Book Excerpt: Joan Collins on Staying Young

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One of the major health problems the Western world faces today is obesity. Except in extremely rare genetic cases, obesity is basically caused by eating too much and not exercising enough. So plump children become fat teenagers, who will then become obese adults, who will almost certainly contract life-threatening diseases such as diabetes and strokes. In America, the number of obese adults has doubled in the past ten years, and the number of grossly obese people (overweight by 98 pounds or more) has grown even more. One in eighty American men and one in two-hundred women now weighs more than 294 pounds, a leap of 50 percent in four years. A growing number of people over the age of forty are now developing late-onset (or Type 2) diabetes, but have you noticed that there are very few obese seventy-year-olds? Sadly, they don't live that long.

All the excuses you hear from overweight people -- that it's genetic or glandular -- are often wishful thinking, I'm afraid. The reason why fat is stored in the body is because it's not used for the day-to-day energy the body needs to function. To put it bluntly, by eating too much, they are digging their own graves with their teeth. Without doubt, obesity is one of the most dangerous contributors to aging and the precursor of many deadly diseases. Doctors predict that obesity will be the major health crisis of the next generation. The National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA) has thrived since 1972. Their arguments are that there's no such thing as permanent weight loss and their members are fat because of genetics, not because they eat too much. With respect, these arguments are much too weak to promote the acceptance of obesity and certainly it's as wrong to discriminate against the obese as it is to discriminate against any other group. But to condone obesity is to ignore the fact that overweight people face very serious health risks in later life and this is being proven all the time. Not only this, but being overweight also prevents people from making the most of life. They tend to have less energy and feel tired; they may also suffer from poor self-image and it's much harder to get around.

During food rationing in the first World War there was a huge reduction in the obesity of the citizens of Europe and the States. With that came a reduction in the obesity-related diseases of diabetes and hypertension. Doesn't that tell you something about our diets today? In the thirties, experiments were conducted on laboratory rats at Cornell University. One group was fed as much as they liked for twenty-four hours a day while another was calorie-controlled and given just enough to live on. When they all finally died, it was found that the group who grazed all day lived for an average of 483 days, while the calorie-controlled rats survived for an astonishing 900 days (almost twice as long). Those scientists also discovered that the calorie-controlled rats acted younger, looked younger, and by the physiological standards of aging, actually were younger. Now, it has been ultimately proved that eating less extends your life span. But, and it's a big but (and I'm sure you don't want one of those!), if you eat less you must make sure that what you eat is nutritionally sound and enriched with the correct amounts of vitamins and minerals.

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