Calorie restriction slows aging and reduces the risk of chronic disease, new study on humans
(NaturalHealth365) It turns out that going a little bit hungry just might make for a longer, happier and healthier life. The practice of calorie restriction – in which daily calorie consumption is significantly reduced – appears to have the ability to improve health, ward off disease and even prolong a higher quality of life.
The concept of calorie restriction is not a new one. (American inventor Benjamin Franklin, for one, endorsed the idea of eating sparingly to avoid disease). And, in the 1940’s, a series of studies demonstrated that calorie restriction could successfully increase the lifespan of animals ranging from fruit flies to rhesus monkeys.
The big news, however, is the publication of new research attesting to the surprising benefits of calorie restriction in humans.
Clinical study shows that calorie restriction reduces the biomarkers of aging and chronic inflammation
In a study published in Cell Metabolism in March 2018, 53 healthy, non-obese adult participants reduced their caloric intake by 15 percent for two years. The study – the first controlled research to examine the metabolic effects of calorie restriction on humans who were not obese – was aptly called CALERIE, an acronym for “Comprehensive Assessment of the Long-Term Effects of Reducing intake of Energy.”
And the results were eye-opening.
By cutting oxidative stress and reducing production of free radicals, caloric restriction reduced biomarkers of aging – signaling the regimen’s ability to ward off degenerative and age-related diseases such as cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.
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Researchers also found that the regimen slowed metabolism, which delays aging – and potentially extends life. The team reported that the participants’ energy expenditure dropped by 120 calories a day lower than would be expected on the basis of simple weight loss – meaning that the body adjusted its metabolism over the two years.
Not surprisingly, the participants on calorie restriction lost an average of roughly 20 pounds – although weight loss was not one of the study’s aims. (In contrast. the control group – which did not attempt to reduce calories – gained an average of 4 pounds).
Bonus: not only did the caloric restriction group avoid any adverse effects associated with calorie restriction – such as anemia or menstrual problems – but they reported significantly increased mood and quality of life.
Even moderate calorie restriction “switches on” genes that promote youthful function
While scientists don’t fully understand exactly why and how calorie restriction accomplishes its beneficial effects, some theorize that evolutionary survival mechanisms come into play.
What is beyond doubt, however, is the fact that calorie restriction doesn’t necessarily have to be severe to be beneficial.
Moderate calorie restriction – cutting daily calories by 22 to 30 percent – can improve heart function, lower markers of inflammation such as C-reactive protein, and lower levels of pro-inflammatory COX-2, which may promote the growth and spread of cancer.
Calorie restriction, or CR, also reduces risk factors for heart disease – such as elevated LDL cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure – while reducing insulin resistance that can trigger diabetes.
And that isn’t all.
CR stimulates DNA repair – possibly helping reduce the risk of cancer-causing mutations – and protects stores of the indispensable natural antioxidants glutathione and superoxide dismutase. It also stimulates productions of SIRT1, an anti-aging enzyme that has extended lifespan in animal studies.
(In fact, one study showed that calorie restriction extends the life span of rats by an amazing 40 percent and more).
The latest human study reinforces the results of research conducted on animals, in which calorie restriction reduces core body temperature and resting metabolic rate – while increasing lifespan.
Excess consumption of calories sharply increases the risk of chronic disease
The flip side of calorie restriction, of course, is overconsumption. And predictably, the health consequences can be grave (a disturbing fact, given that an estimated 30 million American adults are taking in more calories than their bodies need.)
An analysis by researchers at the Mayo Clinic showed that eating too many calories causes more harm than simple weight gain. It also causes oxidative damage to fats, proteins and DNA – and sets the stage for atherosclerosis, cancer, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis.
The researchers found that excessive consumption doubled the risk of heart disease in women. (Cardiovascular disease is already the number one killer in the United States for men and women).
It also caused a shocking fourfold risk of metabolic syndrome, a linked constellation of unhealthy conditions including high blood pressure, obesity, high blood sugar and excessive fats in the blood.
Foods that mimic calorie restriction can provide a dietary “shortcut”
Experts say that despite the benefits of calorie restriction, few people have the discipline to adhere to it on a consistent basis.
Fortunately, some natural substances mimic calorie restriction, promoting the healthful effects without the need for actual dietary reduction. These CR mimetics include flavonoids in various fruits, vegetables and berries – including fisetin from strawberries, resveratrol from dark grapes and red wine, and pterostilbene from blueberries and grapes.
All of these polyphenols activate the anti-aging enzyme SIRT1.
Researchers also credit quercetin – an anti-inflammatory flavonoid in onions, apples and green tea – with CR mimetic properties. In addition, black tea features CR-mimicking flavonols known as theaflavins, while hesperidin – found in citrus fruits – is also a CR mimetic.
Whey protein, the first whole food to be identified as a CR mimetic, is one of the best-known.
Finally, nicotinamide riboside – a form of vitamin B-3 – helps to activate SIRT1. Studies have shown it can increase lifespan in mice, without the use of calorie restriction.
Although more studies must be performed, in order to further explore the safety and efficacy of calorie restriction and CR mimetics, it is clear that this unusual intervention could hold the key to combating chronic disease and prolonging quality of life.
Sources for this article include:
Food & Nutrition
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