Longevity via a Whole-Food, Unprocessed, Plant-based Diet

People who improve the quality of their diets over time, eating more whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, spices, and fish and less red and processed meats and sugary beverages, may significantly reduce their risk of premature death.

A whole-food plant-based diet (avoid (vegan) junk food) is the optimal diet for humans.  A diet of minimally processed foods close to nature, predominantly plants, is decisively associated with health promotion and disease prevention and is consistent with the salient components of seemingly distinct dietary approaches.

eating veggies in a buddha bowl

A whole food, unprocessed plant-based diet is a high-fiber diet. Just under 135 million person-years of data from 185 prospective studies and 58 clinical trials with 4635 adult participants showed a 15-30% decrease in all-cause and cardiovascular related mortality, and incidence of coronary heart disease, stroke incidence and mortality, type 2 diabetes, and colorectal cancer when comparing the highest dietary fibre consumers with the lowest consumers Clinical trials show significantly lower bodyweight, systolic blood pressure, and total cholesterol when comparing higher with lower intakes of dietary fibre. Fiber pills can create problems.

Whole, plant-based foods are a mainstay of the longevity diet created by Dr. Valter Longo.

A sustained change from a typical Western diet to the optimal diet from age 20 years would increase LE by more than a decade for women from the United States (10.7 years) and men (13.0 years). The largest gains would be made by eating more legumes. Changing from a typical diet to the optimized diet at age 60 years would increase LE by 8.0 years for women and 8.8 years for men, and 80-year-olds would gain 3.4 years. (The definition of “optimized diet” here is less than, for instance, nutritarian, so greater longevity gains are possible.)

A study of 12,168 middle-aged adults showed that diets higher in plant foods and lower in animal foods were associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality in a general population.

A study of 71,000 middle-aged Japanese adults followed for 20 years found that those who ate the most plant protein were 13 percent less likely to die during the study. They were also 16 percent less likely to die of cardiovascular causes.

A study of 73,308 participants during a mean follow-up time of 5.79 years showed that vegetarian diets are associated with lower all-cause mortality and with some reductions in cause-specific mortality.

A meta-analysis of 86 cross-sectional and 10 cohort prospective studies found a significant protective effect of a vegetarian diet versus the incidence and/or mortality from ischemic heart disease (-25%) and incidence from total cancer (-8%). Vegan diet conferred a significant reduced risk (-15%) of incidence from total cancer.

Burrito Bowl

A low-protein plant-based diet works via lower IGF-1 activation.

From Kaiser: Insulin-like growth factor-1 is a hormone naturally found in animals, including humans. This hormone promotes growth. When IGF-1 is consumed, not only is the added exogenous dose itself taken in, but because the amino acid profile typical of animal protein stimulates the body’s production of IGF-1, more is generated endogenously. Fostering growth as a full-grown adult can promote cancer proliferation.

Kaiser’s summary of the benefits of a plant-based diet.

Vegan salad.

A plant-based diet heavy in fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes can:

  • Reduce the risk of developing metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes by about 50 percent.
  • Reduce the risk of coronary heart disease events by an estimated 40 percent.
  • Reduce the risk of cerebral vascular disease events by 29 percent.
  • Reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by more than 50 percent.

A plant-based diet is part of the Blue Zones dietary pattern. In the case of Sardinia, genetics may also play a role in longevity.

Vegan diets are especially low in methionine which is highest in red meat, eggs, and dairy, and methionine restriction independently increases lifespan and causes some of the same health benefits as vegan diets such as cancer protection. Restricting the amino acid methionine in the diet produces immediate and lasting improvements in nearly every biomarker of metabolic health.

The chronic consumption of acidogenic diets abundant in animal-based foods (meats, dairy, cheese and eggs) poses a substantial challenge to the human body’s buffering capacities and chronic retention of acid wherein the progressive loss of bicarbonate stores can cause cellular and tissue damage. An elevated dietary acid load (DAL) has been associated with systemic inflammation and other adverse metabolic conditions.

A plant-based diet may reduce oxidative damage and genomic instability. Kiwifruit provides a dual protection against oxidative DNA damage, enhancing antioxidant levels and stimulating DNA repair. Gene sets related to DNA repair, hypoxia, apoptosis and immune processes are significantly upregulated by a complex antioxidant-rich diet or by kiwifruits. A 3-fold increase in the expression of the Magnesium superoxide dismutase gene was found in the vegetarian group compared with an age-matched omnivores group. Data from numerous cell culture and animal models indicate that berry components such as the anthocyanins are potent anticarcinogenic agents and are protective against genomic instability.

Folic acid is added to ultra-processed foods like mass-produced bread and breakfast cereals. High dietary folic acid intake is associated with genomic instability. Folate from plant foods is not a genomic instability problem.

A plant-based diet can lower blood pressure. A plant-based diet supplies antioxidants that, unlike pills, work! Epidemiological studies have established a positive correlation between the intake of fruits and vegetables and prevention of diseases thought to be caused by oxidative damage.

Polyphenols

A quality plant-based diet features polyphenols, Polyphenols overtake dietary vitamin C and vitamin E for disease prevention.

Polyphenols are best preserved by steaming or microwaving colorful veggies
Polyphenols mop up damaging free radicals (better than pills)
Polyphenols act via activation of the Nrf2 transcription factor. Lots of phytochemicals do this.

Polyphenols from green tea initially increase oxidative stress in the short term, but that this has the subsequent effect of increasing the defensive capabilities of the cells and the organism. As a result, the catechins in green tea led to longer life and greater fitness in nematodes that were fed to them.

Stay way from green tea extract: At a certain concentration, green tea extract becomes toxic. High-dose catechins inhibit mitochondria to such an extent that cell death ensues, which can be particularly dangerous in the liver. Anyone consuming these polyphenols in excessive doses risks damaging their organs. Black tea, on the other hand, contains a much lower level of catechins, since these are largely destroyed by the fermentation process.


Anthocyanins, a type of polyphenol, from dark foods such a purple grapes and blueberries support memory acquisition and consolidation via improving the flexiblity of blood vessels and blood flow to the brain.

Apigenin, from parsley, celery, and other foods improves neuron formation and strengthens the connections between brain cells. Apigenin may have neuroprotective/disease-modifying properties in various neurodegenerative disorders including Alzheimer’s.

Stilbenes

There is convincing data that stilbene compounds, a diverse group of natural defence phenolics, abundant in grapes and berries, may confer a protective effect against aging-related diseases.

Berries can lower oxidative stress and inflammation or directly by altering the signaling involved in neuronal communication, calcium buffering ability, neuroprotective stress shock proteins, plasticity, and stress signaling pathways. Berries are neuroprotective and lower neuroinflammation. Greater intakes of blueberries and strawberries were associated with slower rates of cognitive decline in 16,010 nurses, aged ≥70 years. Berry polyphenols such as pterostilbene and anthocyanins are especially beneficial. Berries also promote autophagy, the brain’s natural housekeeping mechanism

Pterostilbene (trans-3,5-dimethoxy-4-hydroxystilbene) is a natural dietary compound and the primary antioxidant component of blueberries. It has increased bioavailability in comparison to other stilbene compounds, which may enhance its dietary benefit and possibly contribute to a valuable clinical effect. The antioxidant activity of pterostilbene has been implicated in anticarcinogenesis, modulation of neurological disease, anti-inflammation, attenuation of vascular disease, and amelioration of diabetes.

Amazon.com: BLUEBERRIES FRESH PRODUCE FRUIT VEGETABLES PINT 10 OZ : Grocery & Gourmet Food


There is significant cell, animal, and human data supporting the idea that urolithin A increases mitophagy. Mitophagy is a process by which damaged mitochondria are removed from the cell, thus promoting the growth and maintenance of healthy mitochondria.

Urolithin A (UA) is produced endogenously by human gut bacteria exposed to dietary polyphenolic compounds that include ellagic acid (EA) and ellagitannins (ET), such as punicalagin [1]. These polyphenolic precursors are found widely in fruits (pomegranate and certain berries) and nuts (walnuts and pecans). UA producers were distinguished by a significantly higher gut microbiome diversity. This gut health post may be applicable. Here are ellagic acid sources:

Black raspberry, raw Graph38.00mg/100g            
Blackberry, raw Graph43.67mg/100g            
Cloudberry Graph15.30mg/100g            
Red raspberry, raw Graph2.12mg/100g            
Strawberry, raw Graph1.24mg/100g

Plant-based protein sources.

Spermidine is a naturally occurring polyamine essential for life. Spermidine could represent a new preventive agent in our fight against aging. Spermidine cleans the cells via autophagy and could potentially prolong lifespan. Spermidine may help prevent liver cancer. Spermidine may promote cardiovascular health.

Spermidine is most concentrated in vegetable sprouts, closely followed by mushrooms. More details on spermidine are available in this video by Dr. Brad Stanfield. Dr Stanfield then points out that spermidine supplements did not raise blood spermidine level in mice.

Higher lutein, zeaxanthin (from dark green leafy veggies), and vitamin C concentrations in plasma are associated with longer leukocyte telomere length (LTL) in elderly adults. This suggests a protective role of these vitamins in telomere maintenance.

Lycopene is a bioactive red colored pigment naturally occurring in plants. Lycopene-rich foods are inversely associated to diseases such as cancers, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and others.

Vitamin K vs. all-cause mortality – easily got from dark green leafy veggies. Vitamin K has been shown to act as an anti-inflammatory by suppressing nuclear factor κB (NF-κB) signal transduction and to exert a protective effect against oxidative stress by blocking the generation of reactive oxygen species. Available clinical evidences indicate that a high vitamin K status can exert a protective role in the inflammatory and mineralization processes associated with the onset and progression of age-related diseases. When forced to ration scarce vitamin K for its critical role in blood clotting, the body produces fewer enzymes required for keeping arteries clear, which has been linked to higher rates of mortality from cardiovascular disease.

A little K2 is made from vitamin K (MK-4) by bacteria in the colon. Synthesized MK-4 is bound to the membranes of bacteria in the gut and very little is absorbed in humans. MK-7 is best absorbed – available from natto or supplements.

Legumes, including beans, chickpeas, and lentils, are among the lowest glycemic index (GI) foods and have been recommended in national diabetes mellitus (DM) guidelines. Legumes may help lower blood sugar. Dr. Gil Carvalho, touts beans in this video.

plant based diet

Spinach-derived phytochemicals and bioactives are able to (i) scavenge reactive oxygen species and prevent macromolecular oxidative damage, (ii) modulate expression and activity of genes involved in metabolism, proliferation, inflammation, and antioxidant defence, and (iii) curb food intake by inducing secretion of satiety hormones. These biological activities contribute to the anti-cancer, anti-obesity, hypoglycemic, and hypolipidemic properties of spinach.

Strawberry intake increases blood fluid, erythrocyte and mononuclear cell defenses against oxidative challenge.

Sulforaphane to the rescue!

Sulforaphane causes prostate cancer cell death. Sulforaphane induces detoxication enzymes to prevent cancer. Sulforaphane induces apoptosis, inhibits metastasis, and inhibits angiogenesis. Acts as a histone deacetylase inhibitor, providing DNA protection. Sulforaphane inhibits extracellular, intracellular, and antibiotic-resistant strains of Helicobacter pylori and prevents benzo[a]pyrene-induced stomach tumors.

Sulforaphane enhances natural killer cell activity and other markers of enhanced immune function. Ingestion of sulforaphane-containing broccoli sprouts reduces markers of viral load in the nose. Sulforphane enhances natural killer cell activity and other markers of enhanced immune function. NF-κB expression is downregulated by sulforaphane.

Person holds Brussels sprouts in their hand

Sulforaphane may be used in the treatment of neurodegenerative disease, including Alzheimer’s disease (AD), Parkinson’s disease (PD), and multiple sclerosis (MS). 

By virtue of its lipophilic nature and low molecular weight, sulforaphane displays significantly higher bioavailability than the polyphenol-based dietary supplements that also activate Nrf2. Nrf2 activation induces cytoprotective genes such as those playing key roles in cellular defense mechanisms including redox status and detoxification. Sulforphane increases blood glutathione and increases glutathione in parts of the brain. A combination of cruciferous sprouts may offer even more sulforaphane:

An external file that holds a picture, illustration, etc. Object name is 10068_2018_347_Fig1_HTML.jpg

Glutathione is a critical factor in protecting organisms against toxicity and disease.


Randomized controlled trials have not shown any benefit for beta-carotene supplements. Therefore, carotenoids other than beta-carotene may contribute to the reduction in disease risk, and their effects on risk of disease merit investigation. This study of 15,318 adults showed thatthe risk for dying was lower with higher levels of alpha-carotene in the blood. Serum α-carotene concentrations were inversely associated with risk of death from all causes, CVD, cancer, and all other causes.

Heart Health

Plant-based diets containing higher amounts of healthy foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, oils, tea, and coffee are associated with lower cardiovascular disease risk. However, plant-based diets including higher amounts of less healthy plant foods, such as refined grains, potatoes/fries, and foods and beverages high in added sugar, are linked to increased CVD risk.

c92020e0-e209-403d-a334-2b544b03a9d4

 

Lifelong intake of lemon polyphenols in mice prolonged the lifespan by approximately 3 weeks and delayed increases in aging-related scores and locomotor atrophy.

Oleic acid in olive oil, walnuts, and avocado is 10-100 times more potent than resveratrol at activating SIRT1. Increasing level of SIRT1 protein regulates some disease related conditions such as obesity, cardiovascular diseases and neurodegeneration.

Data on more than 90,000 people from the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study showed that swapping out the butter or other artery-clogging fats in your diet for heart-healthy olive oil may add years to your life.

A higher sodium-potassium ratio is associated with significantly increased risk of CVD and all-cause mortality, and higher sodium intake is associated with increased total mortality in the general US population.


Happiness and flourishing via a plant-based diet

This study of 281 young adults found that eating fruit and vegetables may promote emotional well-being among healthy young adults.

One food group that has received increasing attention with regard to psychological health is fruits and vegetables. This is probably a result of the strong evidence base, which exists in relation to their protective association with a number of chronic diseases, as well as the fact that they are a rich source of some of the nutrients which have been linked to psychological health.

In cross-sectional data, happiness and mental health rise in an approximately dose-response way with the number of daily portions of fruit and vegetables. The pattern is remarkably robust to adjustment for a large number of other demographic, social and economic variables. Well-being peaks at approximately 7 portions per day.

The more we learn about food and the connection between nutrition and overall health, the more we realise the truth in this old saying. Picture: Pexels/The Lazy Artist Gallery

This study of 405 young adults (67% women; mean age 19.9) showed that eating fruits and vegetables (FV) is related to greater eudaemonic well-being in a naturalistic setting. Eating FV was also related to greater self-reported curiosity and creativity. FV consumption may underlie a broad range of experiences that signal flourishing.

More frequent consumption of vegetables seems to be protective against depressive symptoms in the elderly.

It goes the other way, also: a positive mood increases the salience of long-term goals such as health, leading to greater preference for healthy foods over indulgent foods. 

By Otto

I am a health enthusiast, engineer, and maker.

3 comments

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *