The Cost of Calories

A thought-provoking post from Scott McClatchey to the CR Society mailing list:

Dean Pomerleau and I have separately calculated that each excess calorie costs about 30 seconds of lifespan. Indeed, each calorie (excess or not) hastens aging and shortens the expected life span by this amount. Here are some derivative calculations.

Given the above and the Harris Benedict formula for Basal Energy Expenditure, for a 40-year-old man, each extra pound of weight costs 0.2 years of life span. Since this comes in terms of earlier aging, this results in perhaps 0.15 years of lost wages. Thus, if your earnings are $100,000, each extra pound of weight costs $15,000. Ouch! (n.b., the figure of 100,000 was used as a round figure, to make extension of these calculations more simple).

More precisely for varying ages, it costs 2 days of lifespan in order to carry one excess pound for one year. In dollar terms, this extra pounds costs about $400 /(pound*yr).

Stated another way, those who are over the minimum optimal weight pay a tremendous dollar cost for the privilege of being overweight!! Can anyone
afford NOT to practice CR???

These figures should all be taken as ballpark averages across a large sample, as the 30 second per calorie number is extrapolated from data in mouse studies (as I recall). Then there is the matter of quantifying the minimum calorie intake or weight above which you start counting deductions in life span - but you get the general idea.

The point of the exercise is to act as a reminder: rigorous scientific evidence shows that even average calorie intake and average weight carries a sizeable cost in dollars, health and life span. The real cost of a shorter life span, to my mind at least, is the prospect of missing out on advances in medical science and radical healthy life extension in decades to come. Calorie restriction is a way to reach a little further forward into the future, a stepping stone to better technologies.


Interesting article. You mentioned that the very basis of your data for your article is based upon mouse studies, so I do have one request. I would like to acquire a mouse that earns $100,000 per year. I calculate that since I am 55 years old, and I've battled with a weight problem all of my life (currently 150 lbs overweight)that I'm going to need another source of income as I make my way into my very short future.
But seriously, the intent of the article is to be commended. I am searching for my epiphany to propel me into weight loss... unfortunately this wasn't it.

Posted by: Linda Burdick at July 7th, 2007 9:03 AM

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