The diet of longevity

    The lifespan is only 25% dependent on you genes have been identified. that we inherited from our parents. To affect the longevity, in fact, they are mainly the lifestyles that we choose to follow. What let's eat and we drink, if and how much we smoke, the physical movement that we practice, the environment where we spend most of our time, the relations that we can build our spirituality with others ...

    This is the message of the book The Great Way (Mondadori, € 20), jointly written by Franco Berrino, physician and epidemiologist, for years director of the preventive and predictive medicine department of the National Cancer Institute of Milan, and Luigi Fontana, full professor of medicine and nutritional sciences at the University of Brescia and the Washington University of St. Louis ( USA), where he co-directs the program of longevity and health.

    By integrating the results of theirs research with the most advanced scientific knowledge and the empirical knowledge of some ancient medical traditions, the two authors assure (data in hand) that if our mother or father died young of disease, this will not inevitably happen to us too.

    Just as it is not said that we will live a long time, just because whoever generated us has brilliantly passed 90 years. Everything will depend mainly on the decisions we will be able to make, such as
    they explain in our interview.

    How do our lifestyle habits affect longevity?

    «Food, pollutants, physical movement they can act on the activation / deactivation of the genes that regulate the metabolism, on the repair systems of the damage to the DNA, on the inflammatory state of the organism and on the immune system»Replies Fontana.

    The processes that lead to ours decay they start already in the womb, not at age 65. "There food quality and the amount of calories and protein that a mother consumes during the pregnancy they modify the functioning of genes for several generations », adds Berrino. “But the great thing is that at any age of life we ​​can commit ourselves to improve our condition, our future. It has been shown, for example, that those who suffer from metabolic syndrome and switches to a traditional Mediterranean diet of the country or Spain, seeing the symptoms disappear in 40% of cases after one year and 70% after 2, especially if the change of menu is accompanied by reduction of calorie intake and by increasing physical exercise ".

    The diet of longevity

    How many calories do we need to cut to gain years of health?

    “The studies we have conducted on humans in our laboratory in the United States are interesting. They say, for example, that whoever reduces by 20-30% energy intake (up to an average of 1800 calories per day) has a heart similar to that of people younger than 15-20 years. Caloric restriction would favor the maintenance of high levels of HDL cholesterol (one of the most faithful markers of longevity) and the reduction in the presence of inflammatory molecules and several hormones involved in the development of tumors. Finally, at the cellular level it would allow a high antioxidant capacity and an increased efficiency of DNA damage repair mechanisms. Unfortunately, however, we still don't know what it is the optimal number of calories to be consumed per day. Likely it varies from person to person ».

    Are you also studying the beneficial effects of fasting?

    “Yes, it is likely that eat only cooked or raw vegetables 2 or 3 times a week (seasoned with 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, lemon or vinegar) both for lunch and dinner can have beneficial effects on health and slow down aging », Fontana points out. «The other hypothesis we are evaluating is that of time-restricted feeding, that is, the consumption of all Calories every day in 8-10 hours resulting in a food free period of 16-14 hours. The conclusion? Being a little hungry is good for you: activates ghrelin, a hormone produced by the stomach, which inhibits inflammation ». To stay healthy, the ideal is to do a very rich breakfast, a normal lunch and a light dinner.

    In your book you propose an almost vegetarian diet ...

    “In reality we limit ourselves to resuming the rules of the European code against cancer (of which I too was a part) », says Franco Berrino. «It is a diet based mainly on vegetables: legumes, whole grains, vegetables, fresh and dried nuts, oil seeds. But we have nothing against animal food: it is important not to have vitamin B12 deficiencies. While fatty fish helps to fill up on Omega 3. The longest-lived populations in the world consume menus mainly, but not exclusively, vegetarians. Furthermore, a study of American Adventists showed that compared to the onnivorously, mortality is 9% lower in lacto-ovo-vegetarians, 15% lower in vegans and 19% in the pescovegetarians ».

    The diet of longevity

    Turning to physical activity, how much does it affect our well-being?

    «More and more scientific works are suggesting that spending many hours of the day "still" increases the risk of getting sick and die prematurely from diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer, regardless of weekly training hours. It is therefore essential move often. For example, when we are in the office, every 20-30 minutes we try to get up from the chair, we go up a couple of flights of stairs»Advises Fontana.

    “Ideally we should carve out 30 minutes a day for physical activity. The aerobic type (running, cycling, swimming) makes you lose weight, increases good cholesterol, reduces triglyceride levels, blood pressure, blood sugar, has a beneficial effect on memory, attention and our ability to process data. The anaerobic type (with weights or free body) is instead fundamental for the prevention of osteoporosis and loss of muscle mass. In the end, yoga and tai chi stimulate agility, coordination and they discipline the mind with breathing and meditation techniques, restoring the balance between body, psyche and spirit », concludes Luigi Fontana.


    The title The Great Way it evokes more a spiritual path, than a simple change of lifestyles. "Effectively the revolution can only start with us»Replies Professor Luigi Fontana. «It is not enough to know that healthy food, together with the right amount of physical movement, slows down the aging process. You have to be aware. Smokers are informed about the harm of cigarettes, yet continue to buy them.

    Because he is not ready to question his choices, even though he knows they are harmful to health ». "To reverse course, the only way is to get in touch with our "inner self", the most important part of us, asking ourselves if what we are doing makes sense », explains Fontana. «It is a journey that lasts a lifetime. And that can be addressed by different means, such as the mindfulness (which teaches to focus on the present), le martial arts, (which educate attention) or meditation », he concludes.

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