Many of us want to live a long and healthy life. We want to stall the aging process and maintain our youthful appearance and feel young even in old age.
The quest for the fountain of youth has been highlighted in film and literature. In the United States alone, the desire to maintain youth, and stall aging is a multi-billion dollar industry, with face creams, plastic surgery, and various fads and gimmicks that have people pulling money from their wallet without hesitation.
One topic of interest within the category of anti-aging is calorie restriction and how it may stall the aging process.
Decades of research involving lab rats has suggested that restricting caloric intake can increase the life expectancy of these animals by at least 40%. These rodents, which were fed 30% less calories daily, were observed to have lived longer than the other animals that were fed to satisfaction.
But, is eating fewer calories enough to delay the aging process in humans? Is the so-called “fountain of youth” right in front of us?
Ever heard of how red wine can help you live longer? One of the reasons why drinking a glass of red wine nightly is considered beneficial is because it contains resveratrol, a chemical that stimulates the production of sirtuins. Sirtuins are a class of protein which are believed to slow down the aging process, and their production has been closely linked to low calorie diets.
Researchers suggest that reducing your calorie intake affects the behavior of about 900 genes. Carbohydrates, in particular, have shown to affect a larger group of genes, ones that are linked to learning, memory formation, and aging.
Lower Metabolic Rates
High caloric intake technically leads to a higher metabolic rate, or the amount of energy which the body utilizes in order to perform normal bodily functions.
According to new studies published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, those with higher metabolic rates are more susceptible to early death as a result of natural causes as compared to those with lower metabolic rates.
Higher metabolic rates have also been associated with the increased production of free radicals, which are known to accelerate the aging process and to cause serious damage to major organs.
Keep in mind that metabolism slows naturally as we age, and this often leads to weight gain because people do not change their eating habits to compensate for this slowing. So, if you subscribe to the theory that slow metabolism stalls the aging process, and you do not take action to increase it as you age, then you also need to be sure to eat less food or else you will gain weight.
Lower T3 Levels
Interestingly, low calorie diets have shown to decrease the production of the thyroid hormone triiodothyronine (T3). This hormone is responsible for most of the physiological processes happening within the body, including body temperature regulation, metabolism, and growth and development.
Therefore, it makes sense that lower T3 levels can affect the aging process, although this theory needs more evidence.
Reduced Risk For Chronic Diseases
We are well aware that diet plays a major role in the development of chronic diseases, such as, diabetes and heart attack. With these conditions present, it will be challenging to maintain optimum health and prolong life.
First, let’s talk about obesity. The more you eat, the more likely that you’ll gain weight. With too much body fat, the risk for developing heart diseases and stroke is higher. Additionally, being overweight can cause insulin resistance, leading to type 2 diabetes that increases risks for early death.
Second, it has something to do with your food choices. With high caloric intake, it’s more likely that you’re not watching what you eat. Therefore, common sense should be observed when selecting your food. Pick foods that can keep you full longer and those that are packed with nutrients, but not calories.
Nutrient density is a term used to describe food that has the highest amount of nutrients calorie for calorie. So, while a piece of apple pie may have close to the same calories as a chicken breast, they are not equal because the chicken breast will provide you with important nutrients, while the apple pie will not.
The Bottom Line
Your calorie intake may or may not have a direct effect on the aging process. It is a complex web involving a lot of factors, which when combined can improve longevity. While Calorie Restriction Research has spanned more than 80 years in animals, research on humans is still quite limited.
Indeed, more evidence is needed to back up these claims regarding the link between a low calorie diet and aging.
The good news with this theory is that you’ve got nothing to lose by lowering your caloric intake in a healthy manner as is fitting to your daily activity levels.
Use an online calorie calculator to figure out how many calories you should eat to either maintain or lose weight. This number will be based on your age, weight and activity levels. Use this number to be sure and stick within your limits and keep in mind that the more active you are the more you can eat and still lose or maintain your ideal weight.
When you become conscious of what you eat, you can maintain a healthy weight and prevent the development of chronic diseases. The part where aging is slowed may just be an added bonus!