Research Identifies Characteristics of a Diet for Longer Healthy Life

Researchers have analyzed a wide range of lab animal and human population studies to provide insight into what type of nutrition can provide the best likelihood of a longer, healthier life.1✅ JOURNAL REFERENCE
DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2022.04.002

The researchers characterize the “longevity diet” as a multi-pillar approach according to results of studies of a variety of diets, from the composition of food and calorie intake to fasting interval frequency and length.

The researchers examined the association between genes, fasting, nutrients, and longevity in species that have short life spans, and connected these associations to epidemiological and clinical research in primates and humans, which included centenarians. By implementing a multi-pillar and multi-system approach determined by over a hundred years of research, The researchers began to define a longevity diet that's representative of a solid nutritional recommendation foundation.

The researchers reviewed countless studies on diseases, nutrition, and longevity in humans and lab animals and combined the results with that of their research on aging and nutrients. Popular diets were included in the analysis like the Mediterranean diet,  the low-carbohydrate and the high-fat ketogenic diet, vegan and vegetarian diets, and total calorie restriction diets.

Also included in the review were different kinds of fasting, such as a short-term diet mimicking the fasting response of the body, frequent and short-term intermittent fasting and periodic fasting of 2 days or more, or a fasting-mimicking diet for twice a month or more. As well as examining epidemiological study data, the researchers associated these studies with certain dietary factors that affected several  genetic pathways that regulate longevity shared by humans and animals that also impact disease risk markers, such as levels of cholesterol, insulin, insulin-like growth factor 1, and C-reactive protein.

The researchers said that the main optimal diet characteristics seem to be moderate to high non-refined carbohydrate consumption, low but adequate protein consumption from mostly plant-based sources, and adequate plant-based fat intake to provide approximately 30% of energy requirements. The day’s meals would ideally all take place within an 11 to 12 hour time frame, enabling a daily fasting period, and a fasting cycle of 5 days or a fasting-mimicking diet every 3 to 4 months also may help lower blood pressure, insulin resistance, and other risk factors for people with increased risk of disease.

The researchers said that eating for a real-life longevity diet could consist of lots of vegetables, whole grains, and legumes; some fish; no red processed or meat and very low amounts of white meat; low amounts of refined grains and sugar; good amounts of olive oil and nuts, and some dark chocolate.

As well as the basic characteristics, the longevity diet needs to be adapted to people according to genetics, health status, age, and sex. As an example, individuals older than 65 might need to increase protein intake to counter loss of lean body mass and frailty, as research has demonstrated that higher amounts of protein were better for individuals older than 65 and not optimal for individuals younger than 65.

For individuals wanting an optimal longevity diet, they should work with a nutrition specialist to personalize a plan focusing on smaller lifelong changes, instead of big changes that will result in harmful major loss of body fat and lean mass, accompanied by fat loss regain once the individual quits the restrictive diet.

The longevity diet isn't a dietary restriction meant to only lose weight, but a lifestyle focused on delaying the aging process, which can help sustain health into advanced age.

Longevity Diet Infographic

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