We are all living longer, but can we also live better? Vogue's Edwina Ings-Chambers discovers the secret to becoming a healthy centenarian.
Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I'm... 104? If Lennon and McCartney were penning lyrics nowadays, they'd have to add at least four decades to their question.
We are already living longer. That much we know. According to 2014 projections by Mintel and the Office for National Statistics, our life expectancies keep on growing. In 1981 a 65-year-old woman could expect to reach 81.9 years, by 2017 that figure became 86.5, and by 2061 it is predicted to grow to 91.6 years (for men, it's 78 years, 84.3 and 89.7 respectively).
Longevity has become the new wellness watchword - there are the supplements, the exercises (for both mind and body), even a dedicated Longevity Thalassa and Medical Spa in Portugal. And we're not talking a mere eighties goal here; now the focus is on getting the extra innings to take us closer to 100, sound of mind, happy in body and free from disease.
Dr Valter Longo PhD, the aptly named biochemist and director of California's Longevity Institute, has created this centre of excellence where the aim is to help everyone live longer, ideally to 110, healthfully. Nutrition, unsurprisingly, is key, and Longo recently published The Longevity Diet, in which he advocates a mainly pescatarian intake (which for him also means ideally no eggs or cow's milk between childhood and the age of 65). He's also pro intermittent fasting (much like long-established spas such as Viva Mayr and the Buchinger Wilhemi clinic) but is anti fad fasts and anything hardcore that's outside the controlled environment of a clinic, saying, "You can get benefits [at home] but usually you also get problems." So he has created his own fast-mimicking diet and foodstuffs (all profits go back into the institute, before you get cynical), which keep calories low but still allow you to eat. In randomised trials this still got the same results as fasting in the fight against cholesterol, triglycerides, high blood pressure, and other markers for cancer and cardiovascular diseases. How and when we eat also matters. "Eating within 12 hours a day is important, and if you're overweight, eating two meals a day plus a snack rather than the five meals (three meals and two snacks) we often hear about, is also important."