Calorie restriction (CR) in animals extends longevity by a considerable margin. Both primary and secondary aging processes are decelerated by limiting foods to those that are high in nutrients and relatively low in calories. Studies on humans are only now in progress, while those in animals have been unfolding for a few years. One of the boons of CR is a lowered core body temperature, which is that at which all physiological activity is most efficient. Not only this, but also fat reduction and consequent cardiac health can defer the foibles and imperfections of old age.
Studies at Washington University (St. Louis, MO) and the U. of California at San Francisco, sponsored in part by the Calorie Restriction Society, have found that" (calorie) restriction in animals seems to be the fountain of youth…” Studies on people may or may not yield the same results, primarily because free-living humans are not accepting of the same externally imposed restrictions as are endured by the animals. Human variables that need to be addressed include alterations in cognitions, behaviors, responses to stressors, and effects on other markers of health. However, humans have shown some of the same “…adaptations that are…involved in slowing primary aging in rats and mice.” Most notable here is a reduction in the inflammatory markers known as C-reactive protein and Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha.
Primary aging is the gradual and inevitable process of physical deterioration that occurs throughout life. You know, the aches and pains, the slowed movements, the loss of 20-20 vision, decreased resistance to infections, impaired hearing, and the rest of the baggage. Secondary aging results from diseases and poor health practices (read lifestyle) that include smoking, torpor, booze and obesity, all of which can contribute to diseases in the first place.
Does CR work in people? Yes, as long as it is reasonable…and that varies from person to person. Decreasing calorie intake by only a few hundred can make a significant difference in health and longevity by reducing body fat, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, and avoiding degenerative diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease. Don’t forget about lowered body temperature, where the Washington University researchers learned that life expectancy was increased in animals. (Soare, 2011) Of course, we can’t definitely tell how this affects people because we don’t know when each is programmed to die. It is such, however, that family history of salubrious long life can be predictive of an individual’s longevity.
You might be interested to know that a nutritional supplement demonstrates an effect that mirrors calorie restriction. We advise that you not yet jump for joy without the realization that this needs to be approached sensibly, which means being attentive to calorie intake. You can’t go wild on doughnuts, white flour bagels, ice cream and other culinary nonsense. You see, the mechanism behind calorie restriction’s success is not completely understood, but it is presumed that a protein called sirtuin is responsible for control of the aging process, and that CR directs the activity of sirtuin. Part of the aging procedure involves cellular stress, particularly in the mitochondria, the power plants of the cell that make energy. If we can slow down oxidation by ramping up the mitochondria’s defense mechanisms and simultaneously inhibiting the attack of reactive oxygen species, then we might be able to stave off the pangs of aging. How do we do that without restriction of calories? What supplement is held in such high regard? Resveratrol, the red wine polyphenol!
Independent of each other, Zoltan Ungvari (2009) and Thimmappa Anekonda (2006) discovered that resveratrol may have therapeutic value in the treatment of metabolic and neuronal diseases, based at least partially on the activity of sirtuin. What is known about resveratrol’s mechanism of action is that it encourages the sirtuin homologue SIRT1 to ply its trade as a cellular regulator, where it slows down metabolism and any stimulatory reactions to environmental toxins, thus placing an organism into a defensive state so it can survive adverse circumstances. Tobacco smoke-induced oxidative stress even becomes minimized.
We are individuals with different needs and responses to interventions, whether dietary or medical. You will differ in your response to calorie restriction from your twin. You will differ in your response to resveratrol, if that is the route you choose. But it seems more than likely you will experience a strengthened immune system, heightened energy, a healthier reproductive system, increased stamina…and looser trousers.
Exp Gerontol. 2007 Aug;42(8):709-12. Epub 2007 Mar 31. Caloric restriction in humans. Holloszy JO, Fontana L.
Toxicol Pathol. 2009;37(1):47-51. Epub 2008 Dec 15. Caloric restriction and aging: studies in mice and monkeys. Anderson RM, Shanmuganayagam D, Weindruch R.
Aging (Albany NY). 2011 Apr;3(4):374-9. Long-term calorie restriction, but not endurance exercise, lowers core body temperature in humans. Soare A, Cangemi R, Omodei D, Holloszy JO, Fontana L.
Free Radic Biol Med. 2011 Apr 22.
Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2008 Jun;294(6):H2721-35. Epub 2008 Apr 18. Vasoprotective effects of resveratrol and SIRT1: attenuation of cigarette smoke-induced oxidative stress and proinflammatory phenotypic alterations. Csiszar A, Labinskyy N, Podlutsky A, Kaminski PM, Wolin MS, Zhang C, Mukhopadhyay P, Pacher P, Hu F, de Cabo R, Ballabh P, Ungvari Z.
Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2009 Nov;297(5):H1876-81. Epub 2009 Sep 11. Resveratrol attenuates mitochondrial oxidative stress in coronary arterial endothelial cells. Ungvari Z, Labinskyy N, Mukhopadhyay P, Pinto JT, Bagi Z, Ballabh P, Zhang C, Pacher P, Csiszar A.
Brain Res Rev. 2006 Sep;52(2):316-26. Resveratrol--a boon for treating Alzheimer's disease? Anekonda TS.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease.