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Eat Less Live Longer

The one proven way to live longer is to consume fewer calories (i.e., eat less extends life span). Today we call it calorie restriction, or, simply, CR, which we know works in extending the life span of mice, rats, fruit, flies, earthworms, yeast, and many hope, humans[2,21].  One of the proofs of CR's effectiveness on humans is the world's healthiest and most long lived people (i.e., Abkhasians, Vilcabambans, Hunzans, and Okinawans) all eat a low-calorie, plant-based, whole-foods diet. They eat little. Most of them consume less than 2000 calories a day. They never overeat. As reported, Abkhasians are universally very strong and slender people, with no excess fat on their bodies. Evidences of the benefits brought by calorically restricted optimal nutrition diet include the following, but not limited to:

  • Asthma patients on a restricted diet for two months had fewer markers of oxidative stress and inflammation in their blood (and their asthma symptoms improved).
  • Putting animals on a near-starvation diet makes them live 30% or more longer than normal.
  • Dr. Richard Weindruch and Dr. Rajinder Sohal, world leaders in studies of low-calorie diets, wrote about the Okinawans in "The New England Journal of Medicine" in 1997, they pointed to the low caloric intake of the elder Okinawans as a key factor in their outstanding health and life expectancy. Similarly, Professor Yasuo Kagawa of Jichi Medical School, who has studied the Okinawans, attributes their longevity and health primarily to the relatively low amount of overall calories they consume.
  • The result of the study of twenty-five members of the Calorie Restriction Society shows that:
    • The participants eating a calorie-restricted, optimal-nutrient diet had been doing so for an average of only 6 years, but their hearts appeared 15 years younger. That could mean that the diet reverses aging.
    • According to John O. Holloszy, M.D., a co-author of the study, "It's very clear that calorie restriction has a powerful, protective effect against diseases associated with aging.
  • Dr. Roy Walford, M.D. who has long been recognized internationally as one of the top experts in the field of gerontology. Based on his research at UCLA, he commented "We can with an order of probability bordering on certainty extend maximum human life span by means of a calorically restricted optimal nutrition diet. He said such a diet will give you:
    • Better eyesight and hearing at every age;
    • A sharper, more alert problem-solving mind;
    • An increased feeling of well-being; enhanced sexuality and fertility at a more advanced age.
  • Another NIA (i.e., National Institute on Aging) study[2], the first on humans, showed that thickening of the carotid artery, a key sign of aging and a risk factor for stroke, was dramatically reduced in practitioners of CR.
  • Dr. Daniel G. Amen in his book[3] says that CR benefits your brain:
    • The regions of the brain responsible for motor control and executive functions, such as working memory and problem solving, seem to be better preserved in animals that consume fewer calories.
    • Restricting calories triggers certain mechanisms in the body to increase the production of nerve-growth factors, which are beneficial to the brain.
  • In a new 20-year study on primates, researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that CR blunts aging and significantly delays the onset of age-related disorders such as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and brain deterioration.
    • In terms of overall health of the monkeys in the study, the researchers note, CR leads to longer life span and improved quality of life in old age.

Why? 

Here are what researchers think:

  • Overeating promotes cell division, and promotes it most dramatically in cancer cells; cutting back on calories slows cell division. It also stifles the production of free radicals, curbs inflammation, and reduces the risk of most of the Western diseases[1,11-13]
  • Imposing mild stress on the cells (in this case depriving them of fuel) makes them more resilient to future challenges and reduces free radicals[1]
  • CR pushes cells to stop putting limited energy into reproduction and growth and instead invest that energy in maintenance and repair, usually repair of damage from routine metabolism[2].  
  • CR works by ratcheting down the amount of insulin and sugar that runs around in the bloodstream, thereby preventing diabetes—itself a form of accelerated aging—and cardiovascular diseases and a number of age-associated cancers[2].  
  • A study conducted at Ohio State University proves that their energy-restriction mimetic agents kills cancer cells through energy restriction[11,13].
In the Ayurvedic tradition, the toxic buildup of food that hasn't been fully digested is called "ama." It is said that ama can be produced by overeating and others like:
  • Rushing through a meal
  • Eating while discussing stressful topics
  • Impairing digestion by watching TV, driving, or reading while having food, and

The sludge-like ama can cause intestines become bloated and filled with unhealthy microbes thriving on the unprocessed waste, activate your immune system to continually respond, thus causing inflammation and pain.

To age healthily, the key is cutting back on calories while maximizing dietary nutrients[7]. The steps to take not only require you heed what you eat but also how you eat

How You Eat

The elders living in Abkhasia, Vilcabamba, Hunza, or Okinawa all eat slowly

It takes the stretch receptors in the stomach about 20 minutes to tell our brain (via the hormone cholecystokinin) how full you really are. When you aren't rushing, your stomach has time to signal to the appetite centers of your brain that food has arrived, and you experience greater pleasure and contentment. 

The elder Okinawans say they stop eating when they are 80% full. They even have a phrase describing it—hara hachi bu (i.e., eat until you are 80% full). When you eat, try to chew thoroughly, savor each moment, and enjoy one another's company like what French people do. Don't skip breakfast. Eating breakfast gives you sustained energy to carry you through to lunch and also prevents overeating later in the day. However, be warned that there is no advantage—and there is real danger—to reducing calories below the body's legitimate needs. This is particularly true for children and for pregnant women, whose caloric needs are especially high.[15]  Try to keep a healthy, not-too-low weight, since being underweight increases your risk of bone loss[14].


What to Eat

When you eat, choose high-quality food. Ideally, high-quality foods are organic, less processed, and locally grown in ways that utilize sustainable agriculture like what Hunzans do[1, 4]

Avoid processed foods and empty calories as much as you can.
Avoid carbohydrates with high glycemic index.
  • High GI foods result in a high, sharp blood sugar peak high followed by an insulin peak which increases the tendency for not only insulin resistance and diabetes but also cravings, binges, overeating, and obesity.
Avoid western style diet.
  • The study by CDC in 2006 shows that recent immigrants to the United States are far healthier than their US-born counterparts. The reason? The diets and lifestyles in the US are far less healthy than those in many other countries.

Acknowledgments

Most of the materials written in this article are based on "Healthy At 100", John Robbins. I highly recommend you to get a copy of it. As John concluded in the Acknowledgments of his book:

 "May all be fed. May all be healed. May all be loved."

References

  1. "Healthy At 100" by John Robbins
  2. "Eternity Soup - Inside the Quest to End Aging" by Greg Critser
  3. "Change Your Brain Change Your Body" by Daniel G. Amen, M.D.
  4. Eating Organic, Local, and Seasonal Foods  (Travel and Health)
  5. Eat Less, Live Longer?
  6. Health Checkup: How to Live 100 Years - TIME
  7. How to Live Longer and Healthier Life  (Travel and Health)
  8. 11 Ways to Live to 100
  9. Exercise and Its Benefits  (Travel and Health)
  10. Plant-based vs. Animal-based Diets (Travel and Health)
  11. New Agent Chokes Off Energy Supply, Kills Cancer Cells
  12. What's Feeding Cancer Cells?
  13. Using Nutrient Deprivation as a Strategy for Cancer Therapy (Travel and Health)
  14. Calcium and Vitamin D findings show that caring for your bones can be complicated
  15. Pregnancy diet: Focus on these essential nutrients (Mayo Clinic)
  16. More Exercise Doesn’t Always Mean Losing Weight
    • New research suggests there's a limit to how many calories you can burn by exercising 
  17. Occasional fasting could help you live longer (good)
  18. Western Diets and Western Diseases (Travel and Health)
  19. The Anti-Aging Pill (MIT Technology Review)
  20. The fat-fueled brain: unnatural or advantageous?
    • In essence, a ketogenic diet mimics starvation, allowing the body to go into a metabolic state called ketosis (key-tow-sis). 
  21. M. I. Frisard et al., "Effect of 6-Month Calorie Restriction on Biomarkers of Longevity, Metabolic Adaptation, and Oxidative Stress in Overweight Individuals: A Randomized Controlled Trial"


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