What is the “longevity” diet and will it really make you live longer?

You may have heard of the longevity diet and its promise of a longer lifespan, but what exactly is it and how is it different from other diets that promote good health?

The Longevity Diet is a set of nutritional recommendations compiled by a biochemist named Valter Longo, director of the Longevity Institute at the University of Southern California. He is known for his research on the role of fasting, the effects of nutrients on your genes and how these can affect aging and disease risk.

Although the longevity diet has been targeted at older adults, it is also recommended for younger people. Longo has said he plans to live to 120 on this diet.

So what’s the diet like?

The foods in this diet are vegetables, including green leafy vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, olive oil, and seafood that are low in mercury.

So most of the longevity diet foods are plant based. Plant-based diets are generally higher in vitamins and minerals, dietary fiber, antioxidants, and lower in saturated fat and salt, leading to health benefits.

The foods that are not recommended are the excess of meat and dairy, and those rich in processed sugar and saturated fat.

For people who don’t want to go dairy-free, the Longevity Diet recommends switching from cow’s milk to goat’s or sheep’s milk, which have a slightly different nutritional profile. But there is little evidence that sheep’s and goat’s milk offer more health benefits.

Including fermented dairy products (such as cheese and yogurt) in your diet, as recommended in the Longevity Diet, is beneficial because it provides a more extensive microbiome (good bacteria) than any milk.

The diet recommends that people maintain a healthy weight, perhaps by cutting down on snacking, especially foods high in saturated fat, salt or sugar.(Pexels: Andres Ayrton)

Have you seen this diet before?

Many of you may recognize this as a familiar dietary pattern. It is similar to the Mediterranean diet, especially since both include olive oil as the preferred oil. The Mediterranean diet is promoted and supported by a considerable body of evidence that it promotes health, reduces the risk of disease and promotes longevity.

The Longevity Diet is also similar to many national evidence-based dietary guidelines, including Australia’s.

Two-thirds of the foods recommended in the Australian Dietary Guidelines come from plant-based foods (cereals, grains, legumes, beans, fruit and vegetables). The guidelines also offer plant-based alternatives for protein (such as dried beans, lentils, and tofu) and dairy (such as soy-based milks, yogurts, and cheeses, as long as they are supplemented with calcium).

intermittent fasting

Another aspect of the longevity diet is the specified fasting periods, known as intermittent fasting. The diet advocates eating within a 12-hour period and not eating for three to four hours before going to bed.

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