According to longevity researchers, when you eat may be more important than what you eat for boosting your long-term health and extending your life span.
Valter Longo studies human longevity in his native region of southern Italy, where an unusually large population of 100-year-old people reside.
The local Centenarians tell Longo that they have always enjoyed a simple, balanced diet of fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, fish, olive oil, and whole grains. This diet is known as the Mediterranean Diet.
They also tell Longo of periods in their lives when they didn't have much to eat at all. They lived through periods of relative starvation during WWII, economic downturns, or other hardships.
Which got Longo thinking, what if restricting calories can trick our bodies into being healthier?
Longo has conducted studies on mice of what he calls a "fasting-mimicking diet" or FMD. In his mice, the FMD:
extends lifespan, revitalizes the immune system, and lowers the incidence of cancer. The diet also improved learning and memory in older mice, delayed cognitive decline in mice bred to develop Alzheimer’s, and improved the efficacy of cancer treatment. (Smith)
Okay, sure, the "fasting-mimicking diet" of crackers, olives, soups, tea, and supplemental vitamins may work in mice, but what about people?
Longo ran a small study involving 71 healthy adults. They ate his "FMD food kits" for five days a month, three months in a row. The results were impressive:
It reduced body fat, body weight, blood pressure, glucose, and C-reactive protein—all good things for staving off heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and other chronic ailments. The people at highest risk for these conditions improved the most.
Other researchers agree that periodic fasting can benefit one's health in many ways. Fasting could be for an entire day, or one might skip lunch and eat a later breakfast and earlier dinner.
However one does it, thinking about what one eats seems to be as significant as thinking about what one eats.