Can a Calorie Restrictive Diet Extend Your Life?

12/08/2012

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The book What I Eat, Around the World in 80 Diets by Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio, documents Michael Rae from suburban Philadelphia. He’s known as “The Calorie Restrictor,” part of a small, albeit passionate group of believers cutting daily calories by 25 to 30 percent in an effort to forestall the aging process. And he may be onto something; benefits of calorie restriction include lowering blood pressure and strengthening the immune system.

Researchers at Gladstone Institutes looked at another calorie restrictive diet called the ketogenic diet to see whether it delayed the aging process. Age-related diseases including Alzheimer’s, heart disease, and cancer are becoming more and more of a problem, no doubt partially a result of the simple fact that we’re living longer. 

"Ketone Body"

Head researcher Eric Verdin, MD, identified the role calorie restriction may play. Specifically, he looked at the compound β-hydroxybutyrate (βOHB), a so-called "ketone body" that is produced during a prolonged low-calorie or ketogenic diet. He found that the ketone body slowed oxidative stress on the body, a process where the body uses oxygen to produce energy, creating free radicals and aging of the body’s cells. 

Science Daily reports:

Over the years, studies have found that restricting calories slows aging and increases longevity -- however the mechanism of this effect has remained elusive" Dr. Verdin said. Dr. Verdin, the paper's senior author, directs the Center for HIV & Aging at Gladstone and is also a professor at the University of California, San Francisco, with which Gladstone is affiliated. "Here, we find that βOHB -- the body's major source of energy during exercise or fasting -- blocks a class of enzymes that would otherwise promote oxidative stress, thus protecting cells from aging."

Production of this chemical through calorie restriction gives insight as to how it works to slow the aging process in the body. Before that extra serving of mashed potatoes, it's helpful to remember that your longevity may depend on stopping short of filling up. 

"In the future, we will continue to explore the role of βOHB -- especially how it affects the body's other organs, such as the heart or brain -- to confirm whether the compound's protective effects can be applied throughout the body," said Tadahiro Shimazu, a Gladstone postdoctoral fellow and the paper's lead author on Science Daily.

 

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Sara Novak writes about health and wellness for Discovery Health. Her work is also regularly featured in Breathe Magazine and on SereneKitchen.com. She has written extensively on food policy, food politics, and food safety.


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