How to live longer: The spice that may offer protection against heart disease and cancer

The primacy of preserving your health for as long as possible becomes more urgent as you get older. Life experience teaches you that there are numerous diseases that threaten your life. While you cannot fully shield yourself against these threats, there are steps you can take to make sure you are in the best possible position if and when they come knocking.

Research suggests that diet holds the key and particular items have shown promise in reducing the risks posed by two of the biggest killers – heart disease and cancer.

In fact, specific dietary items boast properties that may offer protection against both, such as black pepper.

The popular condiment is linked to lower blood cholesterol levels – a marker of heart disease.

Cholesterol is a fatty substance in your blood that can clog up your arteries if it builds up.

Black pepper extract has been studied in animals for its potential to reduce cholesterol levels.

In one 42-day study, rats fed a high-fat diet and a black pepper extract had decreased blood cholesterol levels, including LDL (bad) cholesterol (the most harmful form of cholesterol).

Additionally, black pepper and piperine (the active ingredient in black pepper) are believed to boost the absorption of dietary supplements that have potential cholesterol-lowering effects like turmeric and red yeast rice.

For example, studies have shown that black pepper may increase the absorption of the active component of turmeric — curcumin — by up to 2,000 percent.

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Black pepper’s anti-cancer properties

Researchers hypothesise that the active compound in black pepper, piperine, may have cancer-fighting properties.

Though no human trials have been performed, test-tube studies found that piperine slowed the replication of breast, prostate, and colon cancer cells and induced cancer cell death.

Another test-tube study screened 55 compounds from spices and observed that piperine from black pepper was the most effective at enhancing the efficacy of traditional treatment for triple-negative breast cancer, the most aggressive cancer type.

What’s more, piperine has shown promising effects in laboratory studies for reversing multidrug resistance in cancer cells — an issue that interferes with the efficacy of chemotherapy treatment.

General dietary tips

It is important to note that black pepper should form one part of your overall approach to eating healthily.

The Eatwell Guide shows that to have a healthy, balanced diet, people should try to:

  • Eat at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day
  • Base meals on higher fibre starchy foods like potatoes, bread, rice or pasta
  • Have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks)
  • Eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other protein
  • Choose unsaturated oils and spreads, and eat them in small amounts
  • Drink plenty of fluids (at least six to eight glasses a day)

If you’re having foods and drinks that are high in fat, salt and sugar, have these less often and in small amounts.

The Eatwell Guide also says to try to choose a variety of different foods from the five main food groups to get a wide range of nutrients.

Exercise is also essential if you want to live a healthy and fulfilling life into old age.

“To stay healthy, adults should try to be active every day and aim to achieve at least 150 minutes of physical activity over a week through a variety of activities,” advises the NHS.

For most people, the easiest way to get moving is to make activity part of everyday life, like walking or cycling instead of using the car to get around, explains the health body.

It adds: “However, the more you do, the better, and taking part in activities such as sports and exercise will make you even healthier.”

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