The Longevity Diet: Discover the New Science Behind Stem Cell Activation

The Longevity Diet: Discover the New Science Behind Stem Cell Activation PDF

Author: Valter Longo

Publisher: Avery


Publish Date: January 2, 2018

ISBN-10: 0525534075

Pages: 320

File Type: EPub

Language: English

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Book Preface

LONGEVITY, THE FOUNTAIN OF LIFE, the secrets to eternal youth—they have fascinated us from our earliest civilizations. And they have deeply fascinated me since I was a teenager. Back then I wanted to become a rock star, and I was sure I would always be a professional musician, but my passion to discover the secrets of longevity and how they could revolutionize medicine wouldn’t be drowned out, no matter how fantastic a rock career appeared to be. When I was a sophomore in college, I decided to put music to the side and dedicate myself to science so that I could study the processes by which we age. Three decades later, I still play guitar, but I spend the majority of my time working as the director of the University of Southern California (USC) Longevity Institute in Los Angeles and the Program on Longevity and Cancer at IFOM (Molecular Oncology FIRC Institute) in Milan, where I combine studies of centenarians with epidemiological studies of populations, clinical trials, and basic research to understand how to help people live long lives.

But it’s not just the idea of living longer that has driven me; it’s living healthy longer, staying vibrant and youthful beyond the traditional life expectancy. To achieve this, my laboratories performed decades of cellular, animal, and human studies focused on maximizing function (learning, memory, physical fitness, etc.) and on the prevention and treatment of diseases, with a special focus on cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease as well as autoimmune and neurodegenerative disorders. 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. But as I’ve discovered over the past thirty years of research, that switch can be turned back on rather easily. The difficult part has been figuring out a way to do it that is feasible and safe for everyone.

Let me back up. I was sixteen when I first came to America from Genoa (hometown of Christopher Columbus), in the northwest of Italy. That’s where I was born and raised, though I spent my summers in Calabria, the southern Italian region where my parents came from. Harboring my dreams of fame and fortune as a rock star—and having driven neighbors in my building crazy for long enough with loud electric guitars—I arrived in Chicago to live with an aunt and pursue my music studies. Along with the thriving music scene, and some of the best blues in the nation, I was exposed for the first time to the American diet. Having grown up in two regions with some of the healthiest cuisines in the world and never really having thought about it, I was amazed at the giant portions, the huge amounts of meat and cheese consumed at almost every meal, the sugary drinks and snacks so readily available. The other thing I noticed was that my Italian relatives living in Chicago were developing diabetes, heart disease, and other ailments uncommon to the family back home. At the time, I didn’t think much of it, but later these exposures motivated me and helped me solidify hypotheses about diet, diseases, and longevity.

By the time I got to the University of North Texas just outside of Dallas a few years later to continue my music education, my fascination with aging had taken hold. All my friends who were approaching or past thirty were starting to lament getting old. But something else, maybe my having been in the room when my grandfather died, was stuck in my head, waiting for an opportunity to guide me in a new direction. As much as I loved music, in my second year as an undergraduate I realized that what I really wanted to do with my life was study how people stay young, so I moved to the biochemistry department to begin studying aging. Four years later, I entered one of the best programs for the biology of aging, the pathology PhD programs at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the laboratory of Roy Walford, MD, who at the time was the world’s leading expert on nutrition and longevity, a field that was just beginning to come into its own. The rest is history.

I have now been researching healthy longevity for more than thirty years, studying the links between nutrition and the genes that regulate cellular protection and regeneration. The Longevity Diet collects what I have learned and puts it into a simple program anyone can live by. It is as simple as adopting the daily nutritional regimen I outline and combining it periodically (two to twelve times per year, depending on your general health) with my fasting-mimicking diet (FMD), which is exactly what it sounds like: a diet that mimics a fast, providing the benefits of fasting without the deprivation and hunger. Combining these two elements, I have discovered, can protect, regenerate, and rejuvenate the body to keep us young and healthy longer. This is achieved in part by turning back the biological aging clock, which means that these diets can be adopted by relatively young people to help delay aging and prevent disease, and also by older individuals to help them return to a more youthful state. The FMD is also clinically proven to stimulate the loss of abdominal fat while conserving muscle and bone mass. These benefits are generated by switching on the human body’s own remarkable ability to activate stem cells and regenerate parts of cells, systems, and organs, leading to a reduction of risk factors for many diseases. In the chapters that follow, I will explain first why it works, then how it works. I will also explain how we took advantage of scientific and clinical experience to make nutritional strategies safe and feasible while minimizing the need for drastic dietary changes. Our dietary interventions are now recommended by thousands of doctors in the United States, Europe, and Asia.

Among other things that I believe set this book apart from the thousands of other diet and wellness books out there is that it is based on a solid multidisciplinary foundation. We are constantly bombarded with new science that demonizes or exalts one food or another. For this reason, I devised a methodology that would ensure the widest possible scientific basis for my recommendations. I call this method the Five Pillars of Longevity. These pillars do not refer to specific interventions such as diet and exercise, but to five disciplines that provide the foundation for my nutrition program: 1) basic/juventology research (juventology, as I will explain, is the science of staying young); 2) epidemiology; 3) clinical studies; 4) studies of centenarians; and 5) the understanding of complex systems (like cars, for example). By thus providing the widest, most solid grounds possible for dietary and exercise recommendations, we not only ensure their efficacy, but we also reduce to a minimum the chance that a future set of studies will drastically alter them. The past thirty years of research, and learning from many scientists in these different fields, have allowed me to build a system that I believe is solid enough that you can use it for life.

My search for the secrets to youthful longevity has led me all around the world, from Los Angeles to the Andes of southern Ecuador; from Okinawa, Japan, to Russia; from the Netherlands to southern Germany. But ultimately it led me back to Italy. Though I had no idea of this when I was growing up, the part of northern Italy where I was born and raised happens to be home to one of the highest percentages of people over age sixty-five in the world (28.3 percent, according to the Italian National Institute of Statistics in 2016), and the region in the south where I spent every summer of my childhood has, we discovered, one of the highest proportions of centenarians worldwide. It has been a very surprising coincidence but also a confirmation and privilege of my life’s work to take my studies back to where I grew up and be able to see that part of the world again through the eyes of people who have lived long, healthy, and full lives there. Inspired by all my long-lived friends back home and around the world, this book is for anyone who wishes to join their ranks.

A Note on Proceeds and Products

This book gives you the advantage of many years of research into how to live long and healthy lives, but there is another benefit; with 100 percent of my book royalties going to charity, you’ll also be helping to fund valuable research through organizations like the Create Cures Foundation (, a nonprofit organization I founded to support people with advanced-stage or complex diseases in need of integrative and more effective treatments. Every day I get emails from people who have been diagnosed with serious diseases—cancer, autoimmune and metabolic disorders, neurodegenerative diseases, etc.—seeking options beyond the standard treatments offered by their doctors. Unfortunately, professional guidelines, fear of legal action, heavy caseloads, and the complexity of illness work to keep doctors narrowly focused on standard-of-care treatments, and often patients aren’t given integrative options even if they ask. As I spent time with clinicians working on innovative therapies for cancer and other diseases, it became clear that they needed researchers like me to help them offer integrative interventions that could be safe, built on solid research, and advantageous to their patients, who in many cases do not have the option of waiting years for the end of large clinical trials.

This is how I came to start the Create Cures Foundation. Our mission is to make evidence-based information available to the public, to empower those who want to complement traditional treatments with reliable, scientifically based and clinically tested strategies to improve the efficacy of the therapy but also reduce its side effects. Our goal is not to diminish the role of medical doctors in patient care, but to enhance it by providing information on integrative approaches supported by strong animal and clinical data. We live in a time when funding for research is getting tighter, with very little going to creative or alternative ideas, which is why my profits from the sale of this book will go straight to the Create Cures Foundation and other nonprofit universities and institutes. So go ahead and buy more copies! Give them to your friends and family. You’ll be helping whomever you give it to, and you’ll also be directly funding our ongoing research into aging, cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cardiovascular disease, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease and colitis, and type 1 and type 2 diabetes. (I list these particular diseases because we have performed basic research on all of them, and are planning or have started, and in some cases completed, clinical trials with documented success.) We are committed to transforming research into improved, applicable therapies as rapidly as we can by thinking broadly and creatively. Our approach is to work with as many leading hospitals and research institutes as possible—at the moment these include Harvard, the Mayo Clinic, Charité–University Medicine Berlin, Leiden University, and University of Genova, among many others—even as we continue to perform our own basic research and clinical trials at USC’s Leonard Davis School of Gerontology and Keck Medical Center, one of the largest and best university hospitals in the United States, and at the IFOM Cancer Research Institute, in Milan, Italy. You can receive updates on our research, including upcoming clinical trials, on my Facebook page, @profvalterlongo, and at

Virtually every one of the patients who wrote to me asked the same question: having heard that my fasting-mimicking diet can bring all the benefits of fasting without the actual fasting part, they want to know what they can eat while on the “fast.” In response, and in order to make the FMD available as well as safe and effective for everyone, I started a company called L-Nutra ( With support from the US National Cancer Institute, the National Institute on Aging, and other funding agencies, we first developed a clinically tested FMD for cancer patients (Chemolieve®), then one for everyone (ProLon®). One hundred percent of my shares in L-Nutra are committed to the Create Cures Foundation and other nonprofit organizations involved in research relevant to our mission. (I receive neither a salary nor a consulting fee from L-Nutra—though in the interest of full disclosure, I do receive minimal expense reimbursement.) Although I do not directly make pricing decisions, I am committed to ensuring that L-Nutra’s products are as affordable as possible without compromising quality or the company’s ability to grow and make its products available around the world.

ProLon is already available through the L-Nutra website in the United States and is recommended by a network of physicians and other healthcare professionals. Chemolieve is currently being tested at several leading cancer centers, including USC, the Mayo Clinic, and Leiden University, and there is a long list of institutions waiting to test different FMDs for many diseases and conditions as soon as funding becomes available.

Many eager patients have asked whether it’s necessary to buy the products and use them under supervision, or whether they can just do the FMD themselves at home. I always answer the question by first reminding people that half of my program, the everyday Longevity Diet part, consists of foods that can be purchased in any supermarket and does not require supervision or specially formulated products. The Longevity Diet alone will help prevent and treat many diseases, and will also reduce the recommended frequency of the FMD. That said, when it comes to the FMD, after years of experience with patients doing it in different ways—with the product and without; under supervision and not—I’ve concluded that it should really be done with the clinically tested product and preferably under the supervision of a registered dietitian or physician. Although all ingredients are completely safe, fasting and FMDs have powerful effects that can be turned against aging and diseases but that can also result in side effects, in some cases severe. The use of the clinically tested product, along with the right screening and supervision, will guarantee maximum safety and efficacy. (The great majority of experts recommend that prolonged fasting periods—anything more than one day—be done only in clinics under the supervision of specialized medical personnel.) The clinically tested ProLon FMD will allow most people to do the diet at home. If you are healthy and have the means and access to consult a registered dietitian before undertaking the FMD, especially for the first time, it is strongly recommended that you do so. If you have been diagnosed with a disease, you must have the approval of your doctor. You can find information and specialists on L-Nutra’s website.

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EPub July 15, 2019

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