No expensive medicines or gizmos are needed to prolong your life, naturally. Action Alert!
We reported recently on the benefits of intermittent fasting for reducing inflammation, promoting heart and brain health, and much more. Now, researchers have found that caloric restriction may slow the process of aging in humans. It is a powerful testament to the notion that food is medicine, suggesting that the amount we eat is just as important as what kind of foods we choose.
Researchers used data from a trial of 200 healthy adults aged 21 to 50; one group was directed to reduce caloric intake by 25 percent for two years (that is, 500 calories from a 2,000 calorie diet), while the other group stuck to normal diets. Previous studies found that the caloric restriction group had improved cholesterol markers, blood pressure, and blood sugar.
In the new study, the researchers looked at what calorie restriction did to the aging process, more specifically the rate at which someone ages. They found that two years of caloric restriction led to a 2-3 percent slower pace of aging. According to previous research, this suggests this slower aging could reduce someone’s risk of death by up to 15 percent—about the same benefit for longer life associated with quitting a smoking habit.
This is the latest in a long line of research on the longevity benefits of calorie restriction. It all started in the 1930’s when a Cornell scientist observed that rats on a calorie restricted diet lived 30 percent longer than rats on a “normal” diet. We see similar effects in humans: the inhabitants of Okinawa, Japan, for example, have one of the highest average lifespans across the world. Studies looking at those over 100 years of age in Okinawa found that they consumed approximately 17 percent fewer calories than those in mainland Japan and 40 percent less than the average adult in the US, resulting in an estimated calorie restriction of 10-15 percent below daily energy requirements.
Caloric restriction involves reducing caloric intake below what is considered “normal” without malnutrition or deprivation of essential nutrients. Calories are usually restricted from 20-40 percent of daily caloric requirements. Calculating daily caloric intake depends on a variety of factors like body mass index, age, gender, activity level, and health issues, to name a few. It also depends on your goals (weight loss, weight gain, etc.). There are many resources available online to guide you through the calculations for your daily caloric needs.
For general guidelines, the FDA’s estimated average energy requirements are 1,600 to 2,400 for adult women and 2,000 to 3,000 daily for adult men. The Calorie Restriction Society’s diet restricts calories to between 1,112 to 2,260 per day. The CDC estimates that the average male in the US consumes about 2,745 calories each day, and females consumer an average of 1,833 calories.
Generally, calorie restriction means avoiding high-glycemic and processed foods like sodas, desserts, snacks, and refined carbohydrates while focusing on foods high in vitamins, minerals, flavonoids, and antioxidants. The traditional Okinawan diet, for example, consists of vegetables, soy, seaweed, fish, lean animal proteins, and animal fat as cooking oil.
Caloric restriction causes several biological changes, that lead to better health outcomes, including:
- Increasing cellular processes that remove dysfunctional components;
- Downregulating genes involved in oxidative stress;
- Generating new mitochondria, the “power plants” inside cell;
Research has found that calorie restriction has many health benefits beyond longevity, including improved heart health and better cognitive function.
We often focus on the kinds of foods that promote health, what the best diets are, critiques of the government’s health guidelines that get so much about nutrition wrong, etc. These are all undoubtedly important topics. But research seems to increasingly be telling us that when and how much we eat are equally as important for living a long, healthy life.
We’re entering an age of incredible advancements in anti-aging science. We’ve been writing about some of these trends, such as the use of metformin, cold/hot therapy, red light therapy, and sitting vs. standing. We’re also learning that NAD precursors, like the supplement NMN, can improve health and reverse aging. But we’re in serious danger of losing access to NMN because a drug company, co-founded by anti-aging expert David Sinclair, PhD, wants to monopolize this key longevity supplement.
Research is showing that we can extend our lives with caloric restriction and intermittent fasting. Supplements like NMN can also help, but we must fight to make sure we can all access affordable NMN, and that it doesn’t get turned into a monopoly drug that only the rich can afford.
Action Alert! Write to Congress and the FDA, urging them to retain access to NMN supplements. Please send your message immediately.