The Health and Longevity Benefits of Calorie Restriction
The benefits of calorie restriction are broad, it impacts the body in many different ways which puts it in a state of repair and maintenance. Calorie restriction will help you lose weight, but many people doing the diet are interested in extending their health and longevity.
A calorie restricted diet is one of the most effective methods to not only prevent diseases of ageing, but also treat and reverse disease. CR has the power to reverse diseases such as heart disease and diabetes within a short period of time. In fact, even if a person has suffered from diabetes for years, a diet like CR may be able to completely reverse it.
Diseases of ageing are commonly treated by medication, but calorie restriction has the power to reverse them just by itself
Calorie Restriction prevents many diseases
So let’s break it down and look at what conditions calorie restriction has been found to prevent or cure
- Heart disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Autoimmune diseases (Lupus, MS, Sjogren’s Syndrome) and other inflammatory disorders
- Skin conditions
These are just some of the most common conditions people are facing. The great thing about CR is that you gain more quality of life and possibly eliminate many of these problems.
I personally practice calorie restriction because it makes me feel great, but since doing the diet, I have cured my IBS, acne, and allergies. My mother suffers from lupus, so if I have a genetic predisposition to this, I believe CR will also be effective there as it is in animal models of lupus.
How long before I see the benefits of calorie restriction?
When you start slowly reducing your calorie intake you will notice a difference within days in your sense of well-being. One of the most common things people experience when going on a low calorie diet is the sense of euphoria.
How will CRON Improve my Health?
CRON stands for ‘Calorie Restriction with Optimal Nutrition’. There must be a lot of emphasis on high quality nutrition when doing this diet. This means eating lots of fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and fish (if you’re not vegetarian).
Calorie restriction will improve your health
- Lower insulin
- Lower glucose
- Lower cholesterol
- Lower blood pressure
- Decrease in inflammation
- Improved immunity
- More energy
- Better mental clarity
- You may start looking younger!
It’s common for the maximum benefits of calorie restriction to take about 1-2 years. In this time your body will adapt to the diet, and move in a direction where the body is using its resources for maintenance and repair. If you continue the diet, in the long term, you will continue to experience these benefits and will protect you from many of the diseases associating with ageing.
Going on and off a low calorie diet
Ideally you want to be consistent and maintain a steady weight once you’ve plateaued. Gene expression studies conducted by Stephen Spindler have shown that the beneficial changes in gene expression after CR has been initiated happen quite rapidly. However, If you increase your calorie intake, at some point the beneficial changes in gene expression could be reversed very quickly – even the changes that took a long time to occur.
On a physiological level and biochemical level, the benefits of calorie restriction will go away more slowly. However, assuming you have been on calorie restriction for many years, and then go off the diet, your rate of ageing will have changed during the time you were on the diet, so your risk of diseases will still be lower than it would have if you had never done calorie restriction.
It’s important to remember that calorie restriction can be maintained at various levels. Although lifespan is increased in proportion to the degree of restriction, even 10% calorie restriction can have huge benefits for health. See a review on calorie restriction in Rhesus monkeys
Is Calorie Restriction diet the fountain of youth?
CR will keep you looking more youthful. In fact, any healthy diet and good sun protection will do this. However, CR has that extra benefit because it fundamentally alters the rate of intrinsic ageing.
Animals put on calorie restriction show less greying of their fur and also less wrinkling of their skin. Most skin ageing is caused by the sun, but other changes take place inside and outside of cells that cause someone to look older. Changes in bone structure, dental health, hair and fat loss also are reasons for why a person ages.
The good news! All of these signs are slowed down by calorie restriction
Should you try out a CRON diet?
If you have any of the risk factors I mentioned above, and you want to stay younger for longer, then absolutely, a calorie restriction diet might be a great option for you until we have better ways to combat ageing through science and medicine.
One crucial thing to remember is that it’s not all or nothing. You can do calorie restriction at a lesser degree so you don’t end up too skinny. If you reduce just 10-15% of your calorie intake, you will experience some of the benefits, and this may add a few extra years to your lifespan.
Dr Luigi Fontana at Washington University in St Louis has shown that in humans, CR has a powerful effect in disease prevention. People on calorie restriction experienced health improvements to a large degree. Most of the participants had similar biomarkers as people who were decades younger. Luigi Fontana believes that people on long term calorie restriction will live much longer than their family and peers.
What age should you start calorie restriction?
In animal studies, the earlier calorie restriction is started, the bigger the benefit. So what this means is that if you start calorie restriction just after weaning in rodents, the animal has a much longer life expectancy than if the diet was imposed in middle age (this also depends on the level of restriction). It has also been shown that even starting the diet very late in life – senior citizens for humans – yields big gains in lifespan. So even if you’re 60 or 70 years old, the diet may offer you are few more years of healthy life.
I believe that calorie restriction should not be done before the age of 20 years. This will ensure that you have fully grown, and do not have any stunted growth. Most people who are consciously restricting their calories to extend their life had begun their CR journey when they were much older than this.
Longevity in Okinawa is a result of ‘mild calorie restriction’
The Island just off Japan was known to be one of the few places in the world where people enjoyed much greater health and longevity. It was not uncommon to see groups of 100 year old friends together, perhaps 4 or 5 of them living in the same village. Over the years, the health and longevity advantage of the Okinawan’s has been going away. Why is this? Well, the diet has significantly changed over the years. In 1949 Okinawan people were eating approximately 1539 Calories per day, mostly from sweet potatoes. But by 1993 that rose to around 1930 Calories per day. So not only did the calorie intake increase, but the quality of their diet also decreased.
What the Okinawan people were doing without even realising it was practising a mild form of calorie restriction, which had reduced over the years. This is thought to be one of the main contributors of their longevity. Two books which I highly recommend are “The Okinawa Program” and “The Okinawa Diet Plan”. The way these people lived was inspirational to me when I first began my diet. The two books gives a good insight into the lives, health and diet of the Okinawan people.
Are you in the CR Zone?
There are many different biomarkers that you should track over time to see if you are responding to calorie restriction. Tracking various metrics could is also a good idea so you understand your body and what is normal for you. It is not uncommon for someone on the diet to see ‘below normal’ white blood count. This might be concerning to your doctor, but it is a well known thing to happen when an animal or human is put on a CR diet. Tracking your progress also simply gives you motivation to continue the diet. If you continue to see progress in the right direction over time, this will help inspire you to continue what you’re doing, but also you can show others the results you’ve gotten from the diet.
Studies in Humans practicing long term calorie restriction
Calorie restriction reduces risk of heart attack, stroke and diabetes
Calorie-restricted diet keeps heart young
Calorie restriction appears better than exercise at slowing primary aging