Longo’s Recipe for Living Longer

Longo and Anderson reviewed hundreds of studies on nutrition, diseases and longevity in laboratory animals and humans and combined them with their own studies on nutrients and aging. The analysis included popular diets such as the restriction of total calories, the high-fat and low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet, vegetarian and vegan diets, and the Mediterranean diet.

The article also included a review of different forms of fasting, including a short-term diet that mimics the body’s fasting response, intermittent fasting (frequent and short-term) and periodic fasting (two or more days of fasting or fasting-mimicking diets more than twice a month). In addition to examining lifespan data from epidemiological studies, the team linked these studies to specific dietary factors affecting several longevity-regulating genetic pathways shared by animals and humans that also affect markers for disease risk, including levels of insulin, C-reactive protein, insulin-like growth factor 1, and cholesterol.

The authors report that the key characteristics of the optimal diet appear to be moderate to high carbohydrate intake from non-refined sources, low but sufficient protein from largely plant-based sources, and enough plant-based fats to provide about 30 percent of energy needs. Ideally, the day’s meals would all occur within a window of 11-12 hours, allowing for a daily period of fasting, and a 5-day cycle of a fasting or fasting-mimicking diet every 3-4 months may also help reduce insulin resistance, blood pressure and other risk factors for individuals with increased disease risks, Longo added.

He described what eating for longevity could look like in real life: “Lots of legumes, whole grains, and vegetables; some fish; no red meat or processed meat and very low white meat; low sugar and refined grains; good levels of nuts and olive oil, and some dark chocolate.”

-“‘Longevity diet’ characteristics: What (and when) to eat for a long life.” University of Southern California. April 28, 2022.

This is a summary of the paper linked in the quote above. If you prefer bullet points:

  • Reduce weight and keep body mass index near 22, see BMI calculator.
  • Eat non-refined complex carbs (45-60%), plant protein (10-15%), and fats (25-35%). Mostly whole grains, legumes (fruits inside a pod), and nuts. Include some fish, but keep meat to a minimum.
  • Stop eating 3 hours before sleeping at night and fast for at least 12 hours.
  • Quarterly, high fat diet for 5 days.
  • Limit alcohol intake.

If you want more detail, the author Valter D. Longo has a book, “The Longevity Diet: Slow Aging, Fight Disease, Optimize Weight.”

What to Eat

“What then is the bottom line when it comes to some sort of recommendation about diet and mental health? Same as already discussed for other conditions. Look askew at supplements, reduce intake of red and processed meats in favour of fish and poultry, replace refined grains with whole grains, increase legumes, and eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. That then is the link between diet and health in a nutshell.”

-Joe Schwarcz, “Food For Thought- Literally.” McGill: Office for Science and Society. March 2, 2022.

Recommendations like these always talk about servings. It would be better if they included a chart of what they meant by that.

Suggestions for Good Health

Blue Zones is a good place to start. However, if I were to give advice to my younger self, I’d focus on:

  • Sleep: Get a full night’s sleep and take a midday nap for a total of eight hours.
  • Food: Limit eating to four consecutive hours a day. Eat mostly plants. Drink powdered psyllium and water to stave off hunger feelings in the off hours.
  • Exercise: Walk/run for 16,000 steps a day or 8 miles, incorporating a full range of movement. Include some weight-bearing activity or physical training twice a week.
  • Social: Cultivate a social environment for flourishing among family, friends and your larger social circle. Be a positive, creative person and look for the same in others. Relentlessly prune relationships that are predominantly negative.
  • Being & Doing: Find something to do that leaves the world slightly better than you found it and promotes good sleeping, eating, exercise and social habits. The Buddhist idea of the Noble Eightfold Path is a useful model of how to be and what to do.

Inflammation Might Be the Root of Preventable Disease | Harvard Magazine

“Evidence has been mounting that these common chronic conditions—including Alzheimer’s, cancer, arthritis, asthma, gout, psoriasis, anemia, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, and depression among them—are indeed triggered by low-grade, long-term inflammation. But it took that large-scale human clinical trial to dispel any lingering doubt: the immune system’s inflammatory response is killing people by degrees…

…The metabolic stress that is a hallmark of modern life, the stress that the body has not evolved to handle, is constant eating, he continues. When people eat, energy and nutrients enter the body rapidly, are processed, produce in turn a lot of by-products, and then need to be reduced to ‘functional substances that are distributed throughout the body, and then disappear very quickly. Many cells and tissues actually undergo a huge amount of stress during this process,’ he explains, ‘as they store appropriate nutrients and dispose of harmful intermediates.’ Part of this process also involves mounting an immune response. ‘The pancreas, for example, must secrete four to five hundred milliliters of enzymes every day’ to be able to manage the incoming energy load with every meal. ‘If you place these organs under constant stress, they start malfunctioning.’ The consequence is that ‘right now, one out of every 10 individuals has diabetes. One out of every four individuals has fatty liver disease. And if you reach a certain age, one out of every three individuals will develop neurodegenerative disease.”

—Jonathan Shaw, “Raw and Red-Hot.” Harvard Magazine. May/June 2019.