- Dr. Joseph Maroon is an 83-year-old practicing neurosurgeon who competes in triathlons.
- Maroon uses four main dietary principles to increase his health and longevity.
- These include following a Mediterranean-style diet and eating less sugar.
An 83-year-old doctor and athlete who turned his health around in his 40s shares the dietary principles he believes have helped him live a long and healthy life.
Dr. Joseph Maroon, a neurosurgeon at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and a panelist on Global Aging Consortiumtold Business Insider that he tried to climb a ladder at age 40.
“I was out of shape, living on fast food and not exercising,” he wrote on his website.
That year, his father died and his physical and mental health came to an end. But after a friend suggested he try running to ease his depression, he began making gradual lifestyle changes, exercising more and eating better.
At age 53, Maroon had signed up for his first Ironman Triathlon and has since completed eight in total. Last year, Maroon came second in his age category for the 2022 National Senior Games triathlon.
Maroon previously shared how he stays in shape with BI and explained his diet principles below.
Follow a Mediterranean-style diet
Maroon said he follows Mediterranean dietwhich has been named the best way to eat by US News & World Report for seven years in a row.
It’s not a “diet” in the way you might think, but more of a way of eating that centers around healthy choices rather than restrictions.
It is primarily plant-based, focusing on whole foods, including fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes, and healthy fats such as olive oil. It includes some fatty fish and red meat on occasion.
The diet has been linked to a host of health benefits, including a lower the risk of heart diseasecancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
Avoid ultra-processed foods
Ultra-processed foods are made using techniques that are difficult to recreate at home and may include additives including salt, sugar and saturated fat, according to the NOVA scale, which categorizes foods according to how processed they are .
An easy way to tell if something is ultra-processed is if it doesn’t look like its ingredients – such as
UPFs have been linked to an increased risk of diseases, including cancer, dementiaAND cardiovascular disease.
Avoid trans fatty acids
Trans fats can raise blood levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol while lowering levels of “good” HDL cholesterol, which can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, Dana Ellis Hunnes, a senior nutritionist, previously said at UCLA Medical Center.
Artificial trans fats are produced when vegetable oil is hydrogenated. They were commonly found in packaged, ultra-processed foods until the Food and Drug Administration declared trans fats unsafe to eat in 2015. The FDA gave food manufacturers three years to remove trans fats from their products, so most foods no longer contain them.
However, foods can still legally contain less than 0.5 grams of trans fat, registered dietitian Kristin Gillespie previously told BI, so it may be worth watching out for them. They usually appear in ingredient lists as “partially hydrogenated oil”. in foods such as margarine, pre-made pie crust, non-dairy coffee creamer and packaged baked goods.
Eat less sugar
The healthiest diet involves “avoiding a lot of things that people like to eat,” Maroon said, including sugar.
Dr. Heidi Tissenbaum, a professor of molecular, cellular and cancer biology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, previously told BI that in her research, removing added sugar A diet of roundworms, which are used to model the lifespan of human health, has been linked to increased lifespan. This is thought to be because when the body metabolizes sugar, it produces byproducts linked to an increased risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
It’s also important to keep blood sugar levels stable to prevent wear and tear on the mechanism the pancreas uses to regulate spikes, which can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, she said.
Avoiding ultra-processed foods, which tend to be high in added sugar, can help with this, as can eating more whole foods packed with fiber that help regulate blood sugar levels.