Starvation smarts
01/27/2009, 3:59 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,

34157360The low-calorie diet has been on research radar since the 1930s, and long been espoused by faithful adherents, namely the Calorie Restriction Society (CRS), founded in 1993.  Members of the group have since published several books, including The CR Way and The Longevity Diet, and claim that calorie restricted lifestyles (in a nutshell, following a diet of around 30% fewer calories than typically recommended for your age and activity level) promote longevity and better health.

Recently, some studies are backing up the claims of the CRS. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, found that mice who fasted every other day (eating 15% of their usual calories) had significantly lower rates of cancer. A small human study of 50 middle-aged men and women in Germany suggests that caloric restriction of 30% may significantly improve memory, apparently due to decreased levels of insulin and inflammation, though researchers are still trying to understand the connection.

Proving that calorie restriction promotes longevity in humans is the next step. Studies have already shown that low-calorie diets in mice, rats and monkeys can extend life expectancy.

If the CRS is right, and we can live longer by eating less, I wondered how much I’d be putting on my plate. According to this CR calculator, I already have the weight of a typical CR eater (yay?) but my “CR Twin” (aka – the version of me who eats according to a CR diet) would be enjoying a 1,700 calorie/day diet. Sounds to me like a lot less cake and a lot more lettuce.

To reassure myself that I should continue eating cake, and other, um, “CR no-no’s”, I checked out the reported downsides to the calorie restriction lifestyle. They include muscle atrophy, lack of essential nutrients, abnormal hair growth and cardiac arrest. Read up on those downsides a little further, and you’ll find they match the symptoms associated with another “extreme” lifestyle: anorexia nervosa.

Read the CRS response to the anorexia comparison here.


1 Comment so far
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I find it amazing that the FAQ response here doesn’t even attempt to tackle the question of health complications. It doesn’t really matter what the difference in psychology is if you die from heart failure.

Comment by Peter

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