Unlock prosperous old age with new science

Rating: ★★★★★★
A number of years ago I moved from a diet mostly consisting of breads, oats and pasta to a primal diet consisting mostly of wholefoods: meats, nuts and lots of vegetables.

This was the first time I dialled in my diet for health reasons, rather than the usual goals of muscle growth that had preoccupied my late teens and early twenties. Fast forward today and I’m even toying around with the idea of trying a ketogenic diet.

Professor Valter Longo’s book The Longevity Diet marks another shift in my thinking where I question whether or not my diet and the latest trends like the ketogenic diet are actually healthy in the long term.

If you want to live a long and healthy life free from disease, Dr Longo’s book seems to gives you a simple, no-BS blueprint for doing so.

The premise behind Longo’s research is that most conventional attempts at anti-aging are just that: they only focus on stopping us getting older. His research is instead focused on what keeps us young.

He uses the analogy of a car to demonstrate this. The prevailing perspective tries to prevent the parts in a car from rusting or aging, whereas he is trying to completely replace the old parts with new ones.

It’s a simple book which lays out promising research behind the two major prongs of Dr Longo’s approach: the longevity diet and the fast mimicking diet.

The five pillars of longevity

What I admired most about the information presented in this book is that Longo goes out of his way to tell you the foundation of his ideas, which he calls the five pillars of longevity.

As he mentions, fad diets and trending information about what is ‘healthy’ to eat often only takes into account one or two of the pillars and therefore might not necessarily make for a long healthy life. Longo gives the example of eggs and coffee. There is different information in journals and news articles listing these as being both good and bad for you: so which should you believe?

Instead, Longo has painstakingly done the research to present a diet that agrees with all five pillars:

  • Juventology (the study of youth using yeast and animals),
  • Epidemiology (the study of causes and risk factors of disease in a population),
  • Clinical studies (randomised studies of the hypotheses built from epidemiology and juventology),
  • Blue zone data (is the idea or diet something that the world’s concentrated populations of centenarians could or already do?), and finally;
  • The study of the complex systems within the body.

The longevity diet

The longevity diet is the culmination of Longo’s research and application of the five pillars, and at its most basic form is a mostly vegan diet with a low amount of protein coming from certain high omega-3 and -6 fish, crustaceans and molluscs.

According to his research, diets low in sugar and protein can help prevent turning on specific genes known for aging and disease.

He gives other recommendations too such as confining your eating to 12-hour windows.

Exercise and activity

Part of Longo’s research was also in actually visiting centenarians (people living to over 100 years of age)  living in the world’s ‘blue zones’, which are parts of the world where the population lives much longer than other locations.

This research shows that centenarians often have active lives, and this informs his advice to walk an hour per day, and exercise 2.5 – 5 hours per week. Longo goes into more depth about these findings too so you can replicate them in your own life.

The fast mimicking diet (FMD)

The main reason why I bought Longo’s book was after hearing about his Fast Mimicking Diet (FMD) on a number of podcasts.

At its core, the FMD is a five-day period where you eat a very low number of calories (starting at 1,100 and then moving down to 800), rather than simply fasting using water alone.

The research Longo presents about it is quite remarkable. The FMD puts the body into a state where it defends healthy cells and puts them into an anti-aging mode, while using damaged cells as fuel. It also activates a regenerative effect in some organs due to stem cell activation, and moves the body into a mode where it burns abdominal fat which even continues after the FMD is completed. This means the FMD can be used to prevent some diseases.

According to Longo the FMD has also shown promise for:

  • Cancer prevention and those receiving chemotherapy
  • Diabetes prevention and those already with diabetes
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Autoimmune diseases

Longo has also started a company called Prolon (which he does not earn a profit from) which sells kits s you can do your own FMD. Unfortunately these are not (yet) available in Australia, although the website says early 2019 they will be.

The book is well structured. It first explains the FMD and the research behind it, and then presents a chapter on each of the topics above to offer more in-depth research and methods for using the FMD.

Verdict

The Longevity Diet by Valter Longo is a book worthy of your shelf if you’re interested in finding out more about how diet, exercise and activity play a role in how long you’ll live.

It’s written in a simple and concise way so it’s accessible for anyone who wants to read it. There’s little scientific jargon, and Longo mixes a number of personal stories into the book which makes it easier to digest.

I’d give The Longevity Diet 6 out of 6 stars. I’d love to hear Longo’s thoughts on how his diet and fasting protocol works for those with a high level of exercise each week, but won’t deduct points from the book because of this. Have you read The Longevity Diet? Give me your opinion below.

Pros:

  • Concise with no filler
  • Interesting ideas about the fast mimicking diet
  • Provides sample diets, recipes and protocols for different diseases

Cons:

  • Nothing of note.There are lots of things I would like to hear Longo’s thoughts on e.g ketogenic diets, athletes who exercise many times per week and how/if the longevity diet could be adapted to them, but overall I think these are probably topics for further books or lectures.
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