Italian scientist Valter Longo’s advice for living over a hundred years

Italian scientist Valter Longo’s advice for living over a hundred years

MilanIn 1990 Valter Longo was an Italian PhD student obsessed with nutrition who was fighting a addiction that has lasted him all his life: studying longevity. Now, 56-year-old Longo is dedicated to biochemistry and to finding the link between two Italian obsessions: food and aging. “For this, Italy is incredible”, he says from the laboratory he directs at the Institute of Molecular Oncology in Milan (IFOM). In fact, Italy has one of the oldest populations in the world, with multiple regions with centenarians spurring researchers to search for the fountain of youth. “It’s nirvana,” says Longo, who is also professor of gerontology and director of the Longevity Institute at the University of Southern California.

The researcher has been advocating for a long time that you can have a better and longer life through food lite italian, a theory in full swing in the world about how to stay young. Following this idea and using the study to identify the genes that regulate aging, Longo has created a diet based on plants and nuts with supplements and kale crackers that mimic fasting. According to him, this is how the cells get rid of the harmful baggage and rejuvenate without the inconvenience of having to really starve. In fact, he has already patented and sold some of his own kits of diet – he has a foundation that prepares diets for cancer patients, but also advises companies and Italian schools –, he has published best-selling books (like The longevity diet) and the magazine Time he qualifies as an “influential fasting evangelist”.

In fact, last month he published a new study that, based on clinical trials with hundreds of older people, suggests that periodic cycles of fasting could reduce biological age and prevent diseases associated with aging. How? Through a Mediterranean diet that, says Longo, is actually not that common for most Italians. “Almost no one follows her,” he says. Many Italian children, especially in the south of the country, are obese because of what he calls five o’clock p poisonous: pizza, pasta, proteins, potatoes and bread.

Longo’s Longevity Diet books have been translated into several languages ​​and are full of recipes that look like “the original Mediterranean diet, not the current one,” he says, pointing to photographs of a bowl of ancient legumes similar to the chickpea and a pod of Calabrian green beans. Concepts such as longevity, intermittent fasting and biological age have been gaining traction, and many scientists and nutritionists around the world continue to look to Italy for the secret ingredient. “Probably, many years ago, they reproduced between cousins ​​and relatives,” Longo suggests, referring to the close relationships in the small towns of the Italian hills. “We suspect that at some point this generated the super-longevity genome in a way,” he says.

According to his hypothesis, Italian centenarians who lived through the abject poverty of wartime rural Italy are protected from disease because they suffered a period of starvation and had an original Mediterranean diet during their early years . And then, he continues, increased protein and fat and modern medicine – due to the post-war economic miracle – protected them from frailty as they aged and kept them alive. It could be, he suggests, a “historical coincidence that will never be seen again”.

Two types of population

The mysteries of aging interested Longo at an early age. He grew up in Genoa, but every summer he visited his grandparents in Calabria, an area known for its centennial population. At the age of 16, he moved to Chicago to live with relatives and could not help but notice that all of them, fed on the “Chicago diet” of sausages and sugary drinks, suffered from diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. About 10 years ago, wanting to be closer to his parents in Genoa, he accepted a second job in Milan, where he found a source of inspiration in the piscatarian diet of Genoa and the legumes of Calabria. “Genes and nutrition are incredible,” he says. However, he also found the modern Italian diet—sausages or lasagna—a horrible source of disease.

With his team, Longo has identified an important regulator of aging in yeast and is investigating whether the same pathway acts in all organisms. What if you used your diet to starve cells affected by cancer and other diseases? That’s his mission, he says: to find ways to prolong youth and health and not simply increase life expectancy. However, it is a goal that, according to him, could lead to a “terrifying world” in which only the rich could afford to live for centuries.

In the future, he says, there will be a population that, like now, will reach 80 years or older thanks to medical advances but will be burdened with chronic diseases. A second population will follow fasting diets, benefit from scientific advances, and live to be 100 or 110 years old in relatively good health. This is what he wants. “I want to live until I’m 120 or 130,” he exclaims.

Copyright The New York Times

2024-03-31 06:30:26
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