How to live longer: a Polymeal a day15 years, 6 months ago
Posted on Dec 28, 2004, 4 a.m.
By Bill Freeman
Never mind the tablets - heart disease could be cut by 76% and men could expect to live more than six years longer if they simply ate the right meal once a day, doctors said yesterday. Last year the British Medical Journal ran a paper advocating the "Polypill" - combining aspirin, folic acid and cholesterol-lowering and blood-pressure drugs - for everybody over 55.
Never mind the tablets - heart disease could be cut by 76% and men could expect to live more than six years longer if they simply ate the right meal once a day, doctors said yesterday.
Last year the British Medical Journal ran a paper advocating the "Polypill" - combining aspirin, folic acid and cholesterol-lowering and blood-pressure drugs - for everybody over 55. But an article in the Christmas issue says a "Polymeal", containing fish, wine, dark chocolate, fruits and vegetables, garlic and almonds, would achieve roughly the same effect.
Men on the Polymeal would increase their life expectancy by 6.6 years and women by 4.8 years, say the authors, Oscar Franco and colleagues from the department of public health at Erasmus University in Rotterdam.
"The Polymeal promises to be an effective, non-pharmacological, safe and tasty alternative [to the Polypill] for reducing cardiovascular morbidity and increasing life expectancy in the general population," they write.
The doctors searched medical literature to find foods that have been proven to lower the risk of heart disease. Drinking 150ml of wine a day cuts the risk by 32%, they say, and fish consumed four times a week reduces it by 14%. A daily intake of 100g of dark chocolate and 400g of fruit and vegetables lower blood pressure, further cutting the risk of heart disease. Garlic and almonds both lower cholesterol levels. The daily Polymeal contains 2.7g of garlic and 68g of almonds.
"Combining all the ingredients of the Polymeal resulted in cardiovascular disease being reduced by 76%," they write. "Whether increasing the amount of each ingredient would increase the effect of the Polymeal is uncertain. On the other hand, decreasing the quantities could be expected to reduce the effects of the Polymeal."
Men would not only have a longer life expectancy, but also live nine years longer without heart disease, while women would be free of it for eight years longer.
The Polymeal has no serious side-effects, they say, in contrast to the Polypill. But they do note: "Fish consumed in larger amounts than recommended as part of the Polymeal has been related to raised blood mercury concentrations, especially with large fish such as shark and swordfish."
There are issues around garlic, but not in the long term. "Adverse effects reported for garlic include malodorous breath and body odour. As garlic is destined for mass treatment, few people will still notice this after a while," they say.
However, they add: "We do not recommend taking the Polymeal before a romantic rendezvous, unless the partner also complies with the Polymeal."
The Polymeal can either be eaten as an entire meal - a recipe by the chef Raymond Blanc suggests watercress soup, grilled fillet of mackerel with a tagine of winter root vegetables, chickpeas, toasted almonds and roasted garlic, followed by chocolate mousse - or the ingredients can be eaten separately during the day, say the doctors.
They warn that the Polymeal should not be taken with excess alcohol, to avoid compromising the health benefits and "in order to avoid intoxication and conflicts with friends, relatives and authorities".