Topics » Nutrition Science » Live Longer, Live Better! Understanding the Research on Longevity
T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies

Most people want to live longer, but we don’t want to spend our later years in pain, on multiple medications, at the doctor’s office—or worse, in the hospital! Unfortunately, that’s what often happens. With modern medical intervention, many are living longer just so that they can die longer.

The good news is, we already know the key to healthy longevity. Scientific research shows us how to extend our lifespan and avoid the common diseases that plague so many Americans: heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and more. According to the U.S. Burden of Disease Collaborators study, dietary risks are the number one cause of death and disability![1] Avoiding dietary risk factors can therefore help us live longer and better.

Let’s examine some of the science on longevity and then look at the people living in Blue Zones—regions of the world where people live longer than average—to see what we can learn from their lifestyle choices.

Reduction of animal protein
There’s an enzyme in our body called Target of Rapamycin (TOR) that regulates cellular growth and proliferation. You can think of it as our “engine of aging.” If we can slow down the activity of this enzyme, we can delay aging.

How do we do this? Well, there was a substance discovered in a bacteria on Easter Island called Rapamycin[2] that does inhibit the enzyme activity. Unfortunately, it has numerous side effects, so we must take a different approach to reduce TOR activity: caloric restriction! This is probably not the fountain of youth pill you were hoping for, but the studies are encouraging. They show that limiting protein caloric intake can slow TOR activity.[3] And fortunately, plant protein does not escalate this aging!

Blue Zones
Blue Zones are regions of the world where people commonly live active lives to 90 years and beyond![4] Five such regions have been identified: Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Loma Linda, California; Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica; and Ikaria, Greece. Note that they live active lives, not lives limited to frequent doctor’s visits and hospital beds. Their quality of life is high, even later in life. How? A closer look at these populations shows that they have five common characteristics:

  • Family and other social connections are priorities in their lives;
  • They don’t smoke;
  • Their days include constant, moderate physical activity;
  • They eat plant-based diets; and
  • They eat a lot of beans!

In my presentation, “Live Longer, Live Better!”, we will explore TOR, examine more of the science related to slowing the aging process, and take a closer look at the people living in the Blue Zones to see what we can learn from their lifestyle. Join us to learn the recipe for a longer, healthier, and happier life!


  1. US Burden of Diseases Collaborators. The state of US health, 1990-2010: Burden of diseases, injuries and risk factors. JAMA 2013; 310(6):591-608
  2. C Vézina, A Kudelski, SN Sehgal. Rapamycin (AY-22,989), a new antifungal antibiotic. I. Taxonomy of the producing streptomycete and isolation of the active principle. J Antibiot (Tokyo). 1975 28(10):721 – 726.
  3. R Zoncu, AEfeyan, D M Sabatini. mTOR: from growth signal integration to cancer, diabetes and ageing. Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol. 2011 12(1):21 -35.R F Lamb. Amino acid sensing mechanisms: An Achilles heel in cancer? FEBS J. 2012 279(15):2624 – 2631
  4. Buettner, Dan. The Blue Zones Solution: Eating and Living Like the World’s Healthiest People, Washington, DC: National Geographic Partners, 2017. Print

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