From vegan to Mediterranean to keto, experts differ on the healthiest diet to eat for longevity. So, how do we decide what’s best?

After a thorough review covering over a century of research, scientists say they’ve found the answer. They’ve determined that the best “longevity diet” is a diet that will not only prevent illness but slow down the aging process itself.

To get a clearer picture of the kind of diet that will lengthen our lives, Professor Valter Longo, at the University of Southern California, and Rozalyn Anderson, at the University of Wisconsin, examined a plethora of research.

“We explored the link between nutrients, fasting, genes and longevity in short-lived species, and connected these links to clinical and epidemiological studies in primates and humans – including centenarians,” Prof. Longo said. “By adopting an approach based on over a century of research, we can begin to define a longevity diet that represents a solid foundation for nutritional recommendations and for future research.”

They published the analysis and results of their extensive review in the prestigious journal, Cell, in April.

Reviewed Hundreds of Studies on Nutrition 

Their review included hundreds of studies on nutrition, disease and longevity in yeast, insects, rodents, and monkeys as well as human research. They also analyzed high and low-calorie diets, popular diets, and various forms of fasting including the fasting mimicking diet.

This involves eating plant-based meals low in sugar, carbs, and calories but high in fat to invoke a fasting response without total abstinence of food and drink.

The two researchers also examined dietary factors affecting several longevity-regulating genetic pathways shared by animals and humans that affect markers of disease risk. These include levels of insulin and insulin-like growth factor 1, C-reactive protein, and cholesterol.

So, What is the Winning Longevity Diet? 

Professors Longo and Anderson concluded that healthy longevity can be achieved by following this dietary formula…

  • Moderate to high complex carbohydrates
  • Low but sufficient protein from largely plant-based sources
  • Fats that are plant based and provide 30 percent of energy needs
  • Meals eaten within a window of 11 to 12 hours i.e., a daily fasting period of 12 to 13 hours
  • A five-day cycle of fasting or fasting mimicking diet every three to four months may also help reduce insulin resistance, blood pressure and other risk factors for individuals with increased disease risks

An Additional 20 Years of Healthy Living 

Prof. Longo describes what this looks like in real life: “Lots of legumes, whole grains, and vegetables; some fish; no red meat or processed meat and very low white meat; low sugar and refined grains; good levels of nuts and olive oil, and some dark chocolate.”

The diet isn’t set in stone and can be adapted to account for gender, age, health status and genetics. For instance, seniors may need more protein to protect against the loss of lean body mass.

The researchers also don’t give a calorie target. They think a better guideline is to eat enough to maintain a body mass index below 25 and maintain ideal levels of body fat, lean body mass and distribution, and abdominal circumference.

The professor believes following the longevity diet is a game-changer that will dramatically increase life expectancy. He explains, saying, “The Longevity diet is going to be associated with a huge effect. You’re starting to get into 15-to-20-year changes in life expectancy.”