Franco Berrino: the ways of happy longevity


Franco Berrino: the ways of happy longevity

Longevity is a goal that we can all strive for. The epidemiologist Franco Berrino, former director of the Department of Preventive and Predictive Medicine of the National Cancer Institute of Milan and today one of the founders of the association La grande via, explains how.


It is in the places of his peace and his desires that a man expresses his depth even before resorting to his languages.

The tea room on the first floor of La mausolea , the Tuscan headquarters of the La grande via association , is a silent and harmonious place: the vibrations of the mantras recited on the ground floor are the only hook that keeps you rooted in this world while the view it is lost in the quiet and still healthy Apennine landscape.

Franco Berrino and the other founders of La grande via strongly wanted to bring to life this place once used for the prayer of the monks to continue a path of study, care, awareness and well-being here.

The epidemiologist Berrino has dedicated his entire career to research for the study of the survival of cancer patients, focusing on the identification of scientific evidence that confirms how lifestyle can prevent the incidence and progression of tumors .

Today, he is (also) in this place so welcoming but discreet that the doctor still feels a strong desire to make himself available to help others .

Is longevity something our society “deserves”? At what price are we paying for the opportunity to live longer?

Our economic wealth is based on the exploitation of other peoples . The large production of meat that is used to feed the rich world involves deforestation in which space is made for large monocultures of cereals and legumes to feed the cattle.

Large monocultures in third world countries expropriate farmers from their land. Monocultures starve . So, we don’t deserve a damn thing.

In Italy, life expectancy has increased by 10 years in the last 40 years: this is due to the great advances in medicine and the wonderful medical technology of diagnosis and treatment.

Drugs – such as those for blood pressure that reduce mortality from stroke and heart attack , for blood thinning or for triglycerides – extend life with the result that over 90% of the elderly population (over 65) survives thanks to drugs . and is forced to take it every day (including those to control the side effects of other drugs).

The contradiction is that this longevity is achieved artificially thanks to the successes of medicine for diseases that could be perfectly preventable in most cases through lifestyle. So yes, we are paying dearly for this longevity .

The recommendations for a long and healthy life of the major international scientific institutions find more and more points of agreement with many precepts of ancient wisdom. Science and tradition often agree, yet the incidence of cancer and chronic diseases is increasing, especially in Western countries. Why?

The World Health Organization , like the International Agency for Research on Cancer , provides timely recommendations and indeed, after much research and much effort, it turns out that it was as good as it used to be. The recommendation for the prevention of cancer, which later proved to be very useful for the prevention of heart and respiratory diseases and mortality in general, is that it is okay to eat whole grains , legumes , vegetables , fruits and nuts every day , such as all the peoples of the world did before the industrial revolution.

For example, we ate pasta and beans, pasta and lentils, pasta and chickpeas or with broad beans; in North Africa they ate cous cous with chickpeas; in the East, rice with soy; in Mexico black beans with corn tortillas; in black Africa peanuts with millet: the great cultural traditions have always recommended eating little , also favoring forms of fasting .

Furthermore, studies of the last 100 years confirm that if we give animals a little less to eat than they have unlimited availability, they live longer and get sick less. Many economic institutions , however, unfortunately have no interest in prevention because there is a business that must grow: depression, for example, increases GDP: insecurities and discontent push people to purchase goods which most likely they would have no need. Even body weight , compared to some forms of obesity for example, is a further manifestation of this need to accumulate.

Macrobiotic diet, Mediterranean diet. What eating patterns should we know and follow (really) against overeating and for a healthier diet?

The traditional Mediterranean diet based on unrefined cereals, fruit and vegetables, nuts, fish in sea places and meat as an occasional food has been shown to be associated with a lower risk of getting sick from the main chronic diseases , reduce the incidence of cancer, heart attack and some degenerative diseases.

The traditional Mediterranean diet is very similar to the macrobiotic recommendations which require a balance between yin and yang energies, plant food and animal food energy, masculine and feminine energy, warming and refreshing energy.

Here, too, cereals, vegetables, legumes and fruit are preferred, going easy on animal food: we take proteins mainly from legumes, then fish can go well (we move towards yang) and to a lesser extent also white meat (even more yang) while red meats are definitely to be limited (very yang) and sausages should not be eaten because they are even more yang.

The information of science today agrees . The European code against cancer, for example, says to avoid sugary and alcoholic drinks, which are unbalanced towards yin for macrobiotics. Fruit is also more biased towards yin, but it is a tolerable imbalance.

What does the anti-inflammatory diet still consist of?

Finally, the traditional Mediterranean diet is an anti – inflammatory diet . Animal food, except fish, increases inflammation and food that increases inflammation is what increases blood sugar: high blood sugar means the formation of the Advanced glycation End-products which are a factor in inflammation  and act by activating the ‘ NFkB , the main mediator of inflammation.

Chronic inflammation, again, is a risk factor for cancer. The anti-inflammatory diet is mainly vegetable ( onions , apples , turmeric , green tea and ginger have greater anti-inflammatory action) except those vegetables with a high glycemic index, such as potatoes .

How to wisely practice a form of fasting adapted to the metropolitan rhythms of life with efficacy for our health?

The simplest form of fasting is to skip dinner , which today however corresponds to the main meal of the day because in the morning we tend to drink a coffee on the go, at lunch we eat at the bar while the evening is the only time we meet the family.

It is difficult to reconcile fasting with metropolitan rhythms : not even fasting one day a week, as it would make sense to do, is easy. You have to choose your own pace and it is good that it includes a very light dinner.

Some research is very clear about it . A study conducted in Israel divided a sample of overweight women into two groups by subjecting them to a low-calorie diet that included the same number of calories to be consumed in a day: one group ate a very large breakfast and a light dinner while the second group could eat more at dinner instead of in the morning. The first group lost weight by also improving several blood parameters such as the reduction of insulin.

In breast cancer patients , the longer the interval between the last meal of the day and breakfast in the morning, the fewer relapses occur. Skipping dinner to reduce insulin has been found to be very effective   in girls with polycystic ovary .

Abandon the habits. Longevity is not achieved only at the table, it also concerns the body and mind: the three ways to lasting health involve man in all spheres of being (including interpersonal relationships, the development of different intelligences and respect for the environment). How can one be reborn?

We are not just made up of intestines and organs to feed. In the book ” Twenty-one days to be reborn ” it is explained how the real change of habits must involve us fully, doing real work on us and on the limbic brain in which our habits are written: the limbic brain wants experiences and emotions to be repeated pleasant, is attracted to external beauty.

It is therefore necessary to eradicate certain ways and consolidate new ones: for example, if a period of diet does not also correspond to an awareness of conscious eating, then soon we will return to eating as before.

Here in La mausolea , in June 2019 we will do a 21-day seminar with blood tests at the beginning and at the end of the path, we will do physiological tests to see how things change when we dedicate ourselves to healthy food, to a adequate physical activity and constant lay  meditation every day.

Meditation, like prayer, is a very important path and more and more studies recognize the beneficial potential of meditation , yoga , martial arts in the biology of inflammation and the immune system . It makes sense to follow all three lives – healthy food, exercise and meditation – to be reborn and change your lifestyle.

In your latest book, you talk about “Light day” and “Perfect day”: what are the characteristics to live a rewarding routine?

People are dramatically burdened as well as heavy. Even the skinny are heavy (we laugh, ed). So many people are so far from that way of living on the perfect day which is the Day of Gratitude and Awareness , as it is defined in the book ” The Way of Lightness “, written by an international meditation expert such as Daniel Lumera and with my contribution in the selection of scientific enrichments.

Gratitude is important , being grateful for what we have is a prerequisite for happiness and a prerequisite for guarding against the pitfalls of advertising, including those that will appear next to this article. Those who are happy do not consume.

We can manage the heaviness of the body with food and physical activity and we know very well how to do it. But the heaviness of the soul given by dissatisfaction and frustration we do not know how to manage it , it is something functional to our social organization.

The consumer society lives if it is consumed and dies if it is not consumed , it must continually advertise to make sure that people buy something they do not need but those who are happy do not need to buy and also with this book we want to unhinge the mechanism of the consumer society based on advertising.

On the perfect day you get up, thanking you, knowing that you are alive, because life is often that thing that passes while you are busy doing something else and you risk realizing that you only exist at the point of death. The perfect day is to always be present to yourself and to be aware of what we are doing at every moment. It is getting closer to other people and realizing the wonder that human beings are. We cannot approach anyone without a sense of wonder and emotion at her beauty. The perfect day makes us live better.

Let’s avoid the traps : even television is a continuous advertising message. We must defend ourselves from this aggression and we can do it with awareness. We develop compassion . The book describes a beautiful ritual to follow in the morning that helps us start the day with this step.

Self-esteem, gratitude, letting go: our point of view on our experience affects our well-being. How important is it to work on forgiving aspects of our history to hope for a peaceful old age? What moments in your personal history are you most grateful for?

In the physical body, excess fat and the feeling of heaviness can derive from many factors, namely ” fat codes ” that include emotional, psychic and spiritual aspects according to mechanisms of compensation and representation.

Let us become aware of the mechanisms that have caught us in a heavy body and once we are aware we thank and forgive ourselves. We consider what happened to us as a gift to overcome and solve problems.

Even in the history of a disease there may be some serious suffering that needs to be worked on, which it is useful to get rid of. There is a need for loving and compassionate closeness and people must and can always ask for help.

I, personally, am grateful for many things : I express gratitude for my teachers. I am grateful that at the end of my life I was granted the wonder of this place, The mausolea, where I can live, work and help people in a structure where monks have prayed for hundreds of years and where one can regrow one. healthy lifestyle, love for the land through economically sustainable agriculture .

Here people come and are well receiving deep encouragement. When at the end of your career as a researcher you find yourself a gift like this, it is immense. I am grateful to the universe and grateful to the monks who made it available to us. I am grateful to my partner Enrica Bortolazzi through her intuition and her spirituality this miracle was possible.

I am grateful to have met beautiful people. I am grateful for so many things from the past, deeply grateful to my spouse who opened my eyes. I am grateful for these reports.

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