To Live 100 Years Ago, Mangia Too Little: Italian Experts’ Views on Aging

Most of the band members have signed up to live the fast-young life. But as they partake in drinking and drugging in the 1990s grunge scene after gigs at the Whiskey a Go Go, the Roxy and other West Coast clubs, the guitarist, Valter Longo, an Italian Ph.D majoring in food. student, battled addiction throughout his life.

Now, decades after Dr. Longo, who left his grunge-era band, DOT, to pursue a career in biochemistry, the Italian professor stands with his rocker hair and lab coat next to Italians on diet and aging.

For studying aging, Italy is amazing, says Dr. Longo, a young 56-year-old, in the laboratory where he works at a cancer center in Milan, where he will speak at a conference on aging later this month. Italy has one of the oldest nations in the world, including many pockets of centenarians who delight researchers looking for the fountain of youth. Its nirvana.

Dr. Longo, who is also a professor of gerontology and director of the USC Longevity Institute in California, has long advocated living longer and better by eating Lite Italian, which is one of Road to Perpetual Wellville’s global explosion of ideas about how to stay fresh in the growing field itself. .

In addition to targeting genes that regulate aging, he has created a plant and food-based diet with ingredients like nuts and kale crackers that mimic fasting, he says, allowing cells to shed harmful burdens and regenerate, without the downside of actually being hungry. He has patented and sold his ProLon nutritional products; published best-selling books (The Longevity Diet); and was named an influential Fasting Evangelist by Time magazine.

Last month, he published a new study based on clinical trials of hundreds of elderly people, including the city of Calabria where his family comes from, which he says suggests that periodic cycles of his fasting method can reduce age and prevent related diseases. with old age.

His private foundation, also based in Milan, cooks food for cancer patients, but also contacts Italian companies and schools, promoting the Mediterranean diet unknown to many Italians today.

Almost no one in Italy eats a Mediterranean diet, said Dr. Longo, with a California breeze and an Italian accent. He added that many Italian children, especially in the southern countries, are fat, puffed up with what he calls the five poisoned Ps, pasta, protein, potatoes and paneer (or bread).

In the foundation period recently, nutritionist, Dr. Romina Cervigni, sitting among the pictures on the wall depicting Dr. Longo playing guitar with centenarians, and shelves of his long-running cookbooks, translated into many languages ​​and filled with recipes.

It’s very similar to the original Mediterranean diet, not what it is now, he said pointing to pictures on the wall of a bowl of ancient vegetables such as chickpea, and the Calabrian green bean pod introduced by Dr. Longo. His favorite.

Dr. Longo, who has split his time between California and Italy for the past decade, once held a niche field. But in recent years, Silicon Valley billionaires who hope to be forever young have funded secret labs. Health headlines dominated newspaper home pages and Fountains-of-Youth fitness ads featuring healthy middle-aged people flooded social media for insanely fit middle-aged people.

But even concepts like longevity, moderate fasting and biological age are as old as your cells feel! already gaining momentum, governments like Italy’s are worried about a brighter future when a growing population takes resources away from a shrinking population.

And yet many scientists, nutritionists and longevity enthusiasts around the world continue to look to Italy, searching in its deep pockets of centenarians for the secret ingredient to longevity.

Perhaps they continued to breed among cousins ​​and relatives, Dr. Longo offered, referring to the close relationship that sometimes exists in small Italian mountain towns. At one point, we suspect it produced a super-longevity genome.

He thought that genetic barriers to inbreeding, gradually disappeared because those mutations killed their carriers before they could reproduce or because the city saw a serious illness like the onset of Alzheimer’s in a family and it became clear. You’re in a small town, you’ll probably get tagged.

Dr. Longo wonders if centenarians in Italy were protected from later diseases during the famine and the ancient Mediterranean diet, when rural Italians suffered from severe wartime poverty. Then the increase in protein and fat and modern medicine after Italy’s post-war economic miracle protected them from frailty as they grew older and kept them alive.

He said it could be a historic event that you will never see again.

The mysteries of aging gripped Dr. Longo at a young age.

He grew up in the northwestern port of Genoa but visited his grandparents back in Molochio, Calabria, a town known for its centenarians, every summer. When he was 5, he stood in the room as his grandfather, who was in his 70s, died.

Perhaps the most preventable thing, said Dr. Longo.

When he was 16 years old, he moved to Chicago to live with relatives and was unable to realize that his middle-aged aunts and uncles who ate sausages and sugary drinks in Chicago had diabetes and heart disease that their relatives back in Calabria could not.

This was like the 80s, he said, like the stuff of nightmares.

When he was in Chicago, he would often go downtown to plug his guitar into any blues club that would let him play. He enrolled in the prestigious jazz guitar program at the University of North Texas.

Worse, he said. Tex-Mex.

He ended up not using the music program well when he refused to direct the marching band, so he focused on other interests.

He said aging was in my head.

He eventually earned a Ph.D in biochemistry at UCLA and did his postdoctoral training in the neurobiology of aging at USC. He overcame early skepticism about the field of publishing in top journals and became a fervent preacher of the age-reversing effects of his diet. About 10 years ago, eager to be closer to his elderly parents in Genoa, he took a second job at the IFOM oncology center in Milan.

He found a source of inspiration in the heavy pescatarian food around Genoa and all the legumes down in Calabria.

Genetics and food, he said of Italy as an aging laboratory, are unbelievable.

But he also discovered the modern Italian cuisine of cured meats, layers of lasagna and roasted vegetables that the world was terribly hungry for and a source of disease. And like other older Italian researchers looking for the cause of aging in inflammation or hoping to zap cells with targeted drugs, he said the Italian lack of money in research is a shame.

Italians have an incredible history and wealth of knowledge about aging, she said. But he doesn’t waste anything.

Back in his lab when his colleagues were preparing a diet for mice that mimics food mixed with broth, he passed a picture on the shelf showing a broken wall and reading, It was slowly falling apart. He talked about how he and others discovered a key regulator of aging in yeast, and how he investigated whether the same mechanism worked in all organisms. He said his research benefited from his past life of developing music, because it opened his mind to unexpected possibilities, including using his food to starve cells suffering from cancer and other diseases.

Dr. Longo said he thinks about his work as extending youth and life, not just putting more years on the clock, a goal he said could lead to a scary world, where only the rich can live for hundreds of years, possibly forcing caps. having children.

The most likely short-term scenario, he said, is a separation between two people. The first was living as we live now and has reached about 80 or so with medical advances. But Italians will be stuck for a long time and, given the declining birth rate, likely to be lonely years burdened by terrible diseases. Some people will follow your diet and scientific breakthroughs and live to 100 and maybe even 110 in relative good health.

An expert of what he preaches, Dr. Longo considered himself in the latter category.

I want to live to be 120, 130. It’s confusing now because everyone is like, Yeah, you should at least get to 100, he said. You don’t see how hard it is to get to 100.

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