Low-calorie diets: The new fountain of youth?
We have searched for solutions to create youth and longevity since Ponce DeLeon was searching for the fountain of youth. We want to live forever but we are quite mortal and forever will never happen. Our bodies are just not made to live that long, but there are things we can do to extend our lives and live longer.
I recently found an intriguing article on Science Daily about studies that were done on Rhesus monkeys. The study looked at calorie restrictions and morbidity (disease) and mortality (death). You may ask yourself, why would we study the longevity and disease processes of monkeys but the fact is that these monkeys have a physiology that is nearly identical to ours. This means that results have a high probability of being similar or the same in humans.
The studies found that there were significant benefits in survival and reductions in cancer, cardiovascular disease, and insulin resistance for monkeys that ate less than their peers. The odd thing about the research is that it appears that the benefits only occur when started at an older age and not in younger monkeys. Besides the age difference, there also seems to be a sex difference in which males tend to be more susceptible to the adverse effects of higher body fat. It is clear that more research is needed before we start testing in humans.
Other studies have already looked at humans and have found that low-calorie diets look like they would extend life. This study looked at eight markers of morbidity and mortality and found that two of them improved with calorie restriction. The markers were fasting insulin level and body temperature and they were decreased by prolonged calorie restriction in humans. They also concluded that studies of longer duration are required to determine if calorie restriction attenuates the aging process in humans.
Similar findings were found in mice.
The bottom line: Although more research is needed, a caloric restriction does appear to affect aging. More research is needed to look at the effects of age, diet, and sex must all be factored in to realize the full benefits of lower caloric intake.
Heilbronn, Leonie K., Lilian de Jonge, Madlyn I. Frisard, James P. DeLany, D. Enette Larson-Meyer, Jennifer Rood, Tuong Nguyen, et al. “Effect of 6-Month Calorie Restriction on Biomarkers of Longevity, Metabolic Adaptation, and Oxidative Stress in Overweight Individuals.” JAMA. American Medical Association (AMA), April 5, 2006. doi: 10.1001/jama.295.13.1539
Mattison, Julie A., Ricki J. Colman, T. Mark Beasley, David B. Allison, Joseph W. Kemnitz, George S. Roth, Donald K. Ingram, Richard Weindruch, Rafael de Cabo, and Rozalyn M. Anderson. “Caloric Restriction Improves Health and Survival of Rhesus Monkeys.” Nature Communications. Springer Nature, January 17, 2017. doi: 10.1038/ncomms14063
Wu, Junfang, Liu Yang, Shoufeng Li, Ping Huang, Yong Liu, Yulan Wang, and Huiru Tang. “Metabolomics Insights into the Modulatory Effects of Long-Term Low Calorie Intake in Mice.” Journal of Proteome Research. American Chemical Society (ACS), July 2016. doi: 10.1021/acs.jproteome.6b00336