- Eating more carbs, less protein, and fasting may extend lifespan, suggests a new paper.
- The co-author, Valter Longo, is a longevity expert who designs diets for celebs like Gwyneth Paltrow.
- There’s evidence plant-based carbs are healthy. Fasting has mixed evidence and side effects.
If you want to live as long as possible, you may want to cut back on protein, eat more carbs, and fast regularly, sometimes for days at a time, suggests an article published April 28 in the journal Cell.
Diets high in plant-based carbs and fats and low in meat and processed food may be best for longevity, according to the researchers, Dr. Valter Longo, a professor at USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, and Rozalyn M. Anderson, of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.
Longo is also the founder of a company that sells “fasting-mimicking” meal kits and diet plans designed to offer the benefits of fasting by severely restricting calories but allowing you to eat small portions of specific foods. Celebrity fans of Longo and his diet plans include Gwyneth Paltrow.
While fasting and other diets are often linked to
Longo argues they’re also important for long-term health.
“The longevity diet is not a dietary restriction intended to only cause weight loss but a lifestyle focused on slowing aging,” he said in a press release.
The longevity diet is high-carb, low-protein, and mostly plant-based
To promote a longer lifespan, an optimal diet relies on primarily plant-based carbohydrates like legumes, whole grains, and vegetables, with about 30% of daily calories from healthy fats like nuts, olive oil, and some dark chocolate and fish, according to the researchers.
They also advise avoiding red meat and processed meat, as well as refined grains and added sugars, and consuming minimal white meats like poultry. Recent evidence suggests swapping out processed foods and meat for more whole foods and plants could add as many as 10 years to your life.
The recommendations are also similar to traditional diets in the so-called “Blue Zones,” areas of the world where people live the longest, healthiest lives, according to some research.
The researchers also suggest limiting protein intake that could help extend your life. There’s some evidence consuming a lot of protein and amino acids may ramp up biological processes, like production of certain hormones, which may accelerate aging, based on studies of both humans and animals.
The researchers also recommend both intermittent and multi-day fasting
The article also suggests that when you eat, not just what you eat, can make a difference for lifespan. To optimize health, the researchers recommend eating within a 11 to 12 hour time period each day, and fasting for the remaining 12 hours.
Known as intermittent fasting, the limited eating window has been extensively studied for weight loss and health benefits, although research has been mixed.
Periodically fasting for multiple days at a time, or following a fasting-mimicking diet might also be beneficial, according to the researchers.
They recommend a five-day cycle of fasting once every three to four months, based on evidence from both human and animal models suggesting prolonged fasting might reduce and improve blood sugar control to contribute to a longer, healthier life.
Some experts argue the side effects of low protein and fasting aren’t worth the potential benefits
Not everyone agrees that fasting and skimping on protein are a good idea.
Fasting, particularly for multiple days, can have side effects such as muscle loss, lethargy, and hunger, nutritionist Robb Wolf previously told Insider.
In contrast, staying physically active and eating mostly whole foods in moderation is a well-researched, safe way to improve your health and life through food, he said.
“There are some things that work maybe as well or better than calorie restriction, and I would argue that they suck a lot less,” Wolf said.