The Longevity Diet

by Brooklin White MS Candidate, Dietetic Intern Nutrition

Dr. Valter Longo, researcher and director of the Longevity Institute at the University of Southern California, is best known for his work in the field of healthspan and longevity, predominantly when it comes to cellular repair and rejuvenation via the Fasting Mimicking Diet (FMD). In addition to the FMD, Dr. Longo’s research has encouraged him to promote what he calls the longevity diet. The efficacy of the longevity diet is based on the Five Pillars of Research, indicating that it is not only safe to consume for long periods of time but that it also minimizes disease prevalence and maximizes longevity.

The Longevity Diet

The longevity diet is essentially an adaptation from Okinawan and Mediterranean diets, which focus on whole, plant-based foods, specifically complex carbohydrates and healthy fats such as beans, cruciferous vegetables, nuts and olive oil (1). The key aspects of the longevity diet are described below:

  • Follow a pescatarian diet: Aim for a diet that is as close to 100% plant and fish based as possible. Limit fish consumption to 2-3 times per week and avoid fish with high mercury content, such as tuna, swordfish, king mackerel and halibut. If you are 65 or older and notice a reduction in strength, muscle mass and weight, incorporate more fish into your diet along with eggs, yogurt (from goat milk is best) and certain cheeses, such as feta or pecorino as these foods are consumed in the Blue Zones.
  • Consume low but sufficient proteins until age 65: Consume 0.8 grams of protein per kg of body weight per day for individuals 22-64 years old. For someone who is 150 lbs (68 kg) that is roughly 54-55 grams of protein per day. If you are 65+ years of age and losing weight and muscle mass, increase your protein consumption to 0.9-1.0 g/kg per day. Make sure to work with a registered dietitian to establish your individualized protein needs. As noted above, focus on proteins from plants and fish, and minimize your consumption of red and white meats.
  • Minimize bad-fats and sugars and maximize good fats and complex carbohydrates: It’s crucial to understand that no one macronutrient (fat, carbohydrate, protein) in itself is bad for you. The key is to focus on the quality of each macronutrient. For instance, complex carbohydrate consumption including beans, vegetables, fruits and grains are often consumed in longevity hotspots whereas simple carbohydrates such as refined sugars and grains (found in bagels, cakes, white bread etc.) are not. As far as fats, a healthy diet should include a variety of unsaturated fats from nuts, olive oil, fish, and avocados, and should be low in saturated, hydrogenated and trans fats (found in chips, fries, meat, dairy etc.).
  • Eat a variety of foods from your ancestry: Try to focus your meals around whole, plant-based foods as these are the foods that were most likely found on the plates of your (healthier) great grandparents. There were limited processed and fast food options in the early 20th century, thus daily home-cooked meals were commonplace. It’s no surprise that the industrial revolution not only brought convenience, but also type 2 diabetes, obesity, and increasing rates of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Maintain nourishment: Incorporating a variety of plant-based foods ensures nourishment of the body. This is of utmost importance for a strong immune system, including cellular rejuvenation. Maximizing plant consumption provides essential vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and antioxidants that are utilized by our cells for upkeep and repair (2).
  • Observe time restricted eating: This is another common practice embraced by centenarian locations. Keeping all food intake within a 11-12 hour period allows your body time to repair damaged cells and prepare for the rejuvenation of new cells (3). A recent study has indicated that simply reducing food intake to a 10-12 hour window alone improved weight, increased energy and improved sleep quality(4).
  • Eat twice a day plus a snack: Although the ‘6 small meals per day’ fad has been around for a few decades, there is no scientific evidence to back it up.It’s actually more difficult to manage food intake when eating so often.It becomes much harder to overeat or stray from a certain diet if you focus on eating two meals per day plus a snack. This is a great way to adopt the 12 hour daily fasting recommendation.*Older adults and adults prone to weight loss should stick to eating 3 meals per day plus a snack (1).

Although the longevity diet is a fantastic start for anyone looking to maximize healthspan and cognition, the Ketoflex Nutrition Plan, as designed by Dr. Dale Bredesen, has been designed specifically for those focused on preventing or reversing Alzheimer’s Disease. We therefore wanted to outline the fundamental characteristics of the Ketoflex Nutrition Plan and compare how it relates to the longevity diet.

The main aspects of the Ketoflex 12/3 Nutrition Plan

  • Achieve mild ketosis (Keto): One of the key aspects of the Ketoflex Nutrition Plan is to achieve a state of mild ketosis, which has been shown to have beneficial impacts on the brain (5). Permitting ketone bodies to supply a portion of the brain’s required energy compensates for the deficiency in glucose (carbohydrate) metabolism that is commonly seen with neurodegeneration (6).
  • Flexitarian diet (Flex): The flexitarian diet is a largely plant-based diet with an emphasis on vegetables (specifically non starchy ones).
    • Incorporate a variety of cooked and uncooked vegetables (think color) to maximize micronutrient intake.
    • High quality fish, poultry and meat should be eaten as a condiment, rather than a main course (ideally keep consumption of meat to no more than a few ounces every few days and eliminate processed meats).
    • Limit protein intake to 1 gram of protein for each kilogram of body weight.
    • Avoid gluten and dairy as much as possible.
    • Include unsaturated fats such as olive oil, avocados, and nuts and reduce saturated fats
  • 12/3: This refers to keeping food consumption within a 12-hour window and stopping food consumption 3 hours before you go to bed. Individuals with the ApoE4 genotype should aim to keep food intake within a 14-16 hour window (if you finish dinner at 8 pm, hold breakfast until 10 am). This keeps insulin levels from spiking before bedtime (5).

Similarities between the Longevity diet and the Ketoflex Nutrition Plan

The Longevity Diet and Ketoflex Nutrition Plan have more similarities than they have differences. They are both largely plant-based diets with an emphasis on fibrous vegetables (specifically non starchy ones). They recommend including healthy fats such as extra virgin olive oil, nuts, seeds, and avocados. Both diets aim for adequate protein intake, while avoiding excess protein consumption, from foods like high quality fish, with poultry and meat as a condiment, rather than a main course. They both incorporate a window of about 12 hours with which to keep food consumption. This extended fast allows cells adequate time for repair and autophagy (a natural mechanism responsible for removing unnecessary and dysfunctional cell components). This fasting also helps push your body into ketosis by depleting glycogen stores in the liver. Both diets aim to maximize the health of the microbiome, and overall, both are focused on increasing healthspan.

The major difference between these two diets stems from the fact that the Ketoflex Nutrition Plan is specified to help prevent or reverse Alzheimer's Disease and is individualized based on genetic differences. To optimize cognitive health, the Ketoflex Nutrition Plan incorporates mild ketosis, utilizing fats to help achieve this goal including MCT oil when needed, avoiding gluten and dairy, incorporating probiotic foods, and implementing a regimen of targeted supplementation for neuronal support.

By following the Ketoflex nutrition plan, you are in many ways reaping the benefits of a longevity diet as well. If you are interested in how you can adopt the Ketoflex Nutrition Plan as a part of the Bredesen Protocol, reach out to our Amos Institute dietitian nutritionists today.


References:

  1. Longo, P. V. (2018).The longevity diet: Discover the new science to slow ageing, fight disease and manage your weight. Penguin Group Australia.
  2. Kraj, M., Valachovi, M., Pauková, V., & Dušinská, M. (2008).Effects of Diet and Age on Oxidative Damage Products in Healthy Subjects.57, 5.
  3. Chaix, A., Lin, T., Le, H. D., Chang, M. W., & Panda, S. (2019). Time-Restricted Feeding Prevents Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome in Mice Lacking a Circadian Clock.Cell Metabolism,29(2), 303-319.e4.https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cmet.2018.08.004
  4. Gill, S., & Panda, S. (2015). A Smartphone App Reveals Erratic Diurnal Eating Patterns in Humans that Can Be Modulated for Health Benefits.Cell Metabolism,22(5), 789–798.https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cmet.2015.09.005
  5. Bredesen, D. (2017).The end of Alzheimer's: The first program to prevent and reverse cognitive decline. Penguin.
  6. Hertz, L., Chen, Y., & Waagepetersen, H. S. (2015). Effects of ketone bodies in Alzheimer’s disease in relation to neural hypometabolism, β-amyloid toxicity, and astrocyte function.Journal of Neurochemistry,134(1), 7–20.https://doi.org/10.1111/jnc.13107