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The Longevity Diet book summary

The Longevity Diet book cover

Theories of aging

  • Free radical theory of aging: oxygen and other reactive molecules that function as oxidants can cause damage to virtually all components of a cell and organism
  • Disposable soma theory of aging: organisms invest in reproduction, in offspring and in themselves, but only to the level necessary to generate healthy offspring. The soma, our body, is disposable once it has generated a sufficient number of offspring. We are merely disposable carriers of DNA.
  • Dr. Valter Longo's theory of aging, the "programmed longevity" theory: an organism can afford a greater investment in self-protection against aging, with implications for human life and prevention of diseases. By altering the "longevity program", we can postpone the age at which we become frail and sick.
  • If we can program health to last longer, the system will trigger protection, repair and replacement mechanisms to maintain the organism's vigor and functionality. Protection from aging and damage is also important as we're a long way from being able to repaid and replace molecules, cells and systems perfectly. We should therefore combine gerontology (study of aging) and juventology (maintaining youthfulness) approaches.

Bacterial and animal studies

  • Starving yeast and giving them only water makes them live twice as long
  • Sugar is one of the nutrients responsible for yeast aging fast and dying early (by inactivating factors and enzymes that protect against oxidation and other types of damage)
  • IGF-1 and TOR-S6K, both of which are increased or activated by protein intake, are central promoters of aging and age-related diseases in mice
  • Data in mice studies support time-restricted feeding and periodic prolonged fasting in life-span extension and reductions in age-related disease

The 5 Pillars of Longevity

  1. Basic/juventology research - understanding how nutrients affect cellular function, aging, age-dependent damage and regeneration
  2. Epidemiology - study of the causes and risk factors for disease and other health-related conditions in defined populations
  3. Clinical studies - randomised and control
  4. Centenarian studies - is a diet safe for long term use and palatable enough for people to stick to it
  5. Studies of complex systems - understanding the complex system of the human body through using simple models

Macronutrients and calories

  • Glycemic index assumes you eat a standard portion of carbohydrates. Glycemic load is a more useful measurement because it takes both the characteristics of a specific carbohydrate and its quantity.
  • By reducing calorie intake, particularly from proteins and sugars, you can decrease the activity of growth hormone receptor and thus TOR-S6K and PKA genes that are known to accelerate aging
  • On one hand, chronic calorie restriction can have huge benefits (on the risk factors for many diseases). On the other, diets that reduce calories by 20%+ for long periods can negatively affect necessary processes (like wound healing, immune responses and cold temperature tolerance).
  • Consistent association of high IGF-1 levels in bloodstream with an increase of twofold or more in the incidence of breast, prostate and other cancers. Protein consumption is the key regulator of IGF-1 levels and animal-protein intake is usually associated with intake of saturated animal fats.

Centenarian studies

  • Areas in the world known to have the highest prevalence of centenarians include Okinawa, Loma Linda (California), small towns in Calabria and Sardinia (Italy), Costa Rica and Greece
  • All share diets that are (1) mostly plant-based with lots of nuts and some fish; (2) low in proteins, sugars and saturated / trans fats; and (3) high in complex carbohydrates coming from beans and other plant-based foods
  • Most centenarians eat 2 or 3 times a day, ate light meals in the evening and in many cases, finish eating before dark
  • They also consumed a limited variety of foods - typical to their region
  • Physical activity is a key factor for longevity and health e.g. gardening, martial arts, dancing
  • A sense of purpose and a will to live. They are tough, they are fighters.
  • Maining a high-vegetable, low-protein diet for the first 70/80 years of life, and later switching to a diet richer in proteins and animal-based foods like eggs, chicken, milk etc, may slow down aging and optimise health as IGF-1 and other hormones that contribute to aging can reach very low levels after 80

The Longevity Diet

  1. Follow a vegan diet + fish consumption 2-3 times a week
  2. Consume low but sufficient proteins - 0.31-0.36g of animal-free protein (excepting fish) per pound of body weight per day
  3. Minimise bad fats and sugars, maximise good fats and complex carbs - make it rich in good unsaturated fats, low in saturated, hydrogenated and trans- fats.
  4. Be nourished - the body needs proteins, essential fatty acids (omega 3s and 6s), minerals, vitamins and sufficient sugar. Complement a high vitamin and mineral content diet with a multivitamin buffer every 3 days.
  5. Eat a variety of foods from your ancestry - taking into account the above, choose foods that were commonly eaten by your parents / grandparents when you were growing up
  6. Eat twice a day + a snack - breakfast, one major meals and a low-calorie, nourishing snack
  7. Observe time-restricted eating - confine all eaten to within 11-12 hours or less a day
  8. Practice periodic prolonged fasting (if you're under 65) - undergo 2 periods of 5 days a year where a fasting mimicking diet is followed
  9. Follow the points above in a way that maintains a healthy weight and abdominal circumference

Optimising exercise for longevity

  • Walk fast for an hour every day
  • Ride, run or swim 30-40 minutes every other day, plus 2 hours on the weekend
  • Use your muscles (they grow and are maintained by being challenged)
  • For best results, 30g of protein should be consumed in a single meal one to two hours after a relatively intense weight training session

Fasting mimicking diets (FMD)

  • In mice, 4 major changes in blood need to happen to show they had entered a protected state due to fasting:
    • Lower levels of growth factor IGF-1
    • Lower levels of glucose
    • Higher levels of ketone bodies (by-product of fat breakdown)
    • Higher levels of growth factor inhibitor (IGFBP1)
  • In mice, it was shown that FMD:
    • Switches cells to protected anti-aging mode
    • Promotes stem-cell dependent regeneration in the immune system, nervous system and pancreas
    • Fasting destroyed many damaged cells and damaged components inside the cells, but also activates stem cells
    • Shifts body into abdominal / visceral fat-burning mode which continues after returning to a normal diet (probably due to epigenetic changes)
  • By feeding people [FMD] that tricks it into starvation mode, most organs and systems eliminate unnecessary components (proteins, mitochondria, etc.) and kills off many cells. The organisms therefore saves energy as it has to maintain fewer and less active cells. Killed cells can also provide energy to other cells.
  • Streamlined cells, systems and organs can be rebuilt by activating stem / progenitor cells and activating repair and replacement systems, once the body resumes normal feeding patterns

Cancer prevention and treatment

  • If you starve a cancer patient before injecting chemotherapy, normal cells will respond by putting up a defensive shield, whereas cancer cells will not. We can potentially eradicate cancer cells with minimal damage to normal cells.
  • FMD performs 2 main functions:
    • Weakens cancer cells and removes the protective shield safeguarding them from immune cells
    • Renews and revs the immune system, making it more aggressive toward the cancer

Diabetes prevention and treatment

  • It was commonly believed a high-fat diet leads to obesity. We now know that while it can contribute to obesity, it's a high sugar, high starch diet that deserves the blame.
  • A high-fat, high-protein diet in the long run is the worst of all regiments, in terms of overall mortality and incidence of cancer or death from cancer
  • As proteins are the major regulators of the growth hormone gene, it suggests that a high protein intake may promote diabetes in part by increasing the activity of growth hormone and the growth factor IGF-1 associated at high levels with multiple diseases

Nutrition and autoimmune diseases

  • Fat accumulated in the abdomen and elsewhere in the body can generate molecules that stimulate immune responses, prompting immune cells to turn against other ordinary cells
  • High salt consumption is believed to contribute to autoimmune diseases, possibly by activating T cells
  • Diet can also affect immune system by altering the bacterial population in the gut, which in turn regulates many different immune cells

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