Eating more carbohydrates, less protein, and fasting may extend lifespan, a new paper suggests.
Co-author Valter Longo is a longevity expert who designs diets for celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow.
There is evidence that plant-based carbohydrates are healthy. Fasting has mixed evidence and side effects.
An article published Thursday in the journal Cell suggests that if you want to live as long as possible, you may want to cut back on protein, eat more carbohydrates, and fast regularly, sometimes for days at a time.
Diets high in plant carbohydrates and fats, and low in meat and processed foods may be longevity best choice.
Longo is also the founder of a company that sells “fasting-mimicking” meal kits and meal plans designed to provide the benefits of fasting by severely restricting calories but allowing small amounts of specific foods. Celebrity fans of Longo and his diet plan include Gwyneth Paltrow.
While fasting and other diets are often associated with weight loss, Longo believes they are also important for long-term health.
“The macrobiotic diet is not a dietary restriction just for weight loss, but a lifestyle focused on slowing down the aging process,” he said in a press release.
Macrobiotic diets are high in carbohydrates, low in protein, and primarily plant-based.
The researchers describe an optimal diet for life extension that relies primarily on plant-based carbohydrates, such as beans, whole grains, and vegetables, and about 30 percent of your daily calories from healthy fats, such as nuts, olive oil, some black Chocolate and fish.
They also recommend avoiding red and processed meats, as well as refined grains and added sugars, and minimizing white meats like poultry. Recent research shows that swapping out processed foods and meats for more whole foods and plants can increase your life span by as much as 10 years.
The recommendations are also similar to the traditional diets of so-called blue zones, where people are thought to live the longest and healthiest.
The researchers also suggest that restricting protein intake may help prolong life. Based on studies in humans and animals, there is some evidence that consuming large amounts of protein and amino acids may accelerate biological processes, such as the production of certain hormones, which may accelerate aging.
The researchers also recommend intermittent fasting and multi-day fasting
The article also suggests that when you eat — not just what — can make a difference in lifespan. To optimize health, researchers recommend eating 11-12 hours a day and fasting the rest of the day.
Known as intermittent fasting, this limited dietary window has been studied extensively to determine whether it has weight loss and health benefits, although the findings have been mixed.
Regularly fasting for several days at a time or following a diet that mimics fasting may also be beneficial, the researchers said.
They recommend a five-day fast every three to four months, and cite evidence from human and animal models that long-term fasting may reduce inflammation and improve blood sugar control, thereby contributing to a longer healthy lifespan.
Some experts believe the side effects of low protein and fasting aren’t worth the potential benefits
Not everyone agrees that fasting and skimping on protein is a good idea.
Nutritionist Robb Wolf previously told Insider that fasting, especially for multiple days in a row, can have side effects such as muscle loss, drowsiness, and hunger.
Staying active and eating most whole foods in moderation is a well-researched and safe way to improve your health and life, he says.
“There are things that might be as effective or better than calorie restriction, and I think they’re much less effective,” Wolf said.