New Study: Calorie restriction prevents chronic disease

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woman waist measurement(NaturalHealth365) Recently released results of aSt primate study from the University of Wisconsin (UW) reaffirm that calorie restriction partnered with consumption of nutrient-dense foods are critical to leading a long and healthy life. The findings contradict a controversial study two years ago, sponsored by the National Institute of Aging (NIA), that suggested humans may not benefit from calorie restriction in an effort to enhance longevity.

Yet, according to Felipe Sierra, Ph.D., director of NIA’s Division of Aging Biology, “the two studies share many of the same findings.” Obviously, there’s much more to this story.

Before jumping to conclusions – always look at ‘study procedures’

While both studies sought to learn whether calorie restriction could be the pathway to a longer life, slight differences in diets used in the control groups may hold the key to very differing results. Sadly, the general public NEVER gets to see this kind of crucial information.

In the NIA study, primates in the control group were fed a specific allotment of food, whereas the UW’s control group was allowed to eat whenever they wanted, circumstances that more closely match the typical human diet. This difference likely resulted in at least some of the primates in the NIA study to be on mildly restrictive diets compared to what they may have eaten if provided the opportunity.

It’s important to understand that earlier studies, on rats, have shown that even mildly restrictive diets can have longevity benefits.

Secondly, the primates in the NIA’s control group were provided with healthier sources of carbohydrates and protein, whereas the UW study sought to mimic a more typical non-restrictive human diet.

While both groups on control diets received the same amount of carbohydrates, at 60 percent of total diet, sucrose made up about 28.5 percent of carbohydrates in the UW study’s control group versus only about 3.9 percent in the NIA control group. Again, the UW study’s purpose with the control diet was to more closely match a typical human diet – without calorie restriction.

A similar scenario existed for protein sources. While the UW control group derived its protein from lactalbumin, the protein found in milk and whey, the NIA control group’s diet included fish meal, known to be rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Just as with the addition of healthier carbohydrates, access to a source of protein with benefits to the cardiovascular system was likely a contributor to improved longevity among primates in the NIA control group.

How does diet extend the quality of our life?

Results of the UW study reaffirm what was believed to be true all along, that a calorie-restrictive diet coupled with selection of nutrient-dense foods, can prolong life and lead to more robust health throughout the aging process.

While the earlier NIA study produced a media storm with headlines declaring what you ate – and how much you ate – had little to do with how long you would live, those results had been rebutted by many in the scientific community. The UW study’s results reaffirm what was believed to be true all along, based on previous research: that maintaining a calorie-controlled diet and choosing nutrient-dense foods can help avoid many of the most common and serious diseases of aging, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease.

When is the best time to start a “calorie restrictive” diet?

The good news is results of the UW study provide evidence that beginning a restrictive diet of nutrient-dense foods can be beneficial at any age, even if started well into adulthood. Monkeys used in the study were all adults. Control animals, left with a non-restrictive, less healthy diet, had a 2.9 times greater death rate from age-related factors than the calorie-restricted primates in the study group.

Obviously, if you’re suffering from a serious health condition or have reservations, it would be a wise decision to consult a holistically-trained physician before making any changes to your diet.

The latest scientific research suggests activation of so-called longevity cell signals is the critical factor for slowing the aging process. As the UW study confirms, this may be as straightforward as monitoring calorie intake to stay within moderate levels and choosing foods that are known to be nutrient dense.

One final comment on longevity and quality of life: Keep yourself physically active and cultivate a ‘happy’ mindset as you go through life.


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  • Rebecca

    This is a good unbiased article. Every point is well researched and thoughtfully written. Most of the reporting in main stream media has been a hatched job. There is plenty of evidence showing under eating with adequate nutrition is the best way to stay healthy.

  • Gail

    Calorie restriction comes in many forms. The one that works best for me is intermittent fasting. I use this method because of the ease and simplicity. I schedule my eating around a narrow frame of time.

    I am not a breakfast eater so that means I can fast till the afternoon. At that time I eat a light lunch or snack. This can be a vegetable juice or green smoothie. Then I have a regular dinner and try not to snack in the evening and if I do I make it a light snack.

    I also eat nutrient dense whole foods. This is what works for me, but anyone can try different methods and get some great results.

  • Megan Kelly

    Calorie restriction done without proper nutrition can be harmful. The media doesn’t seem to address that point. Calorie restriction should always be seen as a way to limit food to the most nutritious choices.

    Consuming less sugar and processed food means exchanging empty calories for more nutritious ones. The healthier foods are less calorie dense and cut cravings. Without reporting this information the press does a disservice to its readers.