Contrary to the notion that if we live longer we will extend the “sickness” period, our data indicate that by understanding how the human body is maintained while young, we can stay fully functional into our nineties, hundreds, and beyond. One of the primary ways to achieve this is to exploit our body’s innate ability to regenerate itself at the cellular and organ levels. Unfortunately, the modern diet, and the constant consumption that characterizes the way so much of the first world eats, keeps these built-in mechanisms permanently switched off, leaving us prematurely vulnerable to disease and degeneration beginning in our thirties and forties.
It also helped me realize that in order to understand how people can live long, healthy lives, we need to go beyond scientific, epidemiological, and clinical studies and investigate actual populations that age successfully.
As I will explain in more detail in a later chapter, our recent studies indicate that a protein-rich diet, which can increase muscle size, may not necessarily translate into increased muscle strength and that a periodic low-protein, low-sugar diet, alternating with periods of normal protein intake, may do more to generate new muscle cells (which we currently think has more to do with strength than size does) while promoting health.
Think of health without negatively affecting muscle mass and strength. The answer lies in nutritechnology, a new field I have helped create, in which we treat ingredients found in normal food as a complex set of molecules that, in specific doses and combinations, can have drug-like beneficial properties that we can harness to delay aging and prevent disease.
Among the longevity factors within your control, what you eat is the primary choice you can make that will affect whether you live to 60, 80, 100, or 110—and more important, whether you will get there in good health. So when it comes to dietary recommendations, it’s crucial to listen to the right people.
The type of food you eat determines whether your brain will use glucose or ketone bodies to obtain energy; and if you’re a woman, the type and quantity of food you eat can affect your chances of becoming pregnant. It’s important to eat food you truly enjoy, but it’s also important to eliminate or minimize the consumption of food that will make your life shorter and sicker, and to increase the consumption of nutrients that will make your life longer and healthier.
By reducing the supplementation frequency to relatively low doses and two or three times per week, we minimize the chance of a toxic effect while still avoiding malnourishment due to a lack of a particular vitamin or mineral.
By reducing calorie intake, particularly reducing calories from proteins and sugars, you can decrease the activities of the growth hormone receptor, and thus of the TOR-S6K and PKA genes known to accelerate aging. These findings represent the “basic/juventology research” pillar, necessary to establish how nutrients act on the aging process. As a consequence of not recognizing
Bicycling may be healthier than running because it minimizes stress on the joints. However, a long-term study showed that long-distance running among healthy older adults was not associated with osteoarthritis so an injury caused by long-distance running may be less common than we would expect. In fact, another study that followed 74,752 runners for seven years concluded that running reduced both weight and the risk of osteoarthritis.4
In our cancer studies with mice, we had determined that four major changes in the blood need to occur to show that the mouse had entered a protected state as a result of fasting: (1) lower levels of the growth factor IGF-1; (2) lower levels of glucose; (3) higher levels of ketone bodies, the by-product of fat breakdown; and (4) higher levels of a growth factor inhibitor (IGFBP1).
A label that is now widely used by the media is “Intermittent Fasting.” I believe this represents a problematic direction because, like the “Mediterranean Diet” or “eating in moderation” it allows people to improvise and pick and choose periods of fasting that range from 12 hours to weeks, giving the impression that just because they all involve some period of “abstention from food” they are similar or equivalent and all provide health benefits. In fact, they have very different effects. For example, if we consider fasting as the period necessary to switch from a primarily sugar-burning mode to a fat-burning mode, then only periods of abstention from food lasting two or three days or more can be considered fasting. The same length of fasting appears to be necessary to trigger the activation of “regenerative” programs. This does not mean that shorter periods of abstention from food cannot be beneficial, but that we should not use words like “Intermittent Fasting” to include interventions that are very different and have very different effects just like we don’t want to place in the same category walking for fifteen minutes and running a marathon.
Organisms don’t waste precious resources generating molecules they don’t need. The right therapy for high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease is not to block generation of this molecule, but to find out what is not functioning properly in the body and what command the system is responding to when overproducing cholesterol, so that the problem can be fixed at its foundation. Simply blocking the generation of cholesterol is like adding coolant to an overheated car engine—it will undoubtedly help, but the underlying engine problem remains, and eventually the car will break down.
Extensive animal testing from at least six independent laboratories shows the efficacy of fasting or FMD in increasing the effect of standard therapy on breast cancer, prostate cancer, colorectal cancer, pancreatic cancer, neuroblastoma, glioma, lung cancer, mesothelioma, melanoma, and others.
Remaining both physically and mentally active has been shown to protect against age-related dementias. A review of all the studies on exercise and dementia, covering eight hundred patients and eighteen randomized clinical trials, concluded that physical activity—particularly aerobic exercise, such as running and swimming—improves cognitive function in patients with dementia
Remaining both physically and mentally active has been shown to protect against age-related dementias. A review of all the studies on exercise and dementia, covering eight hundred patients and eighteen randomized clinical trials, concluded that physical activity—particularly aerobic exercise, such as running and swimming—improves cognitive function in patients