Caloric restriction without malnutrition–heard of it?  Caloric restriction with optimal nutrition (CRON) or the Longevity Diet–these are all terms for the practice of reducing calories over the long-haul, and some studies have shown it to be beneficial in terms of aging and longevity. The practice has been shown to improve age-related health and to slow the aging process in a wide range of animals and some fungi. Pretty cool, huh?

While still inconclusive as to whether long-term caloric restriction can do the same for humans, results so far have been promising. Take a recent study, for example, that has shown caloric restriction improved heart function in obese people with type 2 diabetes.  The study analyzed the heart function and pericardial fat (too much can harm the heart) of fifteen obese people with type 2 diabetes before and four months after they started consuming a 500-calorie-per-day diet.

Age matched monkey (right) on caloric restriction

Four months after the participants began the low-calorie diet, average BMI fell from 35.3 to 27.5 (statistical obesity begins at a BMI of 30), and pericardial fat decreased from 39 milliliters (ml) to 31 ml.  And diastolic heart function also improved, which is a key measure in preventing congestive heart failure (CHF).

Although the BMI rose slightly when the study participants resumed their regular diets (after 14 month follow up), but interestingly, the pericardial fat stayed low.  Said  lead author Dr. Sebastiaan Hammer of Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands:

“Our results show that 16 weeks of caloric restriction improved heart function in these patients. More importantly, despite regain of weight, these beneficial cardiovascular effects were persistent over the long term.”

Interesting results these latest findings. Although I advocate no particular diet for people trying to lose weight other than eating whole, natural foods at moderate portions, I am a big proponent of caloric restriction as a lifestyle habit. Let me explain. I think that in the western world, as a rule, we all eat more than we really need to. Restaurant portions are generally huge, and all you can eat buffets are way too popular (at least in the U.S.). In fact, during a recent trip to Las Vegas, it was not lost on me that the longest line I saw for any event over a three day period was to the all-you-can-eat-buffet.
So in that regard, I am certain that we would all benefit, regardless of our size, from caloric restriction. Eating causes free radicals, and these lead to aging. Eating in moderation, obviously, decreases the amount of free radicals our bodies need to neutralize, which in turn decreases our risk of developing degenerative diseases.  The top three killers in the U.S.–heart disease, cancer, stroke–are degenerative diseases.
So although I am trying not to jump to any conclusions here, but when I see a life principle that’s true over a wide range of living organisms, I start to think universality. Essentially I believe that eating just enough to live, with an emphasis on good nutrition, is probably the best path toward longevity and natural anti-aging.

3 Responses to Caloric Restriction Without Malnutrition

  1. I agree that we eat too much crap, but what if those all you can eat buffets were different? in that all the food was prepared as it was 200 years ago with all the fiber and nutrients in tack you would probably see automatic calorie restriction. The body is able to recognize real food very easily and the need to overeat is controllable when all the metabolic functions of the body are working properly.

    “Eating causes free radicals, and these lead to aging” I’m not sure about this One:

    “When we consider that pyrraline is absorbed from food but not present in the bloodstream while MG-H1 appears not to be absorbed from food but is nevertheless abundant in the bloodstream (7), and when we consider the evidence below that as long as our kidneys are working we quickly pee out most free AGEs regardless of where they come from, we have to conclude at least for the time being that most AGEs within our body at any given moment do not come from food.”

    Regardless of size? what are we talking about fat people or athletic people? Calorie restriction would make a lean active male very tired and would slow down their metabolism. Maybe what you mean to say is not calorie restriction as a whole but calorie restrict processed food and eat whole foods to appetite? What animal in nature chooses to calorie restrict? almost none they eat until they are full. I eat 3,000 Calories a day of fiber filled nutrient dense food. Am I fat? no way I have a roaring metabolism, I am able to recover from injury quicker and I have better mental clarity without stimulants like caffeine and processed sugar. When you have built a body up with all these calories you can’t just suddenly take them away.

    “There is not a single sentient animal species alive other than humans, who emotionally “fear” food.” Scott abel says it best, the logic of eat less because it will lead to less free radical damage is not telling the whole story as chris masterjohn points out in this article:

  2. No, Scott, I generally mean what I say. True, caloric restriction to the degree that one is not getting enough energy, OR nutrients, is foolish; but that’s called malnutrition. Not talking about that.

  3. moya says:

    In ancient Ireland the Druids practised calorie restriction to lenghten life. They taught the Pythagoreans . One of their methods was to fast for 40 days ,but this method was only also used to cure disease. Jesus was taught by the druids or the Magi as the romans called them and he used these methods to cure disease – you can read it in The gospel of Peace which is on the net. Pythagorus ate a very restrictive diet . He died in a fire but was 100 years then which comparatively speaking is akin to 250 today It works !

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