Live longer with proper nutrition

A healthy diet can affect life expectancy. Experts recommend more legumes, whole grains and nuts. Red and processed meats should be eaten infrequently. (Image: dpa)
(Photo: Ole Spata / dpa)

Berlin – The search for sources of eternal youth and longevity has followed humanity for centuries. At least for longevity, researchers believe they have found a very strong factor: the right diet.

Unlike genes or certain living conditions, it can be affected. Increasingly, it is not just a question of what comes on the plate, in what quantity and quality – but also when.

Fast more often

The American aging researchers Valter Longo and Rozalyn Anderson summarize the current state of knowledge in a review article in the professional journal “Cell”. Friends of calorie bombs like menus with burgers, french fries and sodas or quilts like white chocolate should now be very strong: The duo say it’s better to limit energy intake and fast more often to minimize the risk of illness and increase life expectancy.

They outline the core characteristics of what is likely to be the optimal form of nutrition – initially quite technical – as follows: medium to high carbohydrate intake (45 to 60 percent) from high quality sources; little but sufficient protein from mainly vegetable sources; 25 to 35 percent mostly plant-based fat.

Translated to everyday life in the kitchen, it means: “Lots of legumes, whole grains and vegetables; some fish; no red or processed meat and very little white meat; low sugar and refined grains; good amounts of nuts and olive oil and some dark chocolate, “says Longo according to a statement. It is optimal to eat only within a daily time window of eleven to twelve hours and to insert several fasting phases a year.

Long-life recipes without meat

Longevity is, so to speak, Longo’s life theme: He is the director of the Longevity Institute at the University of Southern California in the United States and the author of several books. On his website, he gives tips on how to stay young, and lists so-called long-term recipes. They may disappoint meat lovers, but they do not sound completely hostile to enjoyment: Couscous with fish, bread salad from Tuscany and pasta with aubergines. Longo also founded a company with products for fasting concepts, which he states in the appendix to the study.

In their work, Longo and Anderson emphasize that an anti-aging diet must be tailored to the individual. There is no single solution that is as suitable for a healthy 20-year-old as for a 60-year-old with a 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.

Protein intake often becomes more difficult with age

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

The author duo can look back on a wide range of work: beginning with studies of yeasts, worms or flies through to clinical data and modeling. There are also findings about traditional nutrition in places where many people are getting very old.

“A study in which a group is assigned Longo’s recommended diet and ends up comparing their lifespan with a control group would be very difficult to implement. Therefore, the authors converge by summarizing inconsistent evidence,” Norman said. She considers Longo’s and Anderson’s theses to be convincingly documented.

There are many parallels to well-known recommendations, such as those from the German company for nutrition, and also to a menu that researchers some time ago suggested for a healthy and at the same time environmentally friendly diet. Contrary to popular belief, recommendations for a healthy diet do not change every few years. Overall, they are very stable, “Norman said.” The Longo study can be seen as an old hat, but the subject has been rethought and is increasingly supported by evidence. ”

The quantity and quality of the diet is crucial

For Bernhard Watzl, the former head of the Department of Physiology and Biochemistry of Nutrition at the Max Rubner Institute, the review article shows above all that the quantity and quality of nutrition is crucial for a long life. “It is better to consume too little energy than too much.” Regarding the underlying mechanisms in the body, he explains: “The more a system is challenged, the more it wears out.” It is rather important to challenge the body at a low level.

When it comes to fasting, however, Watzl is less convinced of the data available to date than Longo: “Fasting is only for people who can not manage to limit their energy intake,” he said. So temporarily going without food could help sensitize certain receptors in the body again.

In general, it is never too late for a healthy diet in a lifetime, Watzl emphasizes. For some diseases that develop in the body over decades, the following applies: the earlier, the better. Longo responded to a query from the dpa that according to a study, life expectancy could be increased by several years even in 60 or 80 year olds if many of the proposals he had made were implemented. The study said the biggest benefits came from eating more legumes, whole grains and nuts and less red and processed meats.

Small changes instead of radical changes

When it comes to the quality of food, Watzl sees some habits in this country as positive: eating wholemeal bread or muesli, for example. “But you can quickly get too much cheese or sausage on the bread. Or light bread is eaten. ” Watzl is also critical of highly processed foods – due to the additives, but also due to the rapid availability of nutrients. It overwhelms the metabolism.

In general, Longo and Anderson recommend small dietary changes and discourage radical changes. Many people are probably familiar with the problem of trying a diet: If the plan is too restrictive, it can not be maintained in the long run. The result is a yo-yo effect.

© dpa-infocom, dpa: 220505-99-165066 / 2

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