Who Preserves the Best?
The Age-Old Pickle Who – Preserves the Best?
Nature versus nurture: both certainly play a role in graceful ageing, but which one has a more powerful influence? You are what you eat and apply – and infinitely more than just genes – which begs the question: is this combination the secret to healthy, beautiful ageing? Dr Janine olivier takes us around the world to determine who are the best super-agers.
While I bask in the glorious rays of the South African sun, a little niggly voice pops annoyingly into my head – warning me about all the things I really don’t want to think about. Sensible things such as sunspots, hyperpigmentation, wrinkles and the like – basically the costly price to pay for this hedonistic pleasure. I then got to thinking about my skin – and why it looked so flawless in my time as an exchange student in Sweden. Could it be that I was younger (read infant), or was there something more? I recall it was one of the coldest of Scandinavian winters (-30°C), and my diet consisted of predominantly kanelbullar. I dredged through thighhigh sludge to the training hospital – skin and hair more radiant than that of a pregnant woman (on steroids), as my European genes popped out of hibernation. Could this genetic makeup of mine be the sole reason for my graceful ageing had I stayed in the northern hemisphere (despite living on sugar and cinnamon confections and hardly grooming)? Or is there more to it?
Genes versus routines
This panacea of nature vs nurture reveals surprising secrets in the evolution of beautiful ageing across the globe. You are indeed what you eat and apply – and infinitely more than just genes – which begs the question: is this combination the secret to good, healthy, graceful (and, um… pretty) ageing?
In answer to this, I went around the world (in cyberspace, that is) to determine what nations boast the best super-agers – and why.
Most Japanese women stay slim and don’t look old – they simply cannot afford to – seriously. I came across a very unnerving piece of Japanese folklore called ubasute – roughly translated as “abandoning an old woman”. This practice was allegedly performed when an elderly or infirm relative was carried to a mountain and left there to die of dehydration, starvation or exposure. Besides their great genes (and that ever-looming threat of the mountain, of course), these ladies drink green tea and eat small portions of seafood and fermented foods with healthy desserts (fruit). They mostly walk or ride their bikes, practice yoga and martial arts. Traditionally, Japanese people rarely eat out, avoid processed foods and employ healthier cooking methods. Additionally, Japan is famous for its hot springs, which promotes detoxification, reduces stress, improves circulation, skin and sleep quality. These great habits, along with a small pinch of good genes, will certainly keep the ubasute at bay.
Je ne sais quoi
The French coined a term that literally means “I don’t know what” as in “She has a certain je ne sais quoi about her”. These chic women embrace age with an emphasis on excessive, quality grooming, as explained by Mireille Giuliano’s best-seller Why French Women Do Not Get Facelifts. That said, I personally feel that Madam Guiliano would benefit tremendously from the latter (after I ogled a recent media image of her). Speaking of books, Mathilde Thomas’ The French Beauty Secret reveals what makes the French so…French. It comes down to drinking red wine daily and taking at least one 30-minute walk a day. Skincare is art de vivre – a pleasure, not a pain. Choosing the best skincare products you can afford is of paramount importance, and more is certainly more. An orgasm a day keeps the doctor away and a post-coital glow increases blood and oxygen supply to the face, while boosting collagen production. The French typically eat well, in moderation and only use the best quality fresh ingredients. They also do not ruin mealtimes with excessive snacking. Lastly, there’s nothing quite like ending a hot shower with an ice-cold one to jolt the skin into the toning and firming mode. The real secret to French beauty is… confidence.
Lagom – Scandinavian minimalistic beauty trend
Not too little, not too much, just right. Lagom is the opposite of excess, so products that contain extras like artificial fragrance, parabens, sulfates, even shimmer, are considered unnecessary. The term is about living with just the essentials. Swedes have the
longest average lifespan (85 years) and they are the fifth happiest nation, according to a recent survey.
The longevity village
The Chinese village of Bama (rebranded ‘The Longevity Village’) is home to 81 centenarians. The locals credit the mineral water, geomagnetism and negatively charged oxygen ions. According to Dr Ze, a resident at Beijing Hospital, there was little mixing with the outside world, causing the residents to live or die under tough circumstances. Weak genes were eliminated, strong genes survived. In particular, the residents of Bama have mostly inherited a gene from both parents that helps the body produce a protein called apoliprotein E. This combines with fat to form a lipoprotein that reduces excess cholesterol. The inhabitants also work hard in the field, and their food is steamed, not fried. They mostly eat rice porridge with a bit of salt and hemp oil, and seldom consume meat. Old people are surrounded by relatives, are happy and calm, have fewer desires, are not competitive, and were more optimistic.
Secrets of the super-agers
It appears that diet is the key to longevity – combined with sex, naps, wine, good friends… and a pinch of good genes (but of course).