Long life through proper nutrition: these foods will sustain you

The search for sources of eternal youth and longevity has accompanied humanity for centuries. At least for longevity, scientists believe they have found a very strong factor: the right diet. Unlike genes or certain life conditions, it can be influenced. Increasingly, it is no longer just a question of what is put on the plate, in what quantity and quality, but also when.

Regular fasting promotes health

American age researchers Valter Longo and Rozalyn Anderson summarize the current state of knowledge in a review article published in the specialized journal “Cell”. Friends of calorie bombs like burgers, fries and soda menus or duvets like white chocolate must now be very strong: The duo say it is better to limit energy intake and fast more often in order to minimize the risk of disease and increase life expectancy.

The essential characteristics of an optimal form of nutrition

They describe the basic technical characteristics of what is probably the optimal form of nutrition as follows:

  • moderate to high carbohydrate intake (45-60%) from quality sources
  • little but enough protein from mostly plant sources
  • 25 to 35% mainly vegetable fat

For every day in in the kitchen this means:

  • lots of legumes, whole grains and vegetables
  • little fish, no red or processed meat and very little white meat
  • low in sugar and refined grains
  • good amounts of nuts and olive oil and dark chocolate

Respect the 12-hour fasting window

It is optimal to eat only within a daily time window of eleven to twelve hours and to insert several fasting phases per year.

Longevity is the theme of Longo’s life, so to speak: he is director of the Longevity Institute at the University of Southern California in the United States and author of several books. On its homepage, it gives tips for staying young and lists so-called longevity recipes.

They may disappoint meat lovers, but they don’t sound completely inimical to pleasure either: fish couscous, Tuscan bread salad and eggplant pasta. Longo also founded a company with products for fasting concepts, which he states in the appendix to the study.

The diet is individual for each

In their work, Longo and Anderson emphasize that an anti-aging regimen must be tailored to the individual. There’s no one solution that’s as good for a fit 20-year-old as it is for a 60-year-old with metabolic disease. Gender, age, lifestyle, health status and genes must be taken into account, they write. For example, people over 65 may need extra protein, they say.

Increase in protein intake with age

For Kristina Norman, researcher on aging at the German Institute for Human Nutrition, such adjustments are a very important point: “In old age, it is often difficult to absorb enough protein. Too little can lead to muscle breakdown and therefore an increased risk of falls and fractures. So eating a little more meat than is generally recommended may be advisable.

Longo and Anderson’s work summarizes disparate evidence

The author duo can look back on a wide range of work: from studies of yeast fungi, worms and flies to clinical data and modelling. There are also findings about traditional nutrition in places where many people are aging.

“A study in which a group is assigned the diet recommended by Longo and in which lifespan at end of life is compared with a control group would be very difficult to implement. Therefore, the authors converge in summarizing evidence disparate,” Norman said. She considers Longo’s and Anderson’s theses to be convincingly documented.

Stable dietary recommendations

There are many parallels with well-known recommendations, such as those of the German Nutrition Society, as well as with a menu that scientists came up with some time ago for a healthy and at the same time environmentally friendly diet. .

“Contrary to what is often assumed, recommendations for healthy eating do not change every few years. Overall they are very stable,” Norman said. “The Longo study may be considered old hat, but the subject has been rethought and is increasingly supported by evidence.”

It is better to consume too little energy than too much

For Bernhard Watzl, former director of the Institute of Physiology and Biochemistry of Nutrition at the Max Rubner Institute, the review article shows above all that the quantity and quality of food are crucial for a long life. “It is better to consume too little energy than too much.”

Regarding the underlying mechanisms of the body, he explains: “The more a system is stressed, the more it wears out. Rather, it is important to challenge the body at a low level.

Fasting: Useful for people who need to limit their energy intake

When it comes to fasting, however, Watzl is less convinced of the data available so far than Longo: “Fasting is only for people who can’t seem to limit their energy intake,” he said. Then, temporarily starving yourself could help re-sensitize certain receptors in the body.

Benefits can still be obtained in old age

In general, it’s never too late for healthy eating throughout life, Watzl points out. With some diseases that develop in the body over decades, the following applies: the sooner the better.

Longo responded to a dpa survey that, according to one study, life expectancy could be increased by several years even in people in their 60s or 80s if many of the suggestions he made were implemented. The study indicated that the greatest benefits came from eating more legumes, whole grains and nuts, and less red and processed meat.

Heavily processed foods overload the metabolism

Regarding the quality of food, Watzl sees certain habits in this country as positive: eating wholemeal bread or muesli, for example. “But you can quickly put too much cheese or sausage on the bread. Or light bread is eaten. Watzl is also critical of heavily processed foods — because of the additives, but also because of the rapid availability of nutrients. It overwhelms the metabolism.

In general, Longo and Anderson recommend small changes in diet and discourage drastic changes. Many are probably familiar with the problem of attempting a diet: if the diet is too restrictive, it cannot be maintained in the long term. The result is a yo-yo effect.

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