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Expert Q&A: Antiaging and Diet

An interview with David Grotto, RD, LDN.

How important are genetics to the aging process? Can you do anything to control your genes?

I'm not a genetics expert, but what I find truly amazing is when it's hard to distinguish who's the daughter and who's the mother. So there certainly is a thing of passing on good genes. But I think, too, that some mothers have passed along their commitment to a healthy lifestyle. That may be a good part of it.

What's your opinion about hormones and menopause? Do they slow down aging?

The whole concept of estrogen replacement therapy was about that. The only difficulty is the side consequences of doing that, potentially putting women at risk of heart disease.

So there are foods naturally rich in phytoestrogens that may help keep skin nice and supple. Soy is a good source. Beans and legumes are generally high in phytoestrogens. Flax, too. The key with those foods is not to wait until you turn 50 to suddenly start eating them. Start earlier eating moderate amounts of those foods.

There's a book out: Japanese Women Don't Get Old or Fat. It's very interesting because if anybody doesn't show their age, it's Japanese women. That's a nod to their diet historically. There definitely may be something there -- to eating tofu and vegetables.

But we in America tend to think more is better. In Japanese culture, soy is not the main thing on the plate. A handful of edamame, a little tofu in soup, is enough. You don't need to eat a whole brick of tofu. More is not necessarily better.

Why do some people follow a healthy lifestyle, eat a nutritious diet, yet still look older than their age?

I certainly have seen people who are ultra-fit, but they show a lot of the aging process going on. When you're subjecting the body to lots of physical stressors, like ultra-marathoners do, you have so low a percentage of body fat that the skin is not looking as youthful and supple as it could. On the other hand, the ultra-marathoner might outlive us all.

A lot of people who have been overweight all their lives, then lost weight, will have sagging skin that gives the appearance of aging. But that should never be a deterrent to losing weight. That's what plastic surgeons are for.

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