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The Longevity Diet

Book Review

The Longevity Diet
By Brian M. Delaney and Lisa Walford
Da Capo Press (2005)
Reviewed by Malena Perdomo, RD, CDE, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Spokesperson

Claims

The Longevity Diet was written by Brian Delaney, president of the nonprofit Calorie Restriction Society, and Lisa Walford co-author of The Anti-Aging Plan. Walford is the daughter of the late Dr. Roy L. Walford, author of Beyond the 120-Year Diet. Dr. Walford was a gerontology researcher and founder of the CR society.

This book uses data from studies on laboratory mice to draw the conclusion that a reduced-calorie diet is the only proven way to slow the aging process and maintain peak vitality. The authors acknowledge "there is no absolute certainty that the longevity diet in humans will slow the aging process until the year 2100." But why wait? The authors recommend starting now to avoid diseases that are related with aging such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Diet Plan

There is basically no diet plan or meal plan to follow. The authors recommend healthy fats, olive and canola oil, 40 to 60 grams of fiber per day and seven to nine servings of fruits and vegetables. They recommend whole grain and calcium yet no specific amounts are stated. The Longevity Diet recommends intake of low-GI (glycemic index) foods that are rich in nutrients and low in calories which it claims can slow the effects of aging. They do not eliminate protein, carbohydrates or fat but do want to eliminate empty-calorie foods. In the beginning of the book they state the goal of this diet is to live longer, not weight loss or be thin. Later in the book it states this diet offers three approaches:

  • Weight watching: Plan to lower your body weight by 10 to 25 percent, slowly over the course of several months.
  • Calorie counting: The approach is to focus on how many calories you are eating instead of your weight. The authors recommend reducing your calorie intake to 2,000 per day and to keep checking with your doctor. No lower caloric limit is presented in the book.
  • Health markers: Get tested every two or three months while on the program to see the health benefits of eating less.

There is a chapter about exercise that promotes aerobics, weight bearing exercise and resistance training. Yoga is also recommended. However, the authors specify the longevity diet and not exercise the one factor that will slow the aging process.

The authors say this diet is also known by other names and that we will be hearing more about the diet once there is more research. Other names are The High-Low Diet, The Walford Diet, Calorie Restriction or the CR diet, CRON (calorie restriction with optimal nutrition), CRAN (calorie restriction with adequate nutrition), CRL (calorie restriction for longevity) as well as The Longevity Diet.

Nutritional Pros and Cons

It appears there is a moderate and an extreme version of the CR diet or longevity diet. The book has several stories of CR followers and how they manage to overcome hunger and improve their health. Some of their diets are low in calcium and very low in calories. Meal plans can consist of skipping breakfast, fasting, eating three meals, grazing on small meals throughout the day or eating one meal a day. The authors stress it will all depend on your lifestyle. One example given was a person from the CR society with diabetes who consumes one meal a day at 6 p.m. to control his blood sugar levels.

The authors strongly recommend in many parts of the book to consult with your doctor before starting the CR program. They do not recommend the diet if you are pregnant, not fully grown or have a history of an eating disorders. The authors present a table of the difference between the Longevity Diet and anorexia. They try hard to distinguish themselves from eating disorders throughout the book by saying their diet goal is for health and not weight loss and there is a separate concept between calorie restriction (CR) vs. food restriction (anorexia). If you are over 60 years of age, the authors recommend checking with your doctor before starting the Longevity Diet program.

Resources are limited to three Web sites: CR society, Dr. Walford's Web site and NutriBase Nutrition Software.

Bottom Line

The Longevity Diet emphasizes healthy nutrient-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables and the reduction of empty calories while not falling short on essential vitamins and nutrients. However, there is no evidence the aging process slows down during food restriction or as they say calorie restriction. Watching your calories can be good for healthful living, but there is a fine line between restrictive diets and eating disorders. It is not only a matter of understanding calories but also understanding the basics of nutrition - that the human body needs a ratio of carbohydrates, protein and fat and you must maintain the balance of calories-in/calories-out to attain and sustain ideal body weight.

February 2006