Nutrition plays a pivotal role in the quest for a longer and healthier life. However, Israeli nutritionist Dana Weiner, who is the Director of the Diet and Nutrition Unit at Sheba Medical Centre, believes that the secrets to healthy ageing extend beyond diet alone. ALSO READ: Nutrition: What does healthy eating mean? Addressing the topic at the ongoing Second African Health Harm Reduction Conference in Marrakesh, Morocco, Weiner shed light on the significance of various factors, including rest, genetics, community, as well as diet. Breaking free from stagnation According to Weiner, individuals have the power to shape their destinies and embrace positive change in their lives. She stressed the significance of breaking free from the shackles of inertia and striving for a more vibrant existence as the key to longevity. “You're not stuck,” she said, “you should not simply idle away without a purpose in life.” ALSO READ: Finding your purpose in life The art of the downshift In a stress-filled world, Weiner highlighted the concept of the “downshift”. This practice involves consciously adopting a more relaxed lifestyle and finding inner peace amidst external chaos. She highlighted the importance of self-care as a way to maintain mental well-being in today's turbulent times. Loneliness: The silent pandemic One of the “striking” points Weiner made was about the rising epidemic of loneliness. Comparing it to diseases like diabetes and obesity, she underscored the need to combat this isolation that was exacerbated during the Covid-19 pandemic. She encouraged forging connections with family and friends, emphasising the role of social bonds in people’s overall health and longevity. ALSO READ: What does Rwanda's rising life expectancy mean? Diet: A key to a longer life Turning her attention to nutrition, Weiner discussed the dietary habits of the Blue Zones, regions celebrated for their long-living populations. The suggested ones are Okinawa Prefecture, Japan; Nuoro Province, Sardinia, Italy; the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica; Icaria, Greece; and Loma Linda, California, United States. While these zones don’t adhere to a strict vegetarian diet, Weiner noted that their nutrition primarily relies on plant-based foods, most of which they grow. Additionally, she debunked the myth of eating five meals a day, instead highlighting the significance of daytime rest or siesta, stressing the importance of listening to one’s body and avoiding overindulgence. The weight dilemma Maintaining a steady weight was another key point Weiner mentioned. She emphasised the value of stability over fluctuations, debunking the popular yo-yo dieting trend. She noted that “consistency is crucial in one’s dietary habits for a longer, healthier life.” Genetics and the longevity blueprint Drawing from her personal experience, Weiner noted that her longevity journey began even before her birth, influenced by her mother's lifestyle during pregnancy. According to Weiner, genetics plays a significant role in a person’s potential for a long and healthy life. She urged a proactive approach, targeting women's health during pregnancy as a means of shaping the longevity of future generations. Returning to the basics In a world increasingly influenced by climate change and unconventional food sources, Weiner advocated returning to the basics. She encouraged adopting the time-tested practices of the Blue Zones. “We have the knowledge and tools to shape our future and prioritise longevity,” she remarked. The future of longevity Looking ahead, Weiner highlighted the possibilities in the realm of longevity. She spoke of using Artificial Intelligence (AI), wearables, and telemedicine to gain a better understanding of nutrition and health. Harnessing the power of big data, she suggested tailoring personalised dietary plans and even exploring options like injections or vaccinations for enhanced longevity. Weiner further mentioned that there is potential for genetic engineering and bio-printing in the quest for longer, healthier lives.