The idea that what a person eats influences their health no doubt predates any historical accounts that remain today. But, as is often the case for any scientific discipline, the first detailed accounts come from Ancient Greece. Hippocrates, one of the first physicians to claim diseases were natural and not supernatural, observed that many ailments were associated with gluttony; obese Greeks tended to die younger than slim Greeks, that was clear and written down on papyrus.
Spreading from this epicentre of science, these ideas were adopted and adapted over the centuries. And at the end of the 15th Century, Alvise Cornaro, an infirm aristocrat from a small village near Venice in Italy, turned the prevailing wisdom on its head, and on himself.
If indulgence was harmful, would dietary asceticism be helpful? To find out, Cornaro, aged 40, ate only 350g (12oz) of food per day, roughly 1000 calories according to recent estimates. He ate bread, panatela or broth, and eggs. For meat he chose veal, goat, beef, partridge, thrush, and any poultry that was available. He bought fish caught from the local rivers.
Restricted in amount but not variety, Cornaro claimed to have achieved “perfect health” up until his death more than 40 years later. Although he changed his birthdate as he aged, claiming that he had reached his 98th year, it is thought that he was around 84 when he died – still an impressive feat in the 16th Century, a time when 50 or 60 years old was considered elderly. In 1591, his grandson published his posthumous three-volume tome entitled “Discourses on the Sober Life,” pushing dietary restriction into the mainstream, and redefining ageing itself.
More here – BBC Future
PS: My concern about a lot of the animal studies cited in this sort of research is that the the anti aging effects seem to flow from the delaying of puberty in the experimental animals.