This Sunday I attended Gunther von Hagen’s Body Worlds & The Cycle of Life Exhibition at the Sci-Bono Discovery Centre in Johannesburg and my goodness – what an informative experience! (unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take any pictures of the content on display, but I managed to take a snapshot of the entrance).
The exhibition consists of real bodies and organs which have been preserved through a unique process called ‘plastination’. Dr von Hagens developed and patented this method of preserving bodies in the early 1980’s and basically the end result is a real body and organs that end up looking like artificial models. The exhibition included all the major organs, the nervous system, the development of a child in the womb and the effects of lifestyle diseases such as smoking and obesity on the body.
I would highly recommend this exhibition to anybody interested in health, science, biology and just broadening one’s general knowledge.
What stood out to me in particular was the information they provided on healthy living and the studies conducted on Centenarians – people who live to be 100 years and older. Two recurring themes revealed themselves throughout the exhibition – diet and lifestyle impacts longevity and quality of life (really no surprise there, but of course, everybody’s definition of ‘health’ differs). So which definition/type of lifestyle came out tops? A plant-based, active one of course!
Here are some of the findings about the lifestyles of these Centanarians:
- They tend to be clustered in certain geographical regions and are most prominent in:
– Loma Linda, California
– Nicoya, Costa Rica
– Ovodda, Sardinia, Italy
– Hunza, Pakistan
– Bama, China
– Okinawa, Japan
- Their diets are traditionally LOW in MEAT and ANIMAL FAT and consist mainly of vegetables, fruits, seaweed, soy, tofu, fish and red wine.
- They exercise regularly, often walking several miles a day.
- They have meaningful friendships and relationships, often crossing the generational divide to befriend and mentor younger generations (they mean something to somebody else).
- They have a strong sense of purpose, and fulfill important roles in their communities, using their talents and pursuing their passions.
- They are born optimists, or have developed constructive coping mechanisms to deal with misfortunes such as death or divorce.
- They embrace the curative power of nature and engage in activities such as praying, meditating, walking and meeting with friends.
Some other interesting information about health and wellness included the following:
- Sugar, in the form of simple, refined carbohydrates (think white bread, pasta, and rice) are a major cause of ageing. The reason – these sugar molecules attach to protein molecules, altering their structure and resulting in a stiffening of body tissues in the long run).
- To strengthen one’s immune system it is important to have a vitamin rich diet, regular exercies, plenty of sound sleep and laughter, fun and love.
This section of the exhibition ended off with a beautiful quotation from Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach:
We stay young as long as we keep learning, acquire new habits, and tolerate disagreement.
Noticeably, diet alone is not the only factor that affects longevity, and I believe that balance in all areas of life is key. A vegan diet alone does not a happy, healthy person make, yet it is undoubtedly one step in the right direction, and certainly provides us with the sustained energy, focus, and well-being needed to passionately pursue all the other things that make life worth living, because a correctly fueled body is a fruitful and productive body! 🙂