Most people want to live a long and prosperous life, one filled with happiness and success right? Clearly one of the main keys to achieving this is health, a person that can stay healthy is most likely to live the longest, excluding freak accidents like being hit by a truck. It is a sad fact that some of the healthiest people out there die young, whilst people who smoke, drink alcohol and live on fast food live long with underlying medical conditions. Nobody ‘deserves’ to live longer than somebody else necessarily, but you’d be forgiven for thinking that the health driven person would go on to live the longest.
Well, it seems that researchers have identified a link between controllable variables and life expectancy, and it is all to do with calorie control….specifically, calorie restriction.
Calorie restriction and dyeing of age related causes
FACT…we all die of heart failure. No matter what causes our health to deteriorate, we ultimately die from our heart shutting down unable to cope under the strain of pumping blood and oxygen around our bodies. Age related causes refer to things like renal (kidney) deterioration, atherosclerosis (artery plaque), and of course heart disease, and so it was rather exciting when a study conducted at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center in Madison established that monkeys fed a calorie restricted diet were less likely to die of age- related causes than control monkeys that were fed whatever they wanted.
Rozalyn Anderson, a biochemist from the University of Wisconsin said:
“We set out to test the hypothesis: would calorie restriction delay ageing? And I think we've shown that it does,”
The study that helped to establish this (among other studies that included testing in mice) was conducted from 1989 to present, and found that a calorie controlled diet seemed to trigger biochemical pathways that promote survival. Researchers are still unclear on what exactly these pathways are, and whether humans actually possess, consequently there is still an outside chance that this method may not work in humans.
Rozalyn Anderson asserts:
“I have no doubt the results will be relevant to how we're treating people in geriatric clinics ten years from now.”
This viewpoint does have its critics, for example Julie Mattison, a physiologist from the NIA explains that we may be seeing health benefits from calorie restriction, but this doesn’t necessarily translate to survival benefits.
Mattison raises a valid point:
“I think what we're arriving at is that the effects of calorie restriction on survival are very dependent on genetics, the environment and the effect on body weight, and probably the diet that you give the animals.”
And I have to say I agree, the nutritional composition of the diet will naturally play a key part. A low calorie diet that is low in certain nutritional components is unlikely to be conducive to living longer, whilst a low calorie diet that is nutritionally complete is far more likely to be beneficial to health. It is therefore fair to say that it is too early to say for sure whether calorie restricted diets can in fact prolong life expectancy. The good news is that the findings are promising, and researchers are combining two studies on the subject matter to see if they can find a middle ground and any common denominators when it comes to calories and survival.
Nature, (2015). Monkey’s that cut calories live longer. Retrieved 18th March, 2015, from discount supplements