The key to a long life is avoiding the 'poisonous 5 Ps,' says one of the world's top anti-aging experts

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Long before Bryan Johnson became famous for his extreme biohacking—undergoing countless tests, following strict eating habits, and taking dozens of supplements in the name of living forever—Valter Longo was obsessed with longevity. 

In a recent profile of the scientist in the New York Times, Longo, who is a professor of gerontology and director of the USC Longevity Institute in California, says he wants to live 120 to 130 healthy years. His drive for longevity aligns with a growing interest in extending health span, the number of years lived free of disease, as opposed to life span—which refers to the number of years lived. 

Italian lifestyle has long been considered the gold standard for longevity, with the focus on the Mediterranean diet, walkability, and community. Sardinia, Italy is one of the five original Blue Zones—where people live the longest, healthiest lives. Lessons from the residents of Sardinia were the focus of one of the episodes of Dan Buettner’s recent Netflix documentary, Living to 100.

Longo, who was born and raised in Italy, points out that today, “Almost nobody in Italy eats the Mediterranean diet.” 

Italy’s youth are facing obesity because of what Longo calls the “poisonous five Ps — pizza, pasta, protein, potatoes and pane (or bread),” Horowitz writes. Longo fears Italians will live long but not healthyfully if this pattern continues to dominate the culture. 

How to reverse it? Longo, author of The Longevity Diet, is a proponent of the original Mediterranean diet which consists of plant-based foods and nuts. He has his own recipes for longevity on his website, which include sweet and sour sardines, stuffed artichokes, cabbage patties, and onions in walnut sauce. 

He also champions another relatively new concept in the space—faux fasting or a fasting-mimicking diet. This refers to limiting food intake, which is supposed to help the body reap the benefits of fasting without fully abstaining from food. According to Longo’s website, the protocol includes a diet low in carbohydrates and protein and high in fatty acids. “The Fasting Mimicking Diet patented recipe allows your body to remain in a fasting like mode, which triggers a set of protectionist measures that the body has developed during natural selection,” his site reads. “This allows the body to optimize its performance, rejuvenate its cells, and thrive under demanding circumstances.”

Research has found both benefits and drawbacks to intermittent fasting, but its continued popularity demonstrates the lengths people will go to with the hope of extending their lives.

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