Better Aging: Tap into the promise of calorie restriction for a more youthful you

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calorie-restriction(NaturalHealth365)  Fasting and calorie restriction are two methods of self-control used in both religious practice worldwide and in weight loss circles.  The sheer volume of people who restrict calories daily throughout all living and historic humanity is significant and speaks to the safety of controlled caloric restriction.

Likewise, the effects of caloric restriction in animals have been studied extensively for decades, and the results are essentially the same – life extension and overall better health.  To that end, researchers explored the potential benefits of calorie restriction in human candidates.  Their study is both enlightening and extremely positive in that one of the best things we could do for our bodies is simply eat less.

We’ll delve into the details of this study, its methodology, the parameters it examined, and the implications it holds for your well-being and longevity.

Calorie restriction isn’t just for weight loss

Far and away, the most common reason people restrict calories is to lose fat.  Whether people do it by employing some fasting method or by simply tracking the food they eat and ensuring that they eat fewer calories than they need to live, calorie restriction is king.

Many scientific studies have explored the effects of calorie restriction and found a significant lifespan increase and reduced disease markers, such as inflammation.

Aging is largely a part of cellular cycles in which the telomeres – the ends of cells – break down due to cell division.  When telomeres can no longer divide, the cell dies.  One thought is that calorie restriction protects telomeres and reduces general inflammation, contributing to disease.

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Finally, another indicator of health and aging is skeletal muscle preservation.  The more muscle preserved as we age, the healthier we are and the more robust our immune system and ability to heal from injury becomes.

Study reveals how cutting calories can help you live longer

The scientists involved in this study assembled 90 participants with an average age of 38, with about twice as many women as men.  All participants had relatively average physical fitness and were non-obese.

At the beginning of the study, participants were asked about lifestyle habits such as exercise and normal eating habits.  Their muscle strength was evaluated using a leg press to determine maximal output and a skeletal muscle biopsy was taken.  The biopsy was evaluated for markers of inflammation, and a genetic sequence was run.

The study lasted 2 years, in which participants were asked to reduce caloric intake by 20%.  At the end of the study, a second biopsy was taken, and muscle strength was reevaluated through the same method of a leg press.

Can fasting increase your lifespan?

Though acknowledging the limitations of this study, such as the small sample size and relying on the validity of self-reported calorie intake data, the researchers indicated promising results.

Individuals who practiced calorie restriction experienced less muscle loss and maintained their initial strength levels over the two years.

The study also revealed a substantial upregulation in gene expression, leading to the production of proteins that safeguard telomeres.  Furthermore, a systemic decrease in inflammation was observed.

Eating less, living more: The science behind calorie restriction and fasting

The study’s results indicate that calorie restriction protects muscle mass, telomeres, and cellular division in general.  Additionally, prolonged fasting induces a state known as autophagy, in which the body recycles damaged cells.  This recycling can get rid of cells that might otherwise turn into cancer, which is hugely positive.

Probably the simplest way to restrict calories is intermittent fasting.  Although it has become a buzzword in the last few years, we shouldn’t confusing true fasting (the avoidance of food for an extended period of time) and “intermittent fasting” (which is just eating only at a specific time of the day).  For example, instead of eating three meals per day, you restrict your eating to a window of 8 hours or less in some cases.  Many people simply skip breakfast and stop eating at night around 7:00 or 8:00 p.m.  That’s what we call intermittent fasting.

You can also use an app that tracks your calories from the food you enter.  If you are diligent about logging all of your food, then you can get a pretty good idea of your calories in versus calories out.  This study does indicate that even a moderate reduction in calories – 20% in this case – can have significant results.  Another thing to mention here, one should focus on eating quality (real) food versus processed “junk” food.

Finally, you will find calorie restriction and fasting significantly easier if you reduce your sugar intake.  Sugar primes our brains to want more sugar, and a blood sugar spike induces an insulin spike, which induces a blood sugar crash, which causes hunger.  Eating whole (organic) foods and reducing your overall sugar intake will help you restrict calories.

Of course, for those people concerned (or struggling) with blood sugar issues … be careful, and work with a trusted healthcare provider or health coach to help you with changes in your eating habits.

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