from the symposium was that eating the right food was crucial in helping people to “age with dignity”.

A public health physician with a special interest in obesity and diabetes Dr Puloka said he was excited about all the facts that were presented at the event.

“The symposium was an excellent demonstration of how evidence and science proves that the right food, combined with exercise, will help you live longer.  There was a lot of evidence that the best food is natural or whole food. This combined with exercise and physical activity, even in old age, is crucial. The research proves that really it is your lifestyle that is still key to improving health or wellness.”

Dr Puloka said evidence presented at the symposium backed the benefits of a plant-based diet and good quality carbohydrates, as well as the negative effects of the processed food consumed by so many people today.

He said findings also suggested the abundance of supplements, especially for older people, on the market were second best. “The big message from there was ‘food is the best medicine.’”

However Dr Puloka pointed out that there was a gap between evidence and practice which needed to be addressed. Researchers had done their bit and had provided all the evidence and analyses but individuals needed to be empowered and motivated to act on this evidence and change their lifestyle he said.

“How do we translate the findings and evidence from the research to inform health promotion practice, developing interventions that are meaningful and relevant to everyday life? All the speakers concluded that lifestyle changes for lifetime health and wellness is key. But for that to happen, evidence alone is not enough.”

Dr Puloka said there needed to be social, political and economic commitment to provide the environment to support one’s choice to live healthily.

Environmental, economic and social factors are all important determinants of the behaviours and choices that influence health outcomes. Government and social society need to engage.

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