Book Review: The Path to Longevity by Luigi Fontana

By Sue Ramsey, ND, Dip Nut, BA (Hons)

One of the world’s leading experts on healthy ageing, Professor Luigi Fontana’s book aims to show us “how to reach 100 with the health and stamina of a 40-year-old”. Currently the Director of Healthy Longevity Research at the Charles Perkins Centre of Sydney University, Professor Fontana has pioneered areas of nutrition-related research that hold promise for the prevention of age-related chronic illnesses. He is also known for conducting the foundational research that gave rise to the 5:2 diet – an intermittent fasting approach that has been embraced around the world and which has been found to promote weight loss and cell renewal as well as slowing the ageing process.

The Path to Longevity is the culmination of more than 20 years of research and clinical practice by Professor Fontana. Easy to follow and comprehensive, the book offers a lifestyle plan that shows how eating right, physical exercise and brain training can help us achieve not only a long life, but also a healthier and more fulfilling one. The secrets of communities with the most long-living populations, such as Okinawa, Sardinia and South Italy are explored, as is the vegetarian diet of the Seventh-day Adventists. Examining the health habits of elite athletes also reveals some surprising results.

Professor Fontana describes physical exercise as “daily medicine” and outlines how which types of exercise are best for cardiovascular health, reducing cancer risk and protecting the memory. He includes a detailed guide on how to begin or improve endurance training, as well as an illustrated 15-minute strength training program to do at home. The importance of posture is emphasised and Professor Fontana outlines some easy stretching exercises to help improve this. There’s also a series of yoga poses to help improve joint flexibility, balance and vitality, as well as reducing inflammation and helping reduce stress and anxiety.

The benefits of the Mediterranean diet are well known and Professor Fontana explains the science behind it. However, he says, there is no one single diet as 23 countries with varying ingredients and dishes border the Mediterranean. Because many of us lead a more sedentary life than our forebears, following the traditional Mediterranean diet would likely lead to weight gain, he says. So he explains how to adapt this for the modern age to maximise the nutritional benefits without piling on the kilos.

The importance of diet and exercise are also discussed for the prevention of cognitive decline, as well as the benefits of quality sleep and social connections, all backed by scientific explanations. All in all, it’s an empowering read, with Professor Fontana providing the tools for readers to take charge of their health and to help them age well. And the good news, he says, is that it’s never too late to start!

To learn more about longevity and healthy ageing register for ACNEM’s 2021 Healthy Ageing Conference.