Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health

Eat Less, Live Longer?

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Grape Tomatoes

Since the beginning of time, humans have sought ways to live longer or stay young. Everyone is familiar with the story of Ponce De Leon who failed to find the “fountain of youth.” However, a lesser known Italian man named Luigi Cornaro born in the 15th century, may have come closer. He lived a life of abundance including food until a doctor advised him to cut back on his intake at the age of 36. He wrote books that promoted the idea “of eating as little as possible” entitled “The Art of Living Long.” Some accounts say he lived to be either 89 or 102 (depending on the source) in times when life expectancy was only 30. Had he discovered the fountain of youth or was this just a big coincidence?

For several decades, interest in calorie restriction and longevity has been studied in many species and it was concluded that restricting caloric intake (20 -40% less than recommended) but meets the needs of all nutrients, has extended the lifespan as much as 50% in organisms such as insects, worms, and rodents. It also reduces the incidence of many chronic diseases such as heart disease and some cancers, improves immune function, and maintains function into later life.

These studies extended to the primates by the 1980’s that led to the result than when rhesus monkeys were calorie restricted by 30% fewer calories in nutritionally adequate diets, their lifespans were indeed increased. In addition, the animals had lower body fat, less muscle loss and a lower incidence of cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Human studies have been problematic for the simple reason that adherence of study participants to such diets for any length of time is difficult.

Epidemiological evidence supports the idea from studies of the long-lived population of Okinawa. They have traditionally practiced calorie restriction by eating until they are only 80 percent full. In the United States, mortality rates from heart disease are eight times higher and various cancers (lymphoma, colon, breast, and prostate) are four times higher than it is in Okinawa.

Would most healthy humans practice a calorie restricted diet? It is not easy. Caloric restriction would mean that a person who typically eats about 2000 calories per day could only eat 1200 to 1600 calories a day. Some researchers say this would be difficult and suggest that the best way to achieve this lifestyle would have to involve some form of intermittent fasting; however, that remains to be tested.

A new interesting study has tested this theory with healthy humans.  For the details CLICK HERE



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