Calorie Restriction and Aging

Manipulating Evolutionary Biology For Immortality and Body Redesign Part 1: Calorie Restriction and Aging

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 on.

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 longevity.

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 Practice

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.

Christian -mice Survival

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!