Eat Less, Live Longer?

A cautious popular science article on calorie restriction: "Caloric restriction as a research discipline has actually been around for ages. The first demonstration of extending lifespan and improving health in rats by cutting calories was back in 1934, and since then the finding has been repeated in numerous species up to and including non-human primates. Animals subjected to caloric restriction while maintaining adequate vitamin, mineral, and protein intakes not only live longer, healthier lives, they also maintain vitality to an older age and have fewer visible signs of aging - such as white fur - compared to better-fed siblings. It is worth noting that we are not just talking about shedding a few pounds here. Animal studies show that, almost up to the point of frank starvation, the more calorie restriction the better when it comes to extending lifespan and health. ... Virtually every animal study ever done on caloric restriction has shown benefits for health and longevity, and now we have emerging studies showing that even intermittent caloric restriction may be beneficial, so it would be almost surprising if humans turned out to be the only species to have a negative response. Unlike research animals, however, humans don't live alone in pre-paid houses with the right kind of food carefully provided by scientists, so if caloric restriction is to be a feasible strategy for maintaining health as we age it has to be feasible to implement - in other words, doable and practical in real lives in the real world." People who write about calorie restriction without having made a serious attempt at trying it invariably exaggerate the difficulty. Practicing calorie restriction is both "doable and practical," and requires no more investment of time and willpower than any modestly challenging hobby.



The Calorie Restriction Society is a resource for practitioners.
They refer to the practice as CR.
Some benefits from CR are documented for humans but lifespan increase is not one of these, not till longitudinal prove it.
Note also that humans are also already a long lived species relative to our body size. Also note that the gain from having a low calorie survival mode in short lived critters might get them through a lean season and chunk 40% on their lifespan. That does not apply in the same way to long lived critters such as ourselves where the period of famine is much smaller in relation to our lifespan.
Despite these reservations, I do hope that the CR-ers are right and wish them well.

Posted by: Neil Kenning at June 28th, 2011 11:11 PM

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