A plate of freshly prepared venison.

You are what you eat. Literally. What you put in your mouth is broken down and used to provide energy and repair and grow bone, lean muscle, connective tissue, and that adipose that we are constantly trying to get rid of. A recently published study aimed at furthering our understanding of aging takes this axiom a step further, examining if the age of the food we eat influences our biological age, and the results are fascinating.

One of the components of the most current aging theory involves molecular damage, suggesting that every metabolic process that occurs within our body creates byproducts that accumulate and ultimately greatly determine an organism’s lifespan. Recent research is beginning to uncover how our daily decisions can greatly impact our overall health and longevity. For instance, several recent studies have shown that regular exercise, as little as walking 30 minutes per day, can have a strong influence on your cellular biological age. These studies have exhibited that physical activity helps to maintain the length of leukocyte telomeres, which are kind of like shoelace aiglets for our chromosomes, protecting them from deterioration. Other studies have found that the regular consumption of processed food, especially those containing high levels of advanced glycation end products (AGEs) from long cooking processes, can directly lead to shortened lifespan. The evidence is mounting for the idea that every small action we take has a direct impact on our health.

To take this theory a few steps further, researchers aimed to examine if an organism’s lifespan may be influenced by the cellular health and age of the food they consume. In a series of experiments, researchers fed different types of food, of varying ages, to yeast cultures, fruit flies, and mice. Yeast cultures were fed extracts from young and older yeast cells, fruit flies were fed either young flies or older specimen that were allowed to age and die naturally in incubators, and mice were fed diets of meat from farm-raised deer of varying ages. The results were statistically significant, as the older aged food lowered lifespan by approximately 10% across the board. The age, and ultimately the contained cellular damage, of the food the organisms consumed actually exhibited a measurable effect on how long they lived. While this study is just another tip in the giant multi-peaked iceberg in our understanding of the association between diet and aging, it does provide some further insight into how altered or dysregulated gene expression is associated with aging.

So what does all this mean? For this health scientist, it means a lot of questions. While I’m not ready to ditch more conventional cuts of beef and eat only veal or forgo my beloved chicken breasts in favor of dozens and dozens of eggs, it does make me ponder how this new information can be used to further my efforts to improve my own health and the health of those around me. Although I have had my questions about the viability, benefit, and of course, the cost-effectiveness of organic and local produce, would buying my apples directly from the local orchard (where I know they are genuinely fresh) as opposed to the those shipped from halfway around the world have a quantifiable effect on my health? Knowing that frozen, store-bought fish can be several years old, would buying only fresh or getting to know the local fish monger be a worthwhile venture? The obvious answer is yes, filling my body with fuel that I know is fresh can’t possibly be a bad thing, but the fact of the matter is, we simply don’t know for sure.

What this cutting-edge research does make even more clear, however, is that every action we take has a direct influence on our health. Every meal, every workout, every night’s sleep is an opportunity to either improve us or break us down. Eat the freshest and most nutrient-dense food available, get up and get moving, and take your rest and recovery routines seriously, and the quality and longevity of your life will be the benefactor.

Damian Rodriguez is the health and exercise scientist for doTERRA International, LLC. He holds a doctorate in health science, a master’s degree in exercise physiology, and countless professional certifications. He has spent most of his life researching nutrition, exercise, and the lifestyle behaviors associated with optimal health. Along with his passion for health, as someone who lives with Asperger’s Syndrome, he is also involved in bringing awareness to autism spectrum disorders. There are varying opinions about many health and fitness topics. His opinions are his own and not necessarily that of doTERRA International, LLC. Consult your healthcare provider before making any changes to diet and exercise.