Manipulating Evolutionary Biology For Immortality and
Body Redesign Part 1: Calorie Restriction and
Man has long strived for ways to live forever. From the Fountain
of Youth to pharmaceutical drugs to calorie restriction, man has
stopped at nothing to achieve the impossible: Living Forever.
So what if I told you there is a way you could increase your
lifespan, reduce your risk for chronic diseases, and improve your
muscle/fat ratio. Sounds like a late-night infomercial doesn't it!
It's not! It's Intermittent Fasting.
Before I delve into what intermittent fasting is (stay tuned for
Part 2) we need to understand a few theories and few important
concepts about the human body and the aging process. To start, one
of the theories on aging and many of the most diabolical chronic
disease centers on a concept called oxidative stress. Scientists
have identified this wonderful cellular component called a telomere
and they have correlated life expectancy with the length of these
bad boys. Without going into the complex mechanisms, the basic idea
is the longer they are the longer you live. Simple enough? Moving
Now wouldn't it be great if you knew what shortened them. Ah ha,
we do! ROS! ROS?? Reactive Oxygen Species or 'free radicals' can
and do damage these telomeres that guard our cell's DNA and can
reduce our lifespan.
The next question you may ask is how do we get rid of these free
radicals? Wouldn't we then live forever? Maybe, although it's not
quite that simple. Obviously, a diet rich in veggies
(antioxidants), quality meats, and no junk is a great way
(according to the newest literature) towards living a longer life.
The more antioxidants ('killers' of free radicals), the less chance
the free radicals have to run wild and damage the telomeres and
DNA, and the better chance you have at living longer and healthier!
I won't bore you since the literature is LITTERED with research on
antioxidants and free radical scavenging for disease prevention and
Another way around this problem of reducing inevitable oxidative
stress revolves around calorie consumption. In order for the food
you eat to be broken down and turned into energy (ATP), it must be
exposed to oxygen and become oxidized. This is fantastic for the
organism since it gets its everyday energy for functions like the
Na K pump, muscle contraction, biosynthesis, repair, and numerous
other cellular processes. The one major consequence of making ATP
is free radicals (superoxide, hydrogen peroxide, hydroxy radicals)
are formed and if your diet doesn't have many antioxidants or your
body is low on glutathione or CoQ10, then they can freely damage
the cell, organelles, and possibly telomere length.
So the conundrum is that this happens every time you eat a
calorie of food. You need to eat to stay alive but is eating slowly
killing you? In fact, what makes it more interesting is if you
graph the species of animals with the slowest metabolic rates
(rates of oxidizing food into energy) it is inversely related to
lifespan! The Less you Eat the Longer You Live!
SIDE GEEK NOTE: They say your mother's genes determine your
lifespan. This old wives' tale is actually partly true in the sense
you inherit your mother's mitochondria and mitochondrial DNA
(unlike nuclear DNA) is unrepairable, so if free radicals damage
that particular DNA that cell suffers. If that happens to enough
cells you won't live as long. Sad face. Give Mom a hug.
To Eat or Not To Eat?
So I'm here to tell you about another solution that a group of
scientists have looked into for manipulating life expectancy. If
you live longer when you eat less... why not eat less? Wow, these
doctors are brilliant (DUH! lol). When man is faced with
immortality or rationality, what do the movies pick? Immortality.
See there is, in fact, a whole society of people willing to
chronically cut calories and underfeed their bodies despite their
tummy's best attempts at gurgling. Rational? No. But It's for the
chance at living forever so wisdom is shot out the window! What
became of these studies you ask?
Cut Calories for Longevity = Better in Theory than
Moral of the story here is it's a nice story that when you eat
less you'll have less oxidative stress and therefore you'll
live longer. The science backs it up. No doubts here. But often
what gets lost in translation is the real life application.
The first attempt at this was a study in mice where one control
group ate till they were full, and the other group of mice were
then given 40% less that the control group. They did this for the
life of the mice. The data does show the mice on 40% less calories
lived longer. Hurray! We did it! Longer Lives for Everyone. Wait a
minute. What happened to those mice? Did they enjoy their longer
lives and smile all the way to their cheese laden deathbeds? Not
quite. All the mice in the calorie restricted group featured
irritability, quickness to anger, inability to procreate, decrease
in cognitive abilities, and only reached 50% of the size of the
fully fed mice.
Based on numerous animal studies, researchers calculate you
could live to 120 years old!....BUT...you'll be pissed off, can't
have kids, be about the size of a 10-year-old when full grown, and
won't be very smart. Where do I sign? Apparently, that still hasn't
stopped a few groups of people to try it out for themselves. Me?
I'd rather be well fed and smile for the remainder of my years.
Eating Your Cake, Too
This brings me to my final tease. What if you could get all the
longevity benefits of a Calorie Restriction (CR) diet without
all the fuss and side effects? We may just have found a way. It's
rooted in evolutionary biology, the will to survive, and it's
called intermittent fasting!
Part 2 will explain how to incorporate it into your life!