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8 diet changes to live longer with The Longevity Diet

Professor Valter Longo, author of The Longevity Diet, reveals 8 simple changes we can make to our diet to live longer and healthier...

The Longevity Diet

'For people trying to lose weight, the best nutritional advice is to eat breakfast daily'

Eat two meals a day plus a snack

Unless your waist circumference and body weight are in the normal or low range, it is best to eat breakfast and one major meal plus a nourishing low-calorie, low-sugar snack daily. If your weight or muscle mass is too low or if it’s dropping against your will, then eat three meals a day plus a snack. One of the major mistakes of guidelines on nutrition is blurring the line between what theoretically could work and what actually does work. We often hear that we should eat small meals five to six times a day. Aside from a lack of evidence supporting the benefit of such a regimen in terms of a long and healthy lifespan, it is extremely difficult for most people to regulate food intake when they are told to eat so often. Even if the meals contain 305 calories each, instead of the recommended 300 calories, that extra 30 calories a day, or more than 900 calories a month, means nearly 3 pounds of extra fat every year. Not surprisingly, over the past twenty years—the period when the six-meal diet was popular—America reached a record 70 percent portion of overweight and obese people. If you eat only two and a half meals a day, with only one major meal, it becomes much harder to overeat, particularly on a mostly plant- based diet. It would take large portions of fish, beans, and vegetables to get to the calorie level that would cause obesity. The high nourishment of the food, plus the volume of the meal, signals to your stomach and brain that you have had enough food. In the elderly, this one major meal system may have to be broken down into two smaller meals to avoid digestion problems. Older people and adults prone to weight loss should stick to eating three meals a day plus one snack. For people trying to lose weight or those who tend to be heavy, the best nutritional advice is to eat breakfast daily; have lunch or dinner, but not both; and substitute for the missed meal one snack containing fewer than 100 calories and no more than 3 to 5 grams of sugar. (Do not skip breakfast, as this has been associated with increased risk for age-related diseases in multiple studies.) Which meal you skip depends on your lifestyle. The advantage to skipping lunch is more free time and more energy. On the other hand, there is the possible disadvantage of restless sleep from having consumed a large dinner, particularly for those who suffer from acid reflux. The disadvantage to skipping dinner is that it eliminates the most social meal of the day.

Eat within a 12-hour window every day

Another common practice adopted by many centenarian groups is time-restricted eating, or confining all meals and snacks to within eleven to twelve hours or less a day. The efficiency of this method has been demonstrated in both animal and human studies.6 Typically you would eat breakfast after  8 a.m. and finish dinner before 8 p.m. A shorter eating window (of ten hours or less) can be even more effective for weight loss, but it is much harder to maintain and may increase the risk of side effects, such as developing gallstones and possibly increasing the risk of cardio-vascular disease. You should also not eat within three to four hours of going to sleep.

Practice my ‘Fasting-Mimicking Diet’ at least twice a year

 People under the age of 65 who are neither frail nor malnourished and are free of major diseases should undergo two periods of five days a year in which 800-1,100 calories are consumed per day. The effects of the five-day cycles of the Fasting Mimicking Diet (FMD) on disease risk factors and the optimisation of healthy longevity are remarkable. The FMD is one of the key principles laid out in The Longevity Diet. It is called fasting mimicking because it has the benefits of fasting without having to go to the extreme of eating nothing. It is, however a low-calorie plan. You will consume 800-1,100 calories mostly from nuts and vegetables on each of the five days. The method makes the body think it’s in a completely fasted state when it is not – providing the health benefits of fasting without the deprivation and hunger. I advise that this five-day fast should be undertaken 3 or 4 times a year (more if overweight). Through numerous clinical trials conducted in my own laboratory, my group discovered that by depriving the body of food in this way, its cells begin to regenerate. The FMD acts by breaking down and regenerating the inside of cells (autophagy) and killing off and replacing damaged cells (regeneration). When normal cells are starved, we found that they shift into survival mode and start to repair themselves. This effect can be seen even when you are still consuming 800 calories a day. Furthermore fasting can kill cancer cells, reverse autoimmune disorders and significantly reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.

Follow the eight points above and you to reach a healthy weight and abdominal circumference

For most people the Longevity Diet can be adopted simply by replacing a limited number of items with foods that are just as enjoyable, if not more so. Virtually all diets fail because they are too extreme to maintain in the long run, or because they require major changes to your habits and lifestyle. The Longevity Diet can be embraced by people all over the world and requires simple changes that can extend your healthy lifespan.

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