Longevity, Magazine

Valter Longo and the mock fast

Valter Longo

Valter Longo is an Italian-American biochemist known for his research on the biological mechanisms of ageing and the effects of fasting and diet on health and longevity. He is a professor at the University of Southern California (USC ) and directs the Longevity Institute at USC. Longo was born in Genoa, Italy, and has attracted attention with his book "The Longevity Diet". In this article, we show you what the mid-fifties-year-old does every day to extend his healthspan and the scientific findings behind his diet.

What is Valter Longo researching?

In his search for the secrets of the "Blue Zones", where people lived to an unusually old age, Valter Longo has focused on the interaction between cells and our diet. In particular, he concentrates on how special diets that mimic fasting can influence the ageing process and reduce the risk of age-related diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and neurodegenerative disorders. His work has led to the development of the so-called "fasting mimicking diet" (FMD), also known as sham fasting, which aims to provide the benefits of fasting without having to give up food completely.

Valter Longo and nutrition

Valter Longo has devoted a large part of his research to the interaction between our diet and our health. To this end, he includes studies of small organisms such as flies, worms and yeasts, as well as studies on mammals and humans. According to him, there are two metabolic pathways that are influenced by our diet:

The protein-endocrine axis

The protein-endocrine axis describes the relationship between the intake of proteins and certain amino acids such as methionine and the influence of hormones that control growth and aging, in particular growth hormone (GH) and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1).

  • High protein intake and IGF-1: Diets with an increased protein content can increase IGF-1 levels in the body, which in animal models, such as rodents, leads to a shortened lifespan, as IGF-1 has a pro-ageing effect.
  • Reduction of proteins: A reduction in protein intake leads to a significant reduction in IGF-1 levels and an increase in inhibitors of IGF-1 signaling, which can prolong life.
  • Genetic mutations and longevity: Mutations affecting growth genes in mice (e.g. deficiencies in growth hormone or its receptors) show a 35%-50% increase in lifespan. Such genetic changes reduce the circulating IGF-1 levels and thus have a central influence on growth and ageing.
  • Protection against disease: Mice with deficits in the growth hormone signaling chain show a longer lifespan as well as a lower tendency to insulin resistance and cognitive decline in old age.

Please note: We need proteins to survive. Reducing protein is not advisable in all cases. Even if animal studies have shown that it prolongs life, you should make sure that you do not fall below the minimum amount of protein of 0.8g per kg of body weight, otherwise there is a risk of muscle loss, which is more difficult to reverse, especially in old age.

Mtor Gh Igf1 Fasting paths

The sugar-endocrine axis

In addition to too much protein, sugar in particular is suspected of accelerating ageing and thus shortening the health span. Two of the molecular pathways are according to Valter Longo:

  • Insulin release: Glucose leads to the release of insulin, a hormone that regulates glucose metabolism. Increased insulin production caused by high sugar intake can activate pro-ageing signaling pathways in cells. This is consistent with observations in the yeast S. cerevisiae, where glucose accelerates ageing by similar mechanisms. It can also lead to insulin resistance.
  • Direct activation of signaling pathways: In addition to its role in insulin secretion, glucose can also directly activate certain cellular signaling pathways associated with aging. For example, glucose can activate mTORC1, an important cellular center for growth and metabolism. mTORC1 is activated by dihydroxyacetone phosphate (DHAP), an intermediate of glycolysis.

Valter Longo and fasting

Based on his extensive research into the relationship between nutrition and health, Valter Longo has developed a number of principles for himself (and others). True to Hippocrates' saying "let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food", he has adapted his diet to his research findings. For him, this means that he eats a mainly vegan diet (with the exception of fish for his omega-3 supply) and followshis own fasting regime three to five days a month. Fasting has already proven to be effective in several studies, as it has a positive effect on the protein-endocrine axis, but also on the sugar-endocrine axis. You can find out more about the molecular mechanisms behind fasting in our fasting-article.

Did you know?

Valter Longo is a big fan of almonds. His favorite breakfast is almond butter on wholemeal bread. Almonds are a real "superfood". Even if this term is used rather inflationarily for food, almonds have a number of positive properties. They are rich in healthy fats and with 22g they are a strong source of vegetable protein. In addition, they can influence blood lipid levels by lowering the 'bad' LDL and raising the 'good' HDL. They can help with blood sugar regulation and, last but not least, almonds can have a positive effect on the microbiome. As a prebiotic, almonds promote the growth of healthy bifidobacteria.

According to Valter Longo, almonds offer a range of health benefits. Roasted almonds are best, as they contain a higher proportion of healthy polyphenols.

The Valter Longo nutrition plan

Valter Longo's nutrition plan is based on his research. You should always personally assess whether it is right for you. He has summarized some of his basic principles on his website:

  • Eat a mainly vegan diet and occasionally some fish with a high omega 3 content.
  • Drink a lot, tea and coffee are also fine
  • Keep your protein intake low if you are under 65. Depending on your body weight, between 40 and 70 grams per day
  • As little saturated fat as possible from animal and vegetable sources
  • Get as many phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals as possible from your diet. If this does not work in sufficient quantities, supplement them
  • Depending on body weight, 3 or only 2 meals a day and no sugary snacks
  • Eat in a 12 hour window and no food 3 to 4 hours before bedtime
  • If possible: fasting once a month

Mock fasting or the fasting-mimicking diet (FMD) according to Valter Longo

Once a month, Valter Longo practices his diet, also known as the "fasting mimicking diet" (FMD) or mock fasting. It is designed to mimic the positive effects of fasting while continuing to eat a certain amount of food. There are a few things to bear in mind:

  • Calorie reduction: The diet consists of a sharp reduction in calorie intake for a fixed period, usually for five consecutive days per month. Typically, about 34-54% of the normal daily calorie intake is consumed during this period.
  • Plant-based: The diet during the diet is mainly plant-based and contains a balanced mix of carbohydrates, fats and proteins.
  • Micronutrient-rich: The diet is rich in nutrients to avoid deficiency symptoms during fasting periods and to support the body. Vitamins, minerals and antioxidants are the basis for this.
  • Periodic fasting: The diet is not carried out continuously, but at certain intervals, usually once a month. This is to allow the body to recover and maximize the benefits of fasting without the negative effects of permanent calorie reduction.
  • Activation of molecular pathways: The goal of mock fasting is to activate the molecular pathways of fasting without completely abstaining from food
Fasting bundle of MoleQlar with glucosamine, berbersome and spermidine.
MoleQlar's fasting bundle with glucosamine, berbersome and spermidine is designed to support the fasting process at the molecular level.

Valter Longo's recipes for longevity

On his website, the researcher provides some recipe ideas for a healthy and balanced diet. These include many recipes based on the Mediterranean diet. Hummus, octopus salad with potatoes and green beans or Sicilian pasta with eggplant and tomatoes.

Mock fasting and the molecular impact

In addition to the aforementioned effect of fasting on the protein-endocrine and sugar-endocrine axes, there are other molecular metabolic pathways that are closely associated with fasting and longevity. One of the most important is certainly the effect of (sham) fasting on sirtuins.

Put simply, sirtuins are a group of longevity genes. If they are activated, this could lead to an extension of life. Some diets, such as the Sirtfood diet (made famous by the singer Adele, among others)

If you want to know more about this topic, you can find out more about the background in our article on sirtuins.

Did you know? How do researchers actually measure whether an intervention such as fasting has a positive effect on life? There are several methods. In the case of yeasts and flies, both of which do not live very long, the experiments can be designed in such a way that the entire lifespan is actually examined. Another method is the biological age to measure. This is hidden in epigenetics and provides information on how "old" a cell is. Proteomics could also become even more important in the future. Here, researchers measure proteins in the cells and can assign them to certain categories. This results in a comprehensive picture of the proteome.

Molecular profile test kit 3
Discover your proteome with the Molecular Profile test from MoleQlar. Find out more now.

Bryan Johnson, David Sinclair and Mark Hyman - other pioneers in the field

Like Valter Longo, there are others in the field of longevity medicine who follow a similar approach. The multimillionaire Bryan Johnson is pursuing a project Blueprint probably the most ambitious goal. He wants to turn back his biological age as far as possible so that, ideally, he will no longer age. He has hired a whole team of doctors and researchers to achieve this. He describes himself as the best-studied person in the world. Similar to Valter Longo, Bryan Johnson follows a vegan diet with a focus on calorie restriction. In addition, there are intensive sports sessions and more than 100 supplements per day.

David Sinclair is known, among other things, for his research into the molecule resveratrola sirtuin activator. The Harvard professor is also a great fan of fasting and practices it regularly.

Mark Hyman, an American doctor and bestselling author, has changed his diet after a number of personal setbacks due to illness and has also largely given up sugar. He also likes to follow Hippocrates' motto: "Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food."


Valter Longo is one of the most recognized researchers in the field of geriatric medicine. In 2018, the professor was honored by Time Magazine to be named one of the 50 most influential people in the field of health. His research into sham fasting, or the fasting-mimicking diet (FMD), is based on decades of data analysis. This has enabled him to contribute to fasting being associated not only with religious rites, but also finding a place in evidence-based medicine.


  • Longo, Valter D, and Rozalyn M Anderson. "Nutrition, longevity and disease: From molecular mechanisms to interventions. "Cell 185.9 (2022): 1455-1470. Link
  • Brandhorst, Sebastian, and Valter D Longo. "Protein Quantity and Source, Fasting-Mimicking Diets, and Longevity. "Advances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md.) 10,Suppl_4 (2019): S340-S350. link
  • Mattson, Mark P et al. "Impact of intermittent fasting on health and disease processes. "Ageing research reviews 39 (2017): 46-58. link
  • Fanti, Maura et al. "Time-Restricted Eating, Intermittent Fasting, and Fasting-Mimicking Diets in Weight Loss. "Current obesity reports 10.2 (2021): 70-80. link
  • Barreca, Davide et al. "Almonds(Prunus Dulcis Mill. D. A. Webb): A Source of Nutrients and Health-Promoting Compounds." Nutrients vol. 12.3 672. 1 Mar. 2020, Link