[book] The Longevity Diet

Book summary

July 20, 2019

My quick takeaways on this book, written by Valter Longo, an Italian-born biogerontologist and cell biologist who for decades has studied longevity at the University of Southern California. Because his dietary advice is often at odds with other seemingly-scientific and well-proven research, he specifies his own criterion up front, using a methodology of “Five Pillars”. Unless a dietary recommendation is held up by all five of these criteria, don’t recommend it.

Here’s the bottom line. His research shows that the best diet for lifelong health is one based on lower protein and higher amounts of complex carbohydrates:

The Longevity Diet

This is his 8-point summary.

  1. Follow a pescetarian diet.

  2. Consume low but sufficient proteins. Consume 0.31 to 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. (for me, that’s 50-60g/day)

  3. Minimize bad fats and sugars, and maximize good fats and complex carbs.

    your diet should be rich in good unsaturated fats, such as those found in olive oil, salmon, almonds, and walnuts, but as low as possible in saturated, hydrogenated, and trans fats. Likewise, the diet should be rich in complex carbohydrates, such as those provided by whole bread, legumes, and vegetables, but low in sugars and limited in pasta, rice, bread, fruit, and fruit juices, which are easily converted into sugars by the time they reach the intestine.

  4. Be nourished. As extra insurance, take a multivitamin and mineral pill, plus an omega-3 fish oil soft gel every two or three days.

  5. Eat a variety of foods from your ancestry

  6. Eat twice a day plus a snack.

  7. Observe time-restricted eating, confining all meals and snacks to within eleven to twelve hours or less a day.

  8. Practice periodic prolonged fasting, five days of FMD every one to six months


  1. Walk fast for an hour every day.
  2. Take the stairs instead of escalators and elevators.
  3. On the weekend, walk everywhere, even faraway places (avoid polluted areas as much as you can).
  4. Do moderate exercise for 2½ to 5 hours a week, with some of it in the vigorous range. Most of the beneficial effects appear to be caused by the first 2.5 hours of exercise, making the additional exercise optional.
  5. Use weight training or weight-free exercises to strengthen all muscles.
  6. To maximize muscle growth, consume at least 30 grams of protein in a single meal one to two hours after a relatively intense weight-training session.


FMD seems to help greatly with chemotherapy. For people with high risk of cancer, he recommends the FMD plus

Discuss with your oncologist the option of taking 6 grams of vitamin C or Ester-C® daily for a few weeks every 6 months. Multiple studies have demonstrated vitamin C to possess cancer-fighting properties, although its effectiveness in preventing cancer is controversial. Either way, vitamin C taken for a few weeks every 6 months at this level is not known to have major side effects, and the patient and doctor could consider continuing high-level vitamin C consumption for longer periods.


Same advice, but he points out a simple way to improve your pasta eating:

Option A (wrong choice 5.3 oz. pasta (540 calories) + 5.3 oz. cheese (550 calories) + 2 oz. sauce (20 calories)

Option B (right choice) 1.4 oz. pasta (about 140 calories) + 14 oz. garbanzo beans (soaked and drained, about 330 calories) + 11 oz. mixed vegetables (about 210 calories) + 0.5 oz. olive oil (120 calories)

The book includes a summary of how the Mediterranean Diet differs from the Longevity Diet

Differences between diets
Food Mediterranean Longevity
Olive oil High High
Legumes High High
Unrefined cereals High High
Fruits High Low until old age, then higher
Cheese Moderate Absent/very low
Yogurt Moderate Low until age 65–70, then moderate
Wine Moderate Moderate
Meat & meat products Low Absent/very low
Milk Low Absent/very low
Eggs Low Absent/very low until age 65–70, then moderate
Butter Low Absent/very low
Protein levels Not addressed Low until age 65–70, then moderate
General food consumption Not addressed Normal until age 65–70, then sufficient to maintain a healthy muscle mass
Time-restricted feeding Not addressed 11–12 hr eating window central to plan

Cardiovascular Diet

  1. No: red meat, poultry, or other meats (excluding fish)
  2. No: dairy
  3. Yes: fish
  4. Yes: large amounts of vegetables (best if organic)
  5. Yes: legumes, including beans, lentils, garbanzo beans, peas (best if organic)
  6. Yes: whole grains, including pasta and bread, but less than 100 grams per day
  7. Yes: fruits, but only one or two a day (e.g., one apple or orange, two handfuls of blueberries, blackberries, or strawberries)
  8. Yes: olive oil (about 80 grams per day)
  9. Yes: nuts (about 30 grams a day of walnuts, almonds, or hazelnuts)
  10. Limit all eating to eleven to twelve hours a day (e.g., between 8 a.m. and 7 or 8 p.m. only).
  11. Limit meals to twice a day plus a low-sugar, high-fiber snack with fewer than 100 calories, if you are above BMI 25.
  12. Limit sugar to less than 10 grams per day.

Alzheimers Prevention

  1. Adopt the Longevity Diet and the periodic FMD.
  2. Incorporate plenty of olive oil (50 milliliters per day) and nuts (30 grams per day).
  3. Drink coffee. For people at relatively low risk of AD, keep it to one or two cups a day; for people at high risk, drink up to three or four cups a day. Speak to your doctor if you have problems.
  4. Take 40 milliliters of coconut oil per day but consider potential heart disease risk (people with or at risk for cardiovascular disease should not use coconut oil).
  5. Avoid saturated fats and trans fats.
  6. Avoid all animal-based products with the exception of low-mercury fish and cheese or other dairy products from goat’s milk.
  7. Follow a high-nourishment diet containing omega-3, B vitamins, and vitamins C, D, and E.
  8. Take a multivitamin and mineral every day.