Caloric Restriction

The United States really has super sized itself in its eating habits and consequently, in its waistlines! We have always adopted a “more is better” attitude not only about food, but about most things we reward ourselves with. And because of this our average life expectancy of 77.6 years will take a nosedive. This life expectancy is a bit misleading as it includes a reflection of modern medicine sustaining lives in a diseased inactive state with low levels of functional capacity. Enter the concept of caloric restriction, an idea totally foreign to the American way of thinking about food…..

Studies in rodents and primates show that a calorically restricted, nutrient dense diet resulted in younger looking rodents and primates that aged much slower and developed fewer diseases than their calorically unrestricted counterparts. As a matter of fact, they lived 30% longer! And actively and functionally!

Well after 40 years of such research, it is a fact that a nutrient rich, calorically restricted diet is unequivocally the most effective strategy for slowing most or all of the aging process. The same research also shows that this same caloric restriction can be protective in the brain and aid in slowing the progression of some neurodegenerative disease states like Alzheimer’s disease. So to summarize much of the recent research, caloric restriction affords protection against cardiovascular disease. There is a decrease in hypertension and dyslipidemia, reduced arterial plaque and reversal of accumulated plaque. Caloric restriction lowers body fat, protects against type 2 Diabetes, decreases inflammation, defends against cancer and autoimmune disease and encourages better DNA repair and maintenance.

IT IS IMPORTANT TO NOTE THAT CALORIC RESTRICTION WITH OPTIMUM NUTRITION IS NOT THE SAME AS MALNUTRITION, FASTING OR STARVATION. A calorically restricted diet must provide adequate levels of protein to preserve lean body mass, enough carbohydrate to maintain adequate brain function and enough essential fatty acids for production of eicosinoid hormones needed as cofactors in so many metabolic reactions. At the same time a calorically restricted diet must provide optimum levels of all micronutrients. It requires eating foods with a low caloric but high nutrient density throughout the day. And this is important because of the concept of “free radicals”….

One of the most potent biologic pathways of aging is free radical formation and subsequent oxidative stress and inflammation. This is the “Free Radical Theory of Aging”: the greater the cells exposure to free radicals, the greater the damage incurred and the shorter the lifespan of the cell. The primary source for free radicals is the food that we consume and its interaction at the cellular and genetic level. Overeating leads to increased free radical formation, disease and consequently a shorter lifespan. Caloric restriction on the other hand results in less free radical formation, less damage and disease and hence a longer life!

Overconsumption of refined carbohydrates and sugars promotes an additional biologic pathway to aging, namely ADVANCED GLYCATED END PRODUCTS OR AGEs. These damage the protein structure of the body and increase the rate of free radical formation as the refined carbs combine with proteins and render them ineffective and in some cases “evil”.

In the next post, I will reveal the secret of attaining caloric restriction without giving up much of what you consume as another player enters the field: RESVERATROL! So stay tuned and as always thank you for reading…

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