Children can follow Mediterranean diet, must be regulated: Valter Longo

Children struggling with obesity can follow a Mediterranean diet to keep healthy but it should be regulated, a top biogerontologist and cell biologist said on Thursday.

“For children, we are recommending for everyday diet is more of a Mediterranean diet and not as restrictive as the longevity diet,” Valter Longo said during the third day of the 19th edition of the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit.

Longo, who was in conversation with health communications specialist Sanchita Sharma, said children should cut food with high starch content—the four Ps of pasta, “pane” (bread), pizza, potatoes—and sugars including fruits, fruit juices, snacks and sweetened carbonated beverages.

“For the fast mimicking diet, we are beginning clinical trials on children…and we want to see whether there is any problem before the clinical trials. We are going very carefully with it,” the Edna M Jones professor of gerontology and biological sciences said.

“Mediterranean diet is probably a very good diet but it should be regulated,” he added.

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His website says protein content should also be regulated by age and children should consume the following grams of protein, per kilo of body weight, each day.

“Consume both vegetable-based proteins from legumes and nuts, and animal protein from fish (2-3 times a week, yet avoiding fish high in mercury), while eating less frequently red meat, white meat and eggs (1 serving a week for each of these foods, and ideally organic),” it adds.

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Children should eat “abundant quantities” of carbohydrates with a low glycemic index like legumes and vegetables. “However, to reduce does not mean cut out altogether, but rather consume minimal amounts.”

While following the diet, children should eat within a 12-hour period and that this is especially important for overweight and obese children. Small exceptions can be made if their body weight is within the norm, it added.

“Eat more—not less. For children in general, and especially overweight kids, substitute high-starch foods like pasta, bread, rice and potatoes with vegetables and legumes, which are rich in fiber and therefore fill you up faster.”

Dr Longo is the director of the Longevity Institute at the University of Southern California-Leonard Davis School of Gerontology in Los Angeles. He is also the director of the Longevity and Cancer Program at the IFOM Institute of Molecular Oncology in Milan, Italy.