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- In episode 4 of the new “The Goop Lab” series on Netflix, Gwyneth Paltrow and her team test whether different diets can make your body younger, and therefore healthier, by reducing your “biological age.”
- They find that 3 weeks of a Mediterranean-style pescatarian diet made one Goop staffer a year younger, based on her biological age. Paltrow found a 5-day fasting regimen cut her biological age by 1.7 years.
- A vegan diet, although touted by the show’s experts, didn’t result in any change in biological age.
- Although there is evidence that fasting, as well as diets like veganism and Mediterranean, have health benefits, experts say there are too many other factors in health to say that diet can independently “reduce” someone’s biological age.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more.
From exorcisms to sexual revelations to psychedelic psychotherapy, The Goop Lab series makes some pretty spectacular claims, all beneath a disclaimer that the show constitutes entertainment, not medical advice.
Among them: that the right diet could add years to your life, keeping you youthful and healthful beyond your chronological age.
In episode 4 of the series, goop founder Gwyneth Paltrow and her crew test out three dietary interventions designed to slow or even reverse aging.
“You can make yourself younger on the inside — you’re probably going to look younger as well,” says guest expert Morgan Levine, an assistant professor of pathology at Yale University, at the start of the episode.
Using an algorithm designed by Levine, Paltrow and two Goop staffers have their blood tested to determine their biological age, based on markers such as metabolism, kidney and liver health, and cardiovascular function.
They then embark on three different diets to see which, if any, is capable of prolonging their youth and shaving time off their biological clock.
Weight loss weightloss weight loss programs weight loss foods weight loss tips Paltrow and two staffers tried fasting, veganism, and a pescatarian diet
Paltrow, 46 years old the time of filming, is told she has a biological age of 44.2. She is the prescribed the most extreme of the test diets: a five-day cleanse designed by Walter Vongo, a professor of gerontology at the University of Southern California. The cleanse mimics a fast, while providing nutrients to avoid unpleasant side effects, through tea, freeze-dried soups, and nut bars. In total, she consumes 500 to 800 calories a day.
Next is Goop’s chief content officer Elise Loehnan, just shy of turning 40, whose biological age is 37.9, according to Levine. Loehnan is put on a three-week-long Mediterranean-style pescatarian diet, mostly plant-based. It includes some fish, but no red meat or poultry.
Wendy Lauria, Goop’s vice president of marketing, rounds out the group, with a biological age of 48.4, just over a year younger than her actual age, 49.5. Lauria is assigned a three-week vegan diet of plant-based meals, excluding all animal products like meat, fish, milk, and eggs.
Weight loss weightloss weight loss programs weight loss foods weight loss tips Paltrow wins the lifespan contest, allegedly adding 1.7 years to her life by fasting. Experts say to take it with a grain of salt.
Paltrow came out on top in the final test results, which showed that her fast-mimicking regimen had shaved 1.7 years off her biological age, bringing her to a youthful 42.5 (compared with her actual age of 46 years).
Longo, who designed the dehydrated mushroom soups and nut bars, explained that fasting has shown to have a wealth of benefits when done correctly, including significantly reducing the risk of major diseases.
Studies have found fasting shows promising benefits for losing weight, burning fat, reducing cholesterol, and other factors in health. But many of the studies have been small and/or focused on specific populations, so there’s still a lot of research to be done before we fully understand how various types of fasting can affect health.
“We are getting insight into early time restricted eating but there is no solid research there yet – it may be that a period of fasting during night hours is good for your metabolism – but studies are still coming,” Dr. Caroline Apovian, professor of medicine in endocrinology, diabetes, nutrition and weight management at Boston University School of Medicine, told Insider.
As for the show’s “contest,” Apovian was skeptical: the claims just went too far beyond what current research can support.
“We just do not know enough about genetic predisposition to factor into an equation about how what you eat affects your ‘biological age,'” she said. “It is true that nutrition can put you at lesser or greater risk of chronic disease – diabetes cancer heart disease — basically all due to increased inflammation in the fat tissue and then leading to the chronic diseases through travel to other organs.”
However, the idea that it can reduce aging and we can detect that in a simple series of tests is not supported by research, she added.
“There is no basis for blood tests supposedly revealing reduction of biological age by 1.7 years. This part is all made up and not based on any nutritional science whatsoever,” Apovian said.
Furthermore, fasting isn’t for everyone — there can be significant health risks in dropping below 1,000 calories a day (Paltrow’s diet included 500 to 800 calories a day) and it can be particularly dangerous for people with a history of eating disorders.
Weight loss weightloss weight loss programs weight loss foods weight loss tips Goop found a Mediterranean-style diet reversed aging, but a vegan diet didn’t. Both have health benefits backed by science.
Loehnan, after eating a pescatarian diet of plant-based foods with some fish, found her biological age dropped by a year, from 37.9 to 36.8 years old.
Her eating plan was similar to the Mediterranean diet, a plant-based eating plan that includes leafy greens, fish, and healthy fats. This style of eating has been widely supported by nutritionists and medical experts for its evidence-backed benefits, including to helping reduce the risk of diabetes, and protecting against certain types of cancers as well as cognitive decline.
It also has many similarities to the diets in so-called Blue Zones, areas of the world where people live the longest, healthiest lives.
Lauria, however, wasn’t so lucky. After trying the vegan diet for three weeks, her blood tests revealed no change to her biological age, which remained just shy of her actual age at 48.4 years.
Analyzing the results, Longo blames the lack of protein in a vegan diet, saying the fact that Loehnan was able to eat fish made the difference.
However, there’s also plenty of research to show people do see health improvements on a vegan diet, particularly if you get enough protein and other nutrients. Veganism has been linked to a better gut microbiome, leading to weight loss and fat loss, as well as reducing risk of cardiovascular disease.
Weight loss weightloss weight loss programs weight loss foods weight loss tips Regardless of which diet you choose, reducing processed foods, sugar, and saturated fat will likely be good for your health
It may not be true that snacking on superfoods can make you younger, but what you eat can still certainly affect your health. However, that leaves plenty of room for personal choice, since there’s no “one size fits all” approach to nutrition, Apovian said.
“We do not know enough about what kind of healthy foods in what quantities or % for which persons are the healthiest. So we say that you can be healthy on a Mediterranean diet or a vegan diet or a high protein diet or low fat diet,” she said.
Apovian added that it is safe to say that any diet that reduces dietary “junk” can improve your health.
“We do know that healthy diets are any diets that eliminate or decrease the intact of processed foods that are high in nonfood ingredients, sugar and saturated fat,” she said.