Aging & Longevity

100-Year-Old Nutrition Professor’s Lifestyle Tips for a Long Life

At 100, nutrition professor Dr. John Scharffenberg gives recommendations on how to prolong your life, such as exercising every day and eating a mostly vegetarian diet.

By Bennett M. Sherman

Key Points:

  • Dr. Scharffenberg’s tips include abstaining from alcohol and tobacco use.
  • He also recommends exercising every day, especially between the ages of 40 and 70.
  • Dr. Scharffenberg says avoiding meat and sugar can help prolong your life and that the ideal diet is vegetarian.

Dr. John Scharffenberg, a professor of nutrition at Loma Linda University in California, gave advice for prolonging your life in a YouTube video. At the age of 100, he still maintains a vivacious mentality, and with years of studying nutrition, he serves as a distinguished example and guide for living long with solid overall health.

Dr. Scharffenberg’s Recommendations for a Longer Life

Dr. Scharffenberg kicks off by saying that the leading cause of disease and death in all industrialized countries is cardiovascular disease. He continues that we can prevent this condition with lifestyle choices and without any sort of medicine. The nutrition professor gives a list of some risk factors that we can avoid to prevent heart disease and possibly live a longer life.

Tobacco: Dr. Scharffenberg highlights the dangers of tobacco, known since the 1964 Surgeon General report. Professor Scharffenberg goes on to say that the population of people who have Alzheimer’s disease has a lower percentage of tobacco users. He notes that tobacco users generally do not live long enough to have Alzheimer’s disease, illustrating the serious threat associated with chronic tobacco use.

Alcohol: Alcohol, according to Scharffenberg, is another lethal risk factor. Women in particular, he says, should know about this since it increases the risk of breast cancer. Dr. Scharffenberg continues that in the past, clinicians used to say that two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women is probably safe. Yet, Max Griswold, a doctor from the University of Washington, performed a large study including participants from 195 countries around the world and found that zero alcohol consumption is the safest bet.

Inactivity: Dr. Scharffenberg says that we all need to exercise every day. He continues that he has outlived his two brothers by over a decade because he exercises regularly.

The professor explains that being overweight increases the risk of dying from almost every disease. However, even if someone is obese, exercising every day will likely allow that person to outlive someone who is of normal weight but does not exercise. Moreover, someone who smokes and has high blood pressure who exercises everyday can outlive someone without these problems who does not exercise, according to Scharffenberg. These examples illustrate the remarkable lifespan-promoting aspects of exercising.

Furthermore, Dr. Scharffenberg says that the most important time to exercise is during midlife, between the ages of 40 and 70. He does not specify why exactly this may be the case; however, he suggests that people in this age range typically acquire more wealth and start relaxing and eating more — which runs counter to his recommendation.

Too much sugar: Sugar, we have discovered, increases heart attack risk, according to Dr. Scharffenberg. He also says that it can significantly increase your blood cholesterol and fats (triglycerides).

Too much meat: Dr. Scharffenberg says that eating too much meat can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. To cut meat from the diet, he recommends adhering to a vegetarian diet.

“The optimum diet is the vegetarian diet,” says Dr. Scharffenberg. “Everybody should know this. It’s not something unusual.”

He adds that top scientists advised the US Government in 2015 that the optimum diet is the vegetarian diet, which reduces the risk of age-related diseases. Yet, when this information reached the leaders of the agriculture department and the health department, they conveyed that they thought this idea was too strict. According to Dr. Scharffenberg, the scientists’ recommendation illustrates significant evidence for the lifespan-promoting capacity of a vegetarian diet.

Cut down your saturated fat intake: We get loads of saturated fat from animal fats that come from meats like beef, pork, and poultry. Getting rid of animal fat intake, according to Scharffenberg, can reduce high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Accordingly, adhering to a vegetarian diet is the best way to avoid the risks associated with the intake of animal fats.

Dr. Scharffenberg says we can lower heart attack, stroke, and diabetes risk by about 80% if we cut out these lifestyle-related risk factors. He highlights that we can reduce the risk of these age-related conditions without any pills or medicines.

Reducing the Risk of Cardiovascular Problems May Help Us Prolong Our Golden Years

Cutting out tobacco and alcohol use, exercising every day, and avoiding excessive amounts of meat and sugar may prolong your life. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Dr. Scharffenberg’s presentation is that these actions can lower your risk for age-related ailments like heart attacks, strokes, and diabetes by around 80%. Since cardiovascular problems like heart attacks and strokes are the leading cause of death throughout the developed world, improving heart function with these practices could lead you well on your way to a longer life.


GBD 2016 Alcohol Collaborators. Alcohol use and burden for 195 countries and territories, 1990-2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016. Lancet. 2018 Sep 22;392(10152):1015-1035. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(18)31310-2. Epub 2018 Aug 23. Erratum in: Lancet. 2018 Sep 29;392(10153):1116. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(18)32338-9. Erratum in: Lancet. 2019 Jun 22;393(10190):e44. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(19)31050-5. PMID: 30146330; PMCID: PMC6148333.

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