Health and longevity
Luigi Fontana, Professor in Medicine and Nutrition at the Sydney University presented the most riveting topic at the Lymphology Conference in Hobart. It resonated with me because he believes that a controlled diet and lifestyle interventions are the key to longevity and to reduce chronic conditions inherent to ageing, in fact also increasing health span.
The conversation from chronic disease needs to shift to chronic health needs. There is evidence that an ageing, sedentary, sleep deprived and psychologically challenged population consuming hypercaloric diets rich in animal and ultra-processed food is responsible for cardiovascular diseases. It appears that despite the spectacular advancements in pharmacological and interventional treatments, these diseases remain the leading cause of morbidity, disability, and premature death worldwide. The costs to treat these issues are unsustainable in all healthcare systems. (1)
We only have to look at the list of medical complications, which can develop due to obesity, to understand what our diet and lifestyle does to our body. Many conditions such as psychological distress, stroke, pulmonary diseases, sleep apnoea, pancreatitis, non-alcoholic liver disease, gall bladder distress, cancer, gout, hypertension, cataracts, coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, gynaecologic abnormalities, osteoarthritis, phlebitis, and lymphoedema are amongst them.
Professor Fontana discussed the possibility for these "metabolic disorders" to be reversible and presented results from randomized clinical trials with lifestyle interventions such as calorie restriction and exercise. They showed that all cardiometabolic risk factors improved simultaneously, type 2 diabetes cases were in remission, insulin sensitivity and ageing risk factors too (2). Other trials that involved rodents on a calorie restriction diet resulted in an increase of their life span without chronic age-related conditions. (3)
He also presented the result of a study conducted over 32 years and 74582 participants, which was looking at body weight, height or Body Mass Index (BMI), and lifestyle factors. It concluded that people with a BMI between 18.5 and 22.4 with a high score on the healthy eating index, high level of physical activity, moderate alcohol drinking, and who do not smoke have a lower risk of premature mortality. (4)
Professor Fontana is credited for conducting the foundational research that resulted in the popular 5:2 diet, which consists of intermittent fasting on two non-consecutive days in a week, and exercising regularly. This diet is not recommended for the young or the elderly. In fact, no one should embark on a diet without understanding the implications, so please talk to your professional. (5)
Healthy eating is a way of life. It is important to establish routines that are simple, realistic, and achievable. Afterall, you cannot think but pleasant thoughts while eating fresh, homegrown fruit and vegetable, enjoying sunshine and breathing fresh air.
(1) Cassidy, S., Hunyor, I., Wilcox, I., & Fontana, L. (2022, September 21). Changing the conversation from ‘chronic disease’ to ‘chronic health". Oxford Academic, Volume 43 Pages 708–711,(8), 708-711. doi:https://doi.org/10.1093/eurheartj/ehab633
(2) Fontana , L., & Partridge, L. (2015, March 26). Promoting health and longevity through diet: from model organisms to humans. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2015.02.020
(3)Fontana, L., Kennedy, B., & D. Longo, V. (2014). CLINICAL STUDIES Prepare for human testing. Retrieved from Mcmillan Publishers Limited: https://www.nature.com/articles/511405a.pdf
(4) Fontana, P. L. (2020, July 19). Longevity's beautiful symphony. Retrieved June 6, 2022, from Live Long Master Ageing: http://www.llamapodcast.com/luigi-fontana/
Veronese, N., Li, Y., Manson, J. E., Willett, W. C., Fontana, L., & Hu, F. B. (2016, November 24. Combined associations of body weight and lifestyle factors with all cause and cause specific mortality in men and women: prospective cohort study. doi:https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.i5855
(5) Willis, O. (2019, August 2019). Calorie restriction kicks us into preservation. Retrieved June 13, 2022, from ABC Health & Wellbeing: https://www.abc.net.au/news/health/2019-08-16/how-do-you-stay-younger-for-longer/11418630#:~:text=Professor%20Fontana%20has%20been%20credited,diet%20the%20other%20five%20days .