Food Habits That Age You

Dr. Shawn Talbott (Ph.D., CNS, LDN, FACSM, FACN, FAIS) has gone from triathlon struggler to gut-brain guru! With a Ph.D. in Nutritional Biochemistry, he's on a mission to boost everyday human performance through the power of natural solutions and the gut-brain axis.

I have a few things to say in the recent “Food Habits That Age You” article by Catherine Guthrie in the November 2015 issue of Experience Life magazine.

Read the article on the Experience Life website

Read some of Catherine Guthrie’s other fantastic articles

Download a PDF scan of the article =  Food Habits That Age You Experience Life Nov 2015

Here are some of the interesting tidbits from the article – the major “Big Offender” foods that will accelerate aging:

Partially hydrogenated oils (a source of trans fats), which manufacturers manipulate to increase stability and shelf life.

How It Ages You: Lurking in many processed convenience foods, partially hydrogenated oils take their aging toll by promoting inflammation. Chronic inflammation is a low-grade, systemic irritation that smolders deep inside the body. Like rust that spreads through a car, inflammation erodes the body’s basic mechanics.

Specifically, chronic inflammation ages the body by nibbling away at telomeres — the caps on the ends of your chromosomes that are key to protecting your genes. Telomeres shorten naturally with each cell division, and eventually telomeres are used up and cells become inactive or die. Cell death is natural, but lifestyle factors — such as eating a lot of hydrogenated oils — can shorten telomeres prematurely and accelerate aging.

“Inflammation is the No. 1 enemy of telomeres,” says Shawn Talbott, PhD, CNS, a nutritional biochemist and author of The Secret of Vigor. He explains that prematurely shortened telomeres are linked to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers. Partially hydrogenated oils are full of trans fat. Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has recently made moves to ban its use in human food products, a legal loophole allows small amounts of trans fats to go into processed foods while still permitting those foods to be labeled as trans-fat-free.

Sugar, whether sucrose (the refined, highly processed and crystalized version of plant sugars), glucose, dextrose, fructose, or other types of added sweeteners.

How It Ages You: Excess sugar in your diet loiters in the blood and causes trouble by glomming on to protein molecules. This process, called glycation, causes cellular aging in several ways.

First, it slows the body’s repair mechanism. Although glycation’s effects are mostly internal, aging skin is a prime external sign. “Sugar molecules gum up the collagen in your skin,” says Talbott, making skin less elastic and causing it to wrinkle faster.

Glycation also ages the body by creating oxidative stress. Oxidation eventually leads to a buildup of toxins called advanced glycation end products, or AGEs. The accumulation of some AGEs is normal, but eating poorly is like hitting the fast-forward button on aging. That’s because AGEs build up in the body and damage our cellular engines: mitochondria. The loss of cellular energy gives rise to such age- related complaints as loss of memory, hearing, vision, and stamina. Some findings show AGEs build up in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s (increasingly referred to as “type 3 diabetes”). AGEs are also linked to the more rapid development of arterial plaque in people with heart disease, and appear to be associated with Parkinson’s disease as well.

If you can go cold turkey on processed sugar, great. If not, cut back as far as you can. For the sweets you do eat, choose foods made with less heavily processed natural sweeteners, such as honey or maple syrup, instead of refined (white) sugar. “Although natural sugars aren’t much better for your health, foods sweetened naturally tend to be less refined and contain other whole-food ingredients, and that is beneficial for reducing sugar load,” says Talbott. Cut back on the sugar you use in recipes at home, and try adding less sugar to your coffee, tea, and other frequently consumed beverages.

Crashing and spiking blood sugar, which wreaks hormonal havoc, promotes inflammation, and drives unhealthy food cravings.

How It Ages You: when the stomach is empty, its secretion of ghrelin, also called the “hunger hormone,” doubles. When the stomach is full, secretion of ghrelin slows and its hormonal opposite, leptin, signals that the body is satiated. But it can take 20 minutes for this process to unfold. During this time, it’s easy to overeat.

“Going for a long period without food and then gorging is the textbook way to gain weight,” says Talbott. “When you gorge, you eat more, your blood sugar spikes higher, and your body stores more calories for later because it’s in feast-or-famine mode.”  Significantly, frequent blood-sugar spikes are linked to insulin resistance, a precursor to type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome, and to body- wide inflammation.

Some of the other “Body-Aging Habits” covered in the article are cortisol overexposure and refined carbohydrate overload (two of my “favorites”) – so check out the entire article.

Thanks for reading,



Shawn M Talbott, PhD, CNS, LDN, FACSM, FAIS, FACN

Nutritional Biochemist and Author


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The Secret of Vigor – How to Overcome Burnout, Restore Biochemical Balance, and Reclaim Your Natural Energy

Killer at Large – Why Obesity is America’s Greatest Threat – an award-winning documentary film exploring the causes and solutions underlying the American obesity epidemic

The Cortisol Connection – Why Stress Makes You Fat and Ruins Your Health (Hunter House)

The Cortisol Connection Diet – The Breakthrough Program to Control Stress and Lose Weight (Hunter House)

Cortisol Control and the Beauty Connection – The All-Natural Inside-Out Approach to Reversing Wrinkles, Preventing Acne, And Improving Skin Tone (Hunter House)

Natural Solutions for Pain-Free Living – Lasting Relief for Flexible Joints, Strong Bones and Ache-Free Muscles (Chronicle Publishers – Currant Books)

The Immune Miracle – The All-Natural Approach for Better Health, Increased Energy and Improved Mood (GLH Nutrition, 2012)

The Health Professionals Guide to Dietary Supplements (Lippincott, Williams & Wilkens)

A Guide to Understanding Dietary Supplements – an Outstanding Academic Text of 2004 (Haworth Press)

About the Author

Exercise physiologist (MS, UMass Amherst) and Nutritional Biochemist (PhD, Rutgers) who studies how lifestyle influences our biochemistry, psychology and behavior - which kind of makes me a "Psycho-Nutritionist"?!?!

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