As a doctor, one of the most important parts of my job is to help people enjoy a higher quality of life and live long. And as an anti-aging doctor, I would like nothing better than for all my patients and readers to live to their 100th birthday.
Recently there’s been a lot of discussion about slowing the aging process down through a calorie-restricted diet. And the preliminary research about this calorie-restricted dieting suggests that it may be the most promising strategy to increase longevity.
Now, a calorie-restricted diet doesn’t mean you cut back your food intake by just a little bit like many standard weight control diets. An effective anti-aging calorie-restricted diet means eating 30% fewer calories than you normally would. If you normally eat 2000 calories in a day, on a calorie-restricted diet you would eat 1400 instead. But this type of diet also requires that you get enough vitamins, minerals and other micronutrients to maintain optimum nutrition.
Most of the current animal research demonstrates that a calorie-restricted diet can dramatically increase life expectancy—doubling it in some animals—and improve common disease risk factors like blood pressure.
Calorie Restriction Benefits Still a Mystery
There are a number of theories about why calorie-restrictions work in most species to increase lifespan. These are some of the most popular:
• Hormesis: This theory proposes that a calorie-restricted diet introduces a low level of stress that activates age-fighting systems in the body.
• Longevity Genes: Another theory maintains that certain genes that promote longevity and protect cellular structures become active when you restrict calories.
• Free Radical Theory: Your body makes free radicals as a byproduct of energy production. With fewer calories to burn, your body makes fewer free radicals to cause the oxidative damage that leads to aging.
• Glycation: Sugar molecules in the blood sometimes bond to proteins, damaging them. Fewer calories reduce your level of blood sugar and prevents this.
Get Calorie-Restricted Benefits Without Actually Restricting Calories
A calorie-restricted diet shows a lot of promise for anti-aging and longevity. But I must warn you …it is a hard diet to stick to! If you’re not ready to commit to these tough calorie-restricted requirements, here are few alternative healthy answers that are based on some of the calorie-restricted theories.
Fast Occasionally: Some species show more benefit from fasting every other day than they do from a calorie-restricted diet. If you’re in good health, you might try fasting once or twice a week or even once or twice a month.
Boost Your Nutrients: One school of thinking is that it’s the higher nutrient-to-calorie ratio that gives a calorie-restricted diet its benefit. Government-recommended daily allowances for vitamins and minerals are notoriously low. Taking a higher dose of vitamins and minerals each day will prove beneficial for most people—just use care when it comes to those that are toxic in too-high doses.
Choose Low Glycemic Foods: Try a diet that focuses on foods with a low glycemic load. These foods control the release of sugar into the blood, keeping your glucose levels lower. If the theory of glycation is correct, this will be beneficial without requiring you to make drastic calorie cuts.
I recommend that you talk with your doctor before trying any of these strategies, so that you choose the one that is best for you.
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.