The Longevity Diet Summary
In The Longevity Diet, Longo recommends we use multiple sources of information when going on a diet, rather than to trust the latest fads.
There are hundreds of theories of how and why we age. Many are partially true and overlap. One, the popular free radical theory of aging proposes that oxygen and other reactive molecules that function as oxidants can cause damage to all components of a cell and organism, similar to the rusting of metals when exposed to oxygen and water. Tom Kirkwood’s “disposable soma” theory is another well-received theory of aging. It proposes that organisms invest in reproduction, in offspring and in themselves, but only to the level necessary to generate healthy offspring. The soma, our body-which is the carrier of the genetic material contained in our sperm cells and oocytes-is therefore disposable once it has generated enough offspring. Under this theory we are merely disposable carriers of DNA. Unflattering.
Longo discovered, in an experiment with yeast that:
1. If I starved yeast-by removing all the nutrients available to them and giving them only water-they lived twice as long.
2. Sugar is one of the nutrients responsible for yeast aging fast and dying early. It activates two genes, RAS and PKA, that are known to accelerate aging, and it inactivates factors and enzymes that protect against oxidation and other types of damage.
Longo identified the entire signaling pathway, and the first gene that regulates the aging process. It was exceedingly simple. But leading science journals refused to publish these findings and subsequent ones for several years.
Everything in Moderation
The problem with the internet is that it is filled with bad dietary advice, and charlatans. Some of these suggest that “everything in moderation” is the secret to good health, but such reasoning fails. Think about an airplane, would you want it to be designed by a team of experts, or someone who kind of knows a few things about aviation? It should be no different with regards to health advice. The quality of the source is critical.
It is wise not to ask a body to do things it is not accustomed to doing. Fasting, for example, would not be a good idea if it were completely alien to human beings. But what we know is that long-lived populations do practice fasting. And while religious fasts that were much more common historically were not done for health reasons, they do provide a basis for fasting. The human body has been accustomed to fasting.
The Five Pillars of Longevity: These form the basis of the diet recommended in this book.
Basic/juventology research: An understanding of how nutrients such as sugars and proteins affect cellular function, aging, and age-dependent damage, and regeneration. These require animal studies.
Epidemiology: This is the study of the causes and important risk factors for disease and other health-related conditions in defined populations.
Clinical studies: Hypotheses formulated in basic and epidemiological studies eventually must be tested in randomized, controlled clinical trials. This is the gold standard to demonstrate efficacy.
Centenarian studies: Even after basic/juventology, epidemiological, and clinical studies are available, there is still uncertainty about whether a specific diet or nutritional indication is in fact safe and beneficial after long-term use, and whether it is palatable enough for people not just to adopt it but to stick with it for the rest of their lives. Studies of various centenarian populations from around the world provide long-term evidence of the safety, efficacy, and compliance associated with a
diet (for example, a low-sugar diet). In this book, the centenarian studies have been focused on Ecuador and Southern Italy.
Studies of complex systems: It is not enough to simply understand the components but to understand the system. For example, sugar is bad, but without it, the body would not have fuel. The problem is not sugar, it is excess sugar intake along with proteins and certain fats that cause diseases.
To see how the Five Pillars works in practice, consider popular diets like Atkins and Dukans. Should you go on these diets because of the testimonial of a few people, the recommendation of an expert, or a small clinical trial? Over time, these are the diets that get debunked because they rely only on one or two pillars. Populations with longevity do not eat high-protein, high-saturated-fat, low-carb diets, for example. In fact, excess fat and protein is associated with aging and disease.
Proteins, Carbohydrates, Fats, and Micronutrients
There are three major components-what we call macronutrients-in the food we eat.
1. Proteins are generally composed of twenty amino acids, whose sequence determines their particular function. For example, a 3-ounce steak contains approximately 25 grams of protein. One of the most abundant proteins in meat is actin, which is involved in muscle contraction and many other cellular functions. The digestive system breaks meat down into protein then amino acids. These amino acids are released in the stomach, and then in the intestine. They are then absorbed by the bloodstream as single amino acids or chains of multiple amino acids. Eventually, they are dispersed to different cells throughout the body, where they are used to generate new proteins, including actin (found in human muscle).
2. Carbohydrates are found in most foods, either in their simple form (the sugars in fruit juices, honey, candy, or soft drinks) or in their complex form (the large chains of glucose and other sugars contained in vegetables or grains). Simply sugar can immediately enter circulation, increase blood glucose levels, and trigger the release of insulin by the pancreas. Complex carbs must be separated from other food components and broken down into simple sugars before they can be absorbed. How to measure nutritional value and quality of food? There is “glycemic index” and “glycemic load.” The latter is more important as it takes quantity as well the characteristics of a specific carb. For example, whole-wheat bread has a high glycemic index (71) but a slice of whole
bread has a relatively low glycemic load (9). Compare that to sponge cake, with its relatively low glycemic index (46) but higher glycemic load (17).
3. Fats are the major source of stored energy in the body. Modified fat molecules also generate the
membrane that separates all cell content from the blood, and in generating hormones, including steroids. Fats are mostly ingested in the form of triglycerides, which are composed of three chains of carbon and hydrogen molecules (fatty acids) bound together by a molecule of glycerol. After digestion, they are broken down in the intestine by bile salts, released from the gallbladder, and by lipase enzymes released from the pancreas and other organs so they can be absorbed into the blood. Fats can be saturated (when the maximum number of hydrogen atoms are bound to each carbon) or unsaturated (when fewer than the maximum number of hydrogen atoms are bound to each carbon). The unsaturated fats can be divided into monounsaturated fats (such as the oleic acid contained in olive oil) or polyunsaturated fats (such as those contained in salmon and corn oil). The polyunsaturated fats omega-3 and omega-6 are called “essential fatty acids” because the human body cannot generate them, but they are essential for the normal function of cells and organs.
In addition to these three major macronutrients, micronutrients are an essential component of nutrition.
Micronutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, account for much of the $37 billion US supplement industry. Yet studies by nutrition expert Dr. Bruce Ames and others show that between 50 and 90 percent of US adults do not get enough vitamin D, E, magnesium, vitamin A, calcium, potassium, or vitamin K. At the same time, several recent articles indicate that dietary supplements containing excess vitamins and minerals are ineffective in preventing major diseases and delaying mortality.2 One possible exception: a large, randomized, controlled trial reported a minor reduction in cancer and cataracts in people taking daily multivitamins.3
Vitamin supplementation may not protect against aging and other diseases, but we know that they are important for essential bodily functioning. For example, vitamin D, zinc, and iron are important for normal immune function. Calcium and vitamin D are essential in maintaining normal bone-mineral density.
A diet rich in vegetables, fish, nuts, and whole grains is the ideal way to get the essential nutrients, but even such diets can be deficient in vitamin D and, for vegans and the elderly, vitamin B12. Most people throughout the world who are consuming what is thought of as a high-nourishment diet have similar deficiencies. Because some studies have indicated that high doses of certain vitamins can be toxic, the ideal recommendation, based on the opinion of both supporters and opponents of supplement use, is to take a multivitamin, made by a reputable company, that contains at least vitamin D, E, magnesium, vitamin A, calcium, potassium, or vitamin K, every two to three days.
By reducing the supplementation frequency to relatively low doses and two or three times per week, we minimize the chance of a toxic effect while still avoiding malnourishment due to a lack of a particular vitamin or mineral.
The Longevity Diet in Summary
1. Eat mostly vegan, plus a little fish, limiting meals with fish to a maximum of two or three times per week. Choose fish, crustaceans, and mollusks with a high omega-3, omega-6, and vitamin B12 content (salmon, anchovies, sardines, cod, sea bream, trout, clams, shrimp; see appendix B). Pay attention to the quality of the fish, choosing those with low levels of mercury.
2. If you are below the age of sixty-five, keep the intake of protein low (0.31 to 0.36 grams per pound of body weight). That comes to 40 to 47 grams of protein per day for a person weighing 130 pounds, and 60 to 70 grams of protein per day for someone weighing 200 to 220 pounds. Those beyond age sixty-five should slightly increase their protein intake, including fish, eggs, white meat, and products derived from goats and sheep, to preserve muscle mass. Consume beans, chickpeas, green peas, and other legumes as your main source of protein.
3. Minimize saturated fats from animal and vegetable sources (meat, cheese) and sugar, and maximize good fats and complex carbs. Eat whole grains and high quantities of vegetables (tomatoes, broccoli, carrots, legumes, etc.) with generous amounts of olive oil (3 tablespoons per day) and nuts (1 ounce per day). See the biweekly diet program in appendix A.
4. Follow a diet with high vitamin and mineral content and complete it with a multivitamin buffer every 3 days.
5. Select ingredients among those discussed in this book that your ancestors would have eaten.
6. Based on your weight, age, and abdominal circumference, decide whether to have two or three meals per day. If you are overweight or tend to gain weight easily, consume two meals a day: breakfast and either lunch or dinner, plus two low-sugar (less than 5 grams) snacks with fewer than 100 calories each. If you are already at a normal weight, or if you tend to lose weight easily or are over 65 and of normal weight, eat three meals a day and one low-sugar (less than 3 to 5 grams) snack with fewer than 100 calories.
7. Confine all eating to within a twelve-hour period; for example, start after 8 a.m. and end before 8 p.m. Don’t eat anything within three to four hours of bedtime.
8. Until age 65–70, depending on weight and frailty, undergo five days of a fasting-mimicking diet (see chapter 6) every one to six months, based on your goals and, if possible, a dietitian’s or medical doctor’s advice.
9. Follow points 1 through 8 in such a way that you reach and maintain a healthy weight and abdominal circumference
1. Walk fast for an hour every day.
2. Take the stairs instead of escalators and elevators.
3. On the weekend, walk everywhere, even faraway places (avoid polluted areas as much as you can).
4. Do moderate exercise for 2½ to 5 hours a week, with some of it in the vigorous range. Most of the beneficial effects appear to be
caused by the first 2.5 hours of exercise, making the additional exercise optional.
5. Use weight training or weight-free exercises to strengthen all muscles.
6. To maximize muscle growth, consume at least 30 grams of protein in a single meal one to two hours after a relatively intense weight-training session.
The five-day FMD was developed with the following goals:
1. To provide sufficient calories to be safe outside of a clinic
2. To provide a variety of components that most people can enjoy
3. To be 100 percent plant-based, as described in the Longevity Diet in chapter 4
4. To be equally effective as fasting, if not more so The FMD, as demonstrated in our animal studies, treats aging and promotes healthy longevity using the following processes:
- Switching all cells to a protected anti-aging mode
- Promoting autophagy (self-eating of parts of the cell) and replacing damaged cell components with newly generated functional ones
- Killing damaged cells in many organs and systems and replacing them with newly regenerated cells from activated stem cells.
- Shifting the body into an abdominal/visceral fat-burning mode, which continues after returning to a normal diet (probably due to epigenetic changes, which are modifications of the DNA and proteins that bind DNA)
The Fasting Mimicking Diet:
For healthy adults, should be done once every six months. For adults who are less healthy, should be done twice every six months.
Day 1: 1,100 calories
500 calories from complex carbohydrates (vegetables such as broccoli, tomatoes, carrots, pumpkin, mushrooms, etc.)
500 calories from healthy fats (nuts, olive oil)
1 multivitamin and mineral supplement
1 omega-3/omega-6 supplement
Sugarless tea (up to 3 to 4 cups per day)
25 grams of plant-based protein, mainly from nuts
Days 2–5: 800 calories
400 calories from complex carbohydrates (vegetables such as broccoli, tomatoes, carrots, pumpkin, mushrooms, etc.)
400 calories from healthy fats (nuts, olive oil)
1 multivitamin and mineral supplement
1 omega-3/omega-6 supplement
Sugarless tea (up to 3 to 4 cups per day)
The above components can be divided between breakfast, lunch, and dinner, or they can be taken as two meals and a snack.
Day 6: Transition diet
For 24 hours following the end of the five-day FMD, patients should follow a diet base
minimize the consumption of fish, meat, saturated fats, pastries, cheeses, milk, etc…
What to Expect:
1. Some people feel weak during parts of the FMD. Others say they feel more energetic.
2. Some patients complain of light- or average-intensity headaches. This effect is usually greatly reduced by day 4 or 5, and
eliminated entirely by the second or third FMD cycle.
3. Most people feel hungry during the first few days of the FMD. This effect is greatly reduced by day 4 or 5 and on all days during
the second or third FMD cycle.
4. Some people suffer a slight backache that disappears once they resume a normal diet.
In addition to the production of stem cells, the reduction of abdominal fat, and lower levels of risk factors for various illnesses, many people report the following beneficial effects during or after FMD:
1. Glowing skin, which many describe as “younger looking.”
2. Stronger mental focus.
3. An ability to resist bingeing once they resume a normal diet. Many reduce their consumption of sugar and calories, and are less prone to excess in their consumption of coffee, alcohol, desserts, etc.
Coffee and Coconut Oil
Coffee has been a controversial health topic. Whereas earlier studies have considered coffee a risk factor for many age-related diseases, later more careful studies indicate that coffee consumption protects against diseases, including Parkinson’s, type 2 diabetes, and liver disease.
Coconut oil contains high levels of saturated fat. But unlike other dietary saturated fats, which are composed mainly of long chain fatty acids (fats with 13 to 21 carbons in the chain), coconut oil contains a high level of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA, or fats with 6 to 12 carbons in the chain). MCFA are easily converted into ketone bodies, the same molecules produced at high levels
during fasting. The brain begins to utilize ketones as a major source of energy during prolonged fasting periods and when glucose is scarce.
In a study of patients with Alzheimer’s disease, consumption of 40 milliliters (1.5 fluid ounces) per day of extra virgin coconut oil resulted in an improvement in cognitive status. This finding is consistent with other studies suggesting medium-chain fatty acids protect against dementia. While coconut oil’s protective role must be confirmed in large clinical studies, the published data
indicates it may improve cognition in Alzheimer’s disease patients. Notably, the American Heart Association includes coconut oil among the potentially harmful foods containing saturated fats. Whether this concern is appropriate is hotly debated, but the possibility that regular use of coconut oil could increase cardiovascular disease should be considered when using it to prevent or treat dementias.
Originally published at https://unearnedwisdom.com.