The most significant anti-aging discovery in history was made in 1935. In that year, rats fed a calorie restricted diet achieved radically-extended mean and maximum life spans, along with a delayed onset of age-related diseases.1
Since this finding was published 75 years ago, dozens of experiments in mammals have validated that undernutrition without malnutrition induces profound anti-aging effects.2-10 Not only do calorie restricted animals live much longer, but they remain far healthier than normally-fed controls.
When a group of humans consumed a similar calorie restricted diet, their conventional blood markers of aging (excess glucose, cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL) plummeted to much lower levels.11,12
In the most significant finding to date, two groups of Rhesus monkeys were studied for twenty years. The group placed on a moderately restricted diet reduced their incidence of age-related disease by a factor of three! Cancers and cardiovascular disease were less than half in the moderate calorie restricted group compared to controls. None of the moderate calorie restricted group developed diabetes or impaired glucose tolerance, despite a usually high prevalence in these monkeys. An interesting finding showed that moderate calorie reduction preserved brain volume in certain regions.13 Normal aging is accompanied by brain shrinkage as neurons are lost.
This issue of Life Extension® is dedicated to providing practical options to attain many of the beneficial effects of calorie restriction. Our objective is to help induce the favorable changes in our members’ bodies that may be responsible for the remarkable age-delaying and disease-protecting effects of reduced calorie intake.
A Time to Make Personal Commitments
After reading this article, I hope each of you will reduce some of the excess calories you ingest each day. I can almost promise that if you do it right, you’ll never miss these surplus age-accelerating sugars and fats. Even if you are unable to cut a single calorie, we are going to show how you can benefit nonetheless.
A study of those making New Year’s resolutions showed that 46% are compliant after six months.14 During this time of year, when people strive for a healthier and longer life, I believe most of you will succeed in cutting back at least some excess food intake.
We All Eat Too Much
Calorie-dense toxic foods are abundant, cheap and heavily advertised. It is no wonder that so many children and adults eat far more than what their bodies require.
Excess calorie intake causes our bloodstream to be chronically ‘bloated’ with glucose, insulin, cholesterol, fat, homocysteine, and other pro-inflammatory inducers. Persistent bloodstream overload predisposes us to cancer, stroke, heart attack, senility, painful inflammation and virtually every other age-related ailment.15-27
Consuming excess calories shortens our average life span by facilitating the development of age-related diseases that preclude us from attaining healthy longevity.
Overconsumption of calories has another insidious effect. Many scientists believe that our life span is largely controlled by genes that program our bodies to function in a youthful-healthy state. When we consume excess calories, we cause some of these genes to turn against us and contribute to accelerated aging and death.
If we reduce the amount and/or effects of ingested calories, the result is a more favorable gene expression profile. Such a positive effect helps us to live longer, healthier lives.
Controlling the impact of ingested calories becomes an essential component of a science-based longevity program, as excess calorie exposure reduces life span by increasing degenerative disease risk and accelerating aging.
So now that you understand that most of us are eating too much, let’s talk about practical approaches to doing something about it.
Reduce the Number of Calories You Absorb
Foods eaten must first be broken down by digestive enzymes before they are absorbed into our bloodstream. Dietary fats, for instance, are broken down by lipase enzymes in the stomach and small intestines. Taking 120 mg of the lipase-inhibiting drug orlistat before meals reduces dietary fat absorption by 30%.28
Green and black tea polyphenols also inhibit lipase, thus enabling one to eat more calories without absorbing all of the fats.29,30 In fact, when theaflavins from black tea were administered to rats, there was an immediate suppression of post-meal (postprandial) triglyceride elevation in the blood. The scientists attributed these results to the “inhibition of pancreatic lipase activity.”30
You might think that a drug like orlistat that reduces fat absorption by 30% would induce significant weight loss. The harsh reality is that study subjects must reduce their dietary fat intake and take orlistat to lose just 20.5 pounds in one year. These data reveal the frightening degree to which most of us overeat.31 In other words, even when dietary fat absorption is reduced by 30%, we still take in too many fat calories.
Studies show that in response to consumption of green or black tea polyphenols (or orlistat), substantial reductions in blood glucose, triglycerides, cholesterol, and other vascular risk factors occur.32-41 These same changes happen when one reduces calorie intake,11,12 suggesting that those who continue to eat too much should take steps to block digestive enzymes that enable excess calories to be absorbed.
Most Western diets contain too many refined carbohydrates that add to the calorie burden. Ingested carbohydrates are broken down for absorption by the enzymes sucrase, amylase, and glucosidase. One may obtain some of the effects of following a “low-carb” diet by taking 50-100 mg of a drug called acarbose (glucosidase inhibitor) before each meal.42,43
Nutrients that may slow carbohydrate absorption include white kidney bean (amylase inhibitor),44-47 InSea™ (containing amylase and glucosidase inhibitors from special seaweeds),48-51 Irvingia (amylase inhibitor)52-55 and L-arabinose (sucrase inhibitor).56 These carbohydrate-blunting nutrients are all contained in the new Optimized Irvingia formula.
Clinical studies confirm significant reductions in glucose, insulin, and triglyceride levels in response to taking acarbose alone.57-59 These effects also occur when one restricts their calorie intake. Clinical studies show dramatic reductions in heart attack rate in response to acarbose.59 This same kind of vascular disease risk reduction has been observed in experimental studies where food intake is restricted.60-62 What this indicates is that one may obtain some of the benefits of following a calorie restricted diet by inhibiting lipase, amylase, glucosidase, and sucrase enzymes.
Consuming soluble dietary fibers before meals slows the absorption of carbohydrates, thus blunting the postprandial insulin spike.63-66 This is another method of impeding calorie absorption and helping to mimic the effects of calorie restriction.
Improve Your Gene Expression
In response to consuming fewer calories, gene expression favoring youthful vigor is improved. Overeating, on the other hand, induces pathologic gene expression favoring the onset of diseases and accelerated aging.72,73
Until recently, the only way of achieving a favorable gene expression profile was through caloric restriction. Back in the late 1990s, research funded by the Life Extension Foundation® enabled scientists to compare the effects of various compounds (such as resveratrol) to the gene expression changes that occur during calorie restriction.
These experiments have been used to identify nutrients that mimic many of the beneficial gene expression changes observed during calorie restriction. As you will read in this month’s issue, many of the nutrients Life Extension® members have been taking for decades, and a few new ones, favorably influence gene expression changes that occur during calorie restriction.
Once scientists gain total control over the expression of the genes that affect longevity, mankind may achieve biological immortality.Until that time arrives, it is comforting to know that we can now exert at least some control over the expression of genes that influence our health and longevity.
With the discovery of novel plant extracts that mimic some of the gene expression changes observed in response to calorie restriction, one may enjoy many of the longevity benefits of undereating by taking the proper supplements daily.
Moderate Calorie Restriction—It’s Not as Difficult as You Think!
For too many people, copious food intake has become an addictive drug. I am so gratified that the nutrient Irvingia and the drug metformin keep my appetite under control and enable me to eat a lot less than I used to. There are other nutrients and drugs that effectively curb appetite, but these are all I have needed.
I don’t miss gorging on surplus calories. One reason is my regular review of scientific articles that discuss reasons why people develop lethal diseases. For many medical conditions, overeating (described as “excess energy intake”) is an independent risk factor for developing anything from cancer, to vascular disease, to arthritis, and even to senility.74-79
I regularly speak with individuals who practice what many would say is extreme calorie restriction. The media views these individuals as being so unique that they have been favorably featured on CBS News’ 60 Minutes, the Oprah Winfrey Show, and in Newsweek magazine.
When I asked two of the most famous calorie restrictors how many calories they consume a day, Paul McGlothin told me he eats around 1,900, while Meredith Averill’s intake is around 1,600 daily. Based on these numbers, I did not think Paul or Meredith are overly depriving themselves. People who go on crash diets, sometimes consuming fewer than 1,000 calories a day, are absolutely miserable, and rapidly regain the weight they lost. Paul and Meredith, on the other hand, say they are activating their “happiness biochemistry” and would never consider eating more food that would compromise their mental state of well being and physical state of health.
At the beginning of this article I described the Rhesus monkey study that utilized only modest calorie restriction to achieve remarkable longevity benefits. From everything we know today, it would appear that many of you could migrate towards a routine of at least modest calorie reduction and feel better doing so.
So much of our appetite craving is psychological. I was at a business dinner a while back and ordered an 8-ounce filet mignon. When I finished, I thought that I should have ordered a larger portion. Several nights later, I ordered a 12-ounce size at the same restaurant and felt uncomfortably full. This made me realize how we “think” we need large portions of food to be satiated, when we really don’t. (I rarely eat beef by the way, usually only small portions a few times a month.)
It is hard for me to dine with regular people and not be appalled by the enormous amount of calories they ingest at a single meal. I know I feel better at the meal’s conclusion, while these individuals are bloated from gorging themselves with so many excess calories.
Once one accepts the fact that surplus food ingestion is poison to the body, it’s a lot easier to practice at least a moderate degree of caloric cutback.