In the old joke a non-smoker says, “If you quit smoking, you will live longer.” The smoker replies, “It will only seem longer.”
Of course, no one advocates smoking anymore. Even the most die-hard chimney knows that smoking is not good for anyone, including those who are around the smoker breathing the fumes, which we have come to call secondhand smoke.
However, eating adds to virtually everyone’s enjoyment. A calorie-restricted life, researchers say, will add to longevity. We can well imagine that the good health that comes with reduced calories will more than compensate for not being able to eat everything a person would like to eat. In fact, researchers have found that persons who participated in experiments experienced no mood setbacks from a calorie-restricted diet; their happiness quotient was not reduced at all.
Researchers at the National Institute on Aging found that it does not take a large reduction in calories to achieve good effects. The subjects of the study were asked to reduce their caloric intake by 25%, but they never achieved that level! They reached about half that amount of caloric restriction, or 12%. Nor did they reach their targeted goal of reducing their weight by 15.5%. Nevertheless, they lost about 10% of their body weight in the first year and sustained the weight loss onto the second year of the study. Researchers had hoped for more weight loss, but the fact that the persons in the experiment maintained their weight loss during the second year was highly significant to the researchers. The subjects also maintained their 12% reduction in calories over the two-year duration of the study.
Researchers expected changes in metabolism, but the changes did not materialize. The researchers found that the subjects had lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and lower chances of diabetes by the end of the study.
Calorie restriction has been found to produce many benefits, including:
- Delay the onset and pace of age-related diseases in numerous studies with animals,
- Reduce blood pressure (the subjects in the study by the National Institute on Aging lowered their blood pressure by 4%)
- Reduce cholesterol (the subjects in the study lowered their cholesterol by 6%)
- Increase good cholesterol
- Reduce an inflammatory protein related to heart disease by 50%
- Reduce thyroid hormones by 20%
These are very good and promising results. Yet, the director of the National Institute on Aging, Richard J. Hodes, cautioned against persons entering into a calorie-restriction mode prematurely. He stated that the obvious, that “exercise and maintaining a healthy weight and diet can contribute to healthy aging.” (NIH Study)
Calorie restriction should never come at the expense of nutrition. It should be noted that several subjects experienced fleeting bouts of anemia. Some showed a decrease in bone density that was more than the researchers had anticipated in view of their weight loss. Calorie restriction is best followed by a senior in your care under the guidance of a doctor.
With a physician’s guidance and monitoring, most adults can probably safely reduce their caloric intake by 10% to 12%. Under those circumstances, they can experience the benefits of sustained weight reduction and no they may have more time on earth to experience life’s joys.
Cire, Barbara. NIH Study Finds Calorie Restriction Lowers Some Risk Factors for Age-Related Diseases.September 1, 2015. National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Available online at: https://www.nia.nih.gov/newsroom/2015/09/nih-study-finds-calorie-restriction-lowers-some-risk-factors-age-related-diseases
September 2015 issue, The Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences contained the report of the study: Ravussin, E., et al., A 2-Year Randomized Controlled Trial of Human Caloric Restriction: Feasibility and Effects on Predictors of Health Span and Longevity. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci (2015) 70 (9): 1097-1104. doi: 10.1093/gerona/glv057