How The Longevity Diet Works

If you're looking for a new reason to clear out and update your pantry, then look no further than the longevity diet. Through a combination of plant-based eating and periodically fasting, scientists developed a new diet to help people boost their lifespan and health (per Everyday Health). Not only will it help with weight loss, but its goal is to promote a lifestyle that sustains health and slows aging, explains coauthor Valter Longo, a biochemist and gerontology professor at the University of Southern California. 

During the study published in Cell, Longo and his co-author, Rozalyn Anderson, took a closer look at eating patterns, calorie intake, and life span for animals, like rodents, monkeys, and humans. Previous research has shown that the Mediterranean diet can reduce the odds of cancer, cardiovascular disease, depression, and improve mental and physical function (per Harvard Health Publishing). A vegetarian diet, on the other hand, increases longevity, improves overall health, and lowers the chances of serious health conditions. However, some research suggests prioritizing plant-based protein over animal protein can decrease the cardiovascular mortality rate.

Fasting, on the other hand, comes with its own health benefits. A research article published in the Science Translational Medicine found that fasting-mimicking diets can positively impact health markers, such as blood pressure and body mass. Much of this information is what led Longo and Anderson to this multi-pillar approach called the longevity diet (via Everyday Health).

What can you eat on the longevity diet?

The longevity diet prioritizes foods that support a longer lifespan. This equates to a diet rich in vegetables, legumes, whole grains, vegetable fats, like olive oil, nuts, and very little white meat, shares Medical News Today. However, there are some foods that should be avoided, such as processed or red meat, and be sure to limit the low amounts of refined carbs and sugars. But this doesn't mean carbohydrates should be excluded altogether. Everyday Health explains that carbohydrates are an important part of a healthy diet and this diet prioritizes carbs from whole foods rather than processed foods.

One 2022 study published in PLOS Medicine found that when food choices are optimized in Western culture starting by age 20, the life expectancy of young adults can increase by roughly a decade. Older adults who start the longevity diet by 60 years old may be able to increase life expectancy by approximately eight years.

When it comes to fasting, the longevity diet suggests eating in a 12-hour window (per Medical News Today). This feeding window is then followed by a 12-hour fast window. It should be done four or three times a year, points out Everyday Health. Talk to your doctor before changing your diet and remember, diet is only part of the longevity equation. Relationships, healthy habits, and finding purpose also play a role in enhancing longevity.