With all the advances we’re seeing in technology, extending our life span has never seemed more achievable than it is today. I’ve even spoken to some guests here on The School of Greatness who believe we’re closer to living to 200 years than we all might think we are!
And that’s all great, but what are some ways we can start increasing our life spans NOW? What steps can we take today that will pay dividends in the long run to improve the probability we live longer? One colossal way is through our diet. By eating the foods that work with our bodies and not against them as so many processed foods do, we’re able to improve the odds of a longer, healthier life.
My guest today is a leader in the field of nutrition and dieting. His name is Dr. Valter Longo, and he’s dedicated his career to finding ways to unlock our life longevity through our diets. In this episode, we dive deep into the leading causes of our death and the longevity diet. We also talked about the five pillars of longevity and the many variables to improve our lifespan.
This is a fascinating discussion, and you’re going to love the information he shares! I’m so excited to start this one with you all.
Valter Longo, Ph.D., has thirty years of experience in longevity and healthy eating. He is the Director of the Longevity Institute at the University of Southern California Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, Los Angeles, and the Director of the Longevity and Cancer Program at the IFOM, the Italian Foundation for Cancer Research (FIRC) Institute of Molecular Oncology in Milan, Italy.
He is also the author of the best-seller The Longevity Diet and the Italian books Alla Tavola Della longevità (“At the Table of Longevity,”) and La longevità inizia da Bambini (“Longevity Begins in Childhood”). Professor Longo is also the Scientific Director of the Create Cures Foundation and the Valter Longo Foundation. In 2018, TIME magazine named him as one of the 50 most influential people in health care for his research on fasting-mimicking diets as a way to improve health and prevent disease.
His contribution to the understanding of life’s longevity has been truly outstanding. I hope you’ll find the wisdom he’ll share as valuable and exciting as I did!
Many of us would say that health is a choice. So to get to a genuinely long-lasting lifestyle, we have to understand the things that can kill us so we can make healthier choices. I recently learned this statistic: Between 150,000 and 180,000 people worldwide die every day. I’m not sure how accurate that is, but it made me curious about the leading cause of people dying earlier than they should be dying. Dr. Longo’s experience in science points us to the answer.
“There are lots of causes, and they’re different based on the parts of the world. Lots of people die from malnourishment, but now more people die of too much and too much food and obesity.” – Dr. Valter Longo
Having a better understanding of the leading causes of people’s early death is essential because it gives us insight into why we need proper nutrition. Also, it allows us to find possible solutions to help a more significant percentage of people achieve a longer, healthier life. According to Dr. Longo, some studies can help us understand how to live a longer life.
“Dr. Roy Walford worked with microorganisms and made them live ten times longer just by mutation plus fasting. He eventually developed this into something called calorie restriction. This happens if you take a normal diet and reduce it by 25%. … Then one of his students, Richard Weindruch, did a study in monkeys to see the effects of calorie restriction. He found out that if you give them the same identical food, but 25% less, they go from 60% diabetic or insulin-resistant to 5%, and cancer is reduced by 50%.” – Dr. Valter Longo
These studies show that fasting and calorie restriction might reverse cancer and diabetes. Though it might sound that we’ve already found the solution to living a long and healthy life. There’s more that we need to know to put all of these pieces together and truly live longer and healthier lives.
Dr. Longo is known for his contribution to “the longevity diet.” To truly understand what the longevity diet is, he explains,
“The longevity diet is undoubtedly the one diet that can help many people lose weight and eat more. It means lots of vegetables, legumes, nourishment, and fish a few times a week. … The responses differ — some people can burn more, some can burn less. … It’s really a matter of watching your abdominal circumference, your weight, your muscle mass.” – Dr. Valter Longo
Protein intake levels are also a common question with this style of diet, but Dr. Longo says you need to have a low protein amount but at a sufficient level. In addition, he spoke of the five pillars that serve as the foundation of this diet. He discussed them in detail in his book, but an overview of them is below.
Epidemiological studies are studies of causes and risk factors for disease in certain populations. Dr. Longo utilized research on illnesses like cancer and diabetes in centenarians to understand longevity better.
These studies are conducted through randomized clinical trials to test various hypotheses from other studies (pillars). As Dr. Longo explains, a good example is when you identify that too much protein is terrible for you — you do a randomized trial and see its effects on people.
Basic research is conducted to develop theories, hypotheses, and predictions. In coming up with the Longevity diet, Dr. Longo utilized findings from the foundational studies conducted by Dr. Walford and Weindruch on calorie restriction and its effects on illnesses like cancer and diabetes.
These are studies conducted on people 100 years old or older. Dr. Longo examined the life of Emma Morano, research on the Okinawans of Japan, and the study in Loma Linda to come up with other factors that can lengthen one’s life. These include learning that manual labor and exercise are keys to living a longer life and reversing aging.
These studies complement the four previous pillars by providing reference points and useful analogies. Dr. Longo uses them as he thinks of human beings as a plane or a car. If you drive your car all the time, it’s going to break apart. Though he sees that the body has self-repair mechanisms, if it’s overused, it’s going to break down. The knowledge he learned from these studies is useful when it comes to discussing other variables such as using drugs and skipping breakfast that may affect a person’s lifespan.
The information learned from these combined pillars helped Dr. Longo discover so much about how to live longer and healthier lives. This led him to the development of the Longevity Diet, which is just the beginning of his work. That’s because he truly believes we can all do so much better than we’re doing now.
From our conversation, I know that Dr. Longo is suggesting everyone make small changes or habits to see results. You might wonder what kind of habits these are — I have a few points I want to share with you.
The 16-hour-a-day fast has led many people to skip breakfast. However, Dr. Longo says that eating breakfast allows us to get energy from somewhere. It’s less destructive for our bodies to take this energy from food rather than the body itself.
“Most people that go 16 hours fasting skip breakfast. The breakfast skippers tend to live less and have more cardiovascular disease, in general.” – Dr. Valter Longo
Were you surprised? I was when I heard this. But as Dr. Longo explains it, doing so affects how we burn fat and how insulin functions. This may mean we can eventually be more prone to insulin resistance, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. That’s because byproducts of fat called ketones are going up in the bloodstream. With fat itself, this can alter your heart and brain in negative ways.
Though there may be cases where drugs are necessary for healing, Dr. Longo suggests staying away from drugs as much as possible. He said,
“I think that the body is in perfect equilibrium and harmony. Everything is perfect. So, for example, is cholesterol. You may want to take drugs that will block its synthesis. Though said drugs may lower your blood cholesterol, you have to ask the question, why were you making all that cholesterol in the first place?” – Dr. Valter Longo
Asking these questions can help you go to the root cause of the problem and have it solved instead of using drugs to curb its effects. Once you get it solved, it’s less likely for similar consequences to occur.
Dr. Longo believes that 150 minutes of exercise per week on top of an hour’s walk every day is ideal for longevity, not just for physical, but also for psychological reasons.
“I believe that the majority of centenarians had some type of manual labor. It’s beneficial to physical health, but it’s also important psychologically to be out there and just walk.” – Dr. Valter Longo
Though everyone needs to take care of their own thoughts and actions, Dr. Longo suggests that you speak with a psychologist if required. This is because we all have different ways of thinking, and sometimes we need help understanding how we exactly view the world.
“Everything is about the mind and your ability to follow certain things.” – Dr. Valter Longo
Toward the end of our conversation, Dr. Longo expressed that he wants us to have hope for our health and well-being because there’s a lot we can do to help ourselves. I felt truly grateful to Dr. Longo for the opportunity to talk about his research and learn more about aging in reverse and improving our life span.
Guys, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to stay connected with passionate people who do extraordinary things. Dr. Longo is one of those people. I’ve learned so much about bettering my own health, and I hope you can do the same thing as well. This is Dr. Longo’s definition of greatness:
“Change things in a positive way for as many people as possible. If you can make it better for a billion people, then change these billion lives for the better.” – Dr. Valter Longo
What we’ve learned today can definitely change us for the better if we apply them in our lives. Dr. Longo is definitely a household name in promoting health and well-being, so I would love for you guys to learn more about his work. You may visit Dr. Longo’s website to view his research and learn more about the human longevity diet. You can also grab a copy of his book, The Longevity Diet, and so support his foundation to help more people and fund his research.
Also, if you enjoyed this podcast, please share it with your friends and family. Don’t forget to tag Dr. Longo, @prof_valterlongo, and me, @lewishowes, on Instagram with a screenshot of your most significant takeaways from this episode! You may also give us a five-star rating on Apple Podcasts, so we can spread these powerful messages to more people.
If you’re ready to learn how to eat cleaner, live longer, and tap into the healthiest version of yourself, then this episode is for you! Join me for Episode 1,199 of The School of Greatness.