From Abruzzo the principles for healthy longevity, even insects in the diet of the future
Numerous in-depth studies have also highlighted the importance of the Mediterranean diet against infectious diseases, starting with Covid’s own. Also presented were the latest studies on edible insects, a possible food of the future due to their antioxidant capacity and inflammation-enhancing function
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR A DIET ADHERENT TO REALITY
New solutions to take on proper nutrition that promotes individual health come from the 20th Congress of the Italian Society of Food Science – SISA, which was held in Rome at Sapienza University. An initiative that reaffirmed the Scientific Society’s commitment to supporting and promoting research in the field of nutritional sciences field among young people; 4 prizes were also awarded for the best abstracts presented at the congress and last year’s awards were presented to the 4 best publications by young people.
“Nutritional recommendations are known to all, yet they are often not followed as they are considered overly restrictive, so much so that there are nearly two million overweight people in the world and there has been a pandemic of obesity for 50 years – stresses Prof. Mauro Serafini, Full professor of food and human nutrition, University of Teramo and SISA councilor – We need to identify real principles for nutrition that reduce cardiovascular risk factors during mealtime. First of all, one should eat not too late in the evening to avoid inflammatory stress and be in line with the circadian rhythms of the day; moreover, fruits, vegetables, and legumes should be associated with each meal, because the presence of the bioactive compounds of the plant world at that stage of digestion is able to strongly reduce both the increase in triglycerides but especially the oxidative inflammatory response“.
THE STUDY ON LONGEVITY IN ABRUZZO
The importance of these elements emerges in a study carried out by the University of Teramo regarding a case of successful aging in 151 municipalities located mainly in inland areas close to the Abruzzo Parks, where 503 centenarians and 18 thousand nonagenarians reside (ISTAT data). “First of all, there are similarities with most studies on centenarians, related to two fundamental aspects of longevity, namely constant physical activity and a healthy diet, with high consumption of plant-based products (fruits, vegetables, legumes, cereals), with the particularity of the almost total absence of sweets – explains Prof. Mauro Serafini – The novel aspect that emerges in 93% of nonagenarians and 82% of centenarians is that they followed a typical Abruzzo dietary tradition, the “sdijuno,” which means “stappa digiuno”: a savory breakfast of about 300 calories, taken around 6.30. To follow, at 12 p.m.30 there was a large lunch with foods such as polenta, legumes, meat, homemade pasta, and around 6 p.m.30, dinner of vegetables, soups, eggs, cheese.
These rhythms promote low inflammatory stress at night, in line with circadian rhythms that see our metabolism slow down in the evening hours. Although it is an observational study, it analyzes the importance of chrononutrition, linked to mealtimes for greater longevity: from dinner to lunch there are about 17.5 hours of “calorie restriction,” a window where there is only breakfast. This gave them the ability to stress neither the immune system nor the metabolism, preparing them for a large meal such as lunch. Individual metabolic/immune response to postprandial stress is linked to circadian rhythms, time of day, type of meal.
This is one possible explanation for their longevity, although it cannot be forgotten that numerous other variables are involved in determining survival“.
A HEALTHY DIET EVEN AGAINST INFECTIOUS DISEASES
Healthy longevity requires thinking across the lifespan, with a healthy diet that should start from an early age. In fact, if it is known how this can protect against metabolic diseases, diabetes, neoplasms, and cardiovascular diseases, the link with infectious diseases is less obvious. “Several recent studies link the Mediterranean diet to protection from infectious diseases and response to vaccines by virtue of the impact of diet on the immune system – emphasizes Prof.ssa Stefania Maggi, CNR research director, Institute of Neuroscience, Aging Section, Padua – This is groundbreaking: there are plenty of published papers on the much higher risk of Covid infection and disease severity in obese patients compared to the rest of the population. In addition, vaccines are more effective if the elderly person is well nourished. A relevant recommendation at a time when the administration of the bivalent vaccine is getting underway and when the flu campaign is about to start.
In addition, malnutrition also makes pneumococcal or influenza vaccines less effective: a proper diet allows a higher vaccine response than in those with nutritional deficiencies. There are many causes: lower absorption of the vaccine dose, chronic low-grade inflammation associated with’obesity, micronutrient deficiency“.
INSECTS ALSO IN THE DIET OF THE FUTURE?
A healthy and sustainable diet could in the future be enriched by novel approaches. The example of edible insects was brought to the SISA Congress, which are characterized by important nutritional values and environmental sustainability, as they require less use of water, land, greenhouse gas emissions. “Already some two billion people in Asia, Africa, Australia, and Latin America eat insects, although we are used to viewing this option with suspicion – explains Veronica D’Antonio of the University of Teramo – There are not only environmental benefits, but also protein and nutritional values similar to meat and fish. Just to give a few examples, some species of edible insects contain more calcium than milk, more iron than spinach, more fiber than beans, although the fibers are different. The aspect of edible insects that most impressed researchers was the antioxidant capacity and the ameliorative function of inflammatory status, lipid and glucose metabolism. Most of the studies are in vitro or on animals, but there are also two studies on humans with interesting results: the first, with the administration of 25 grams of cricket powder at breakfast for 14 days, showed no changes in the intestinal microbiome and an improvement in inflammatory status; in the second, with the administration of spaghetti with silkworm powder, there was a reduction in postprandial blood glucose, a result that may help in the management of diabetes.
These results are interesting, but further investigation in humans remains necessary to confirm these effects. Growing interest in the scientific community has led EU authorities to authorize crickets, grasshoppers and a meal moth, while some companies have made edible insect products as supplements and flour for the development of more familiar products (pasta, cookies, crackers, burgers)“.