11420(US-ca) A new wrinkle on aging
- Oct 1, 2006John Robbins flips his 51/2-year-old grandson upside down, giving him
a gravity-defying walk on the ceiling and making the straw-haired
little boy grin.
You might expect the man who wrote a book about living healthfully
into old age to say that the key to a long life is in the bowls filled
with fresh fruit that sit on his kitchen counter.
The idea that love is key to healthy old age is just one of the
conclusions in Robbins' new book, "Healthy at 100: The Scientifically
Proven Secrets of the World's Healthiest and Long-Lived Peoples."
Sitting in his simply decorated home with its view of oak and grass
hills, the man who walked away from his father's Baskin-Robbins ice
cream empire and began writing books on diet and the environment,
talks about everything from the link between relationships and health,
to the benefits of eating a low-calorie diet, to the American aversion
to growing old, and the death of a running partner.
Even though he has written six best-sellers, including his most famous
work, "Diet For a New America," Robbins says he didn't start thinking
about a book on aging until about 21/2 years ago, when his running
"He used to tease me about the way I ate," says Robbins, a vegetarian.
"He called me 'carrot-head' and 'string-bean.' Then, he got colon
cancer and I watched him die of it."
His friend was 53.
"Thank you for your love," was the last thing he said to Robbins before he died.
That death and the approach of his own 60th birthday made Robbins
think not only about the way most American suffer long periods of
illness before they die, but how it might be possible to live a longer
and healthier life.
"The ideal," he says, "is what doctors call compression of morbidity —
the idea that you live a long, glorious, wonderful life, and then
there is a rapid decline of function shortly before death."
For instance, all four of the long-lived cultures eat low-calorie diets.
"They don't gorge," Robbins says. "To overeat is an anti-social act.
It's eating more than you need when others may be hungry."
All four also rely on whole grains, fresh vegetables, small servings
of meat or fish and no processed foods.
Food is eaten in season, colorful vegetables provide vitamins and
minerals, and food is mostly low in fat. People also stay active —
gardening, fishing, working — long into old age.
His book recounts stories of 90- and 100-year-olds who hike down steep
canyons to dunk themselves in cold mountain streams, or chop wood and
And it's not genetics that keep them rolling into their golden years,
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