|How to adopt Nutrition for longevity, according to a comprehensive study|
According to a detailed study, how to embrace Nutrition for Longevity
Sometimes researchers systematically sift through a truly impressive body of scientific evidence in the field of nutrition, and as a nutrition scientist and dietitian, it makes me want to shake hands with the author and personally thank them. This recent review post from the highly competitive magazine Cell is one such case. To study authors Valter Longo, Ph.D., and Rozalyn Anderson, Ph.D., metaphorically, I’m taking my nutrition hat off.
Below are key takeaways from this seminal beast of a publication: the top action items, so you have nutritional information at your fingertips to infuse into your life. (Because while the science is great, genuinely helpful health and nutrition advice is even cooler.)
From complex cellular pathways and preclinical models (from yeast and worms to rodents), to randomized controlled trials in humans and population research, this formative Cell publication investigated what dietary patterns and related choices affect biological years of life, also known as longevity. .
As science clearly shows, healthy nutrition is the ultimate power play. It allows us to harness cellular pathways of rejuvenation and even regeneration for healthy aging. That is powerful.
5 tips for adopting longevity Nutrition
1. Love your cells: It’s all about nutrition from the inside out
From simple organisms to humans, cellular pathways are where they are to harness nutrition from the inside out. Based on collective research, it appears that some key cellular processes are distinctly prolonged and therefore highly conserved across species.
Some of these undeniably important characteristics for longevity include efficient energy metabolism in the mitochondria (powerhouse of our cells), cell-cleaning activities (autophagy), resistance to stress, fasting times, and the use of fat for fuel.
For energy metabolism, along with a healthy balance of macros (carbohydrates, proteins, fats), essential B vitamins and CoQ10 required for cellular ATP energy production also come immediately to mind.*
You’ll also want to intentionally consume antioxidant nutrients (vitamins C, E, omega-3s, etc.) and key plant bioactives to buffer cellular stressors and achieve a daily balance between antioxidants and oxidants (i.e., to combat oxidative stress, a clear contributor to aging).*
The utility of a fat-focused lifestyle or high-fat dietary pattern such as keto (if that’s your thing), or simply incorporating healthy fats regardless of your dietary pattern, makes a lot of nutritional sense when those fats come primarily from of plants and fish.
2. Adopting more plants has great benefits
Collective research shows that more plants (fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, etc.) are the literal recipe for regenerative nutrition, health, and longevity.
This heavily plant-based approach will naturally deliver loads of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytonutrients. And you should have a quality protein intake with a variety of amino acids, plus healthy fats and mostly complex (unrefined) carbohydrates for blood sugar balance and metabolic health. After all, metabolic health is intimately related to most other aspects of health, including immunity.
3. Watch out for this trio
Animal fats, sugar (and refined carbohydrates in general), and animal protein are linked to pathways that promote excess adiposity, reduce insulin sensitivity, trigger oxidative stress and inflammatory cascades, and heighten metabolic dysregulation.
Over time, the body-wide implications of these health disturbances are massive, affecting your heart, your brain, and everything in between.
4. Be sparing with your calories
While the goal is always to consume a normocaloric pattern of nutrition (meaning that the calories ingested match your personalized metabolic needs), there are a few things to keep in mind. For example, when caloric intake regularly exceeds needs, this can cause the energy balance to be thrown out of whack.
When it comes to achieving energy balance, I don’t have to tell you that our current food environment is working against us. In the last few decades, we’ve experienced a major double whammy: Portion sizes have increased dramatically, while the nutritional quality of our food has plummeted.
Plus, we know from rodents and primates to Homo sapiens ourselves: conserving calories not only helps achieve and maintain a healthy weight, but more importantly, it leads to positive changes in body composition, meaning less excess adiposity (fat mass) and more lean muscle tissue (fat-free mass).
On the other hand, excess calories, fat storage, insulin resistance, and a shorter life are all intertwined. It’s not a fun web to get tangled up in. For example, we know that elevated insulin levels are clearly associated with accelerated aging, a relationship that is conserved across many species.
Consuming fewer calories from food is directly linked to improvements in cardiometabolic health in the realm of insulin sensitivity, heart physiology, and even liver health. In addition, clinical studies indicate that being frugal with calories leads to improvements in biomarkers that indicate “the rate of aging is slowed.”
Is anyone else in awe that we have the ability to literally control our own rhythm for our well-being and fullness of life? I personally find it very empowering.
5. Give your cells a break by fasting
If you were to take a class on Longevity Enhancement 101, fasting would be discussed in the first lesson. This is because, based on research to date, it is very clear that longevity is linked to “a change in metabolic patterns associated with fasting responses.”
While fasting comes in many varieties, the most common form is intermittent fasting, which involves more than 12 hours of fasting per day. Now, I recognize that fasting may not be best for everyone, and for anyone with a history of eating disorders, you’ll want to partner closely with your healthcare professional.
However, for most people, I encourage you to see the term “fasting” in a new light. I think it’s helpful to think of intermittent fasting as a dedicated window, a way to “corral” nutrition intake into a defined time period (say, 12 hours) in your day.
In contrast to an ad libitum approach to eating (whenever), research has shown that this “barnyard” of foods promotes healthy inflammatory and metabolic pathways (e.g., blood sugar balance and cardiovascular biomarkers), reduces fat general and visceral and even supports sleep.
Revealed the pillars of the diet for longevity
So after delving into the full spectrum of the research literature (from cells to humans) on nutritional factors and cellular pathways that affect longevity, the common denominators can finally be revealed. The thesis is dominated by plants and harnessing the power of a break from food (fasting) each day.
Here are the five key pillars
Medium to high level carbohydrates that are primarily plant based (ie complex and slow carbohydrates such as vegetables, legumes, fruits) and limit refined carbohydrates and sugars.
Low but sufficient protein intake that is also primarily plant-based, but also features regular pesco-vegetarian intakes (ie keep the fish!).
About 30% of energy (calories) comes from fat, you guessed it, mostly from plant sources.
Implement a 12-13 hour daily fast for many cellular cleansing (autophagy) and cardiometabolic benefits.
In a true Goldilocks approach to energy balance, the goal is to follow a “normocaloric” pattern of food intake. This means optimizing calorie intake and burning for your personal physiology. Neither too many (excess) nor too few.
The study authors conclude: This longevity diet represents “a valuable adjunct to standard medical care” and “maintains health well into old age.” I could not agree more.
Food to go
Thanks to scientific research to date, we know the “code,” so to speak, for health-promoting nutrition. It’s about nourishing ourselves from the inside out with high-quality fuel for our cells. Think plant-focused, whole foods, omega-3-loaded fish, limiting sugars, and focusing your food intake on a daily 12-hour window.