The search for a longer and happier life is an ancient one. As our minimum for what we define as “being old” keeps extending, more people are looking for ways to stay healthy and vibrant to live to an age that would have been unthinkable in days past.
The secret to longevity is remarkably simple. A lower risk of cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and many other conditions now being treated by drugs isn’t a high-priced specialty only available to a select few. In fact, it will cost you nothing and ultimately save you money.
It’s called caloric restriction or “CR”.
Caloric restriction is a wide field of study with plenty of research to back it up. Bear in mind that what I’m talking about with CR is not malnutrition or starvation diets – you clearly need nutrients to remain healthy. But it is a radical rethinking and retraining of our habits to only consume the calories we need and eliminate all of the excess calories – about 500 to 700 per day for most people.
The fact that there is something wrong with our diets comes as no surprise to anyone. We simply eat too many calories per day – about 500 more than we did 10 years ago. Even worse, the type of calories we consume – typically carbohydrates and sugar – keep us hungry make us lethargic and heavier at the same time.
So what can we do instead? Return to real food – the less processed, the better. It seems ironic, but eating proteins and fats instead of carbs and sugars means that you tend to gain less weight and suffer from less inflammation and oxidative stress. And the age-defying results are astounding.
A recent review found that in human studies of overweight individuals, caloric restriction reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease, encouraged better blood insulin response, enhanced mitochondrial function (keeping our cellular engines in tune) and protected DNA from oxidative damage.
An animal study found that CR supported new blood vessel creation in the brain, stopped age-related inflammation, and preserved more “youthful” cerebromicrovascular endothelial cells – cells that make up the delicate blood vessels in the brain. The study also found that CR increases the activity of a protein called Nrf2 – a key factor for longevity. Other studies have suggested that CR can increase the life span of animals by up to 50 percent with a lower risk of disease. I am convinced that in time, we’ll see these same results in humans.
Caloric restriction doesn’t automatically mean settling for bland, boring foods. But it’s important to exercise restraint – in addition to exercising physically – and keep your caloric intake at a sensible and optimal level.
Here are four steps that are crucial:
- Calculate your current calorie intake and reduce it by 500 calories per day
- Choose a diet that is rich in whole food proteins, fruits, and vegetables
- Eliminate carbs as much as possible from your diet
- Practice an exercise regimen that you enjoy and can stick with regularly
For more details, I encourage you to visit:
Anton S, Leeuwenburgh C. Fasting or caloric restriction for healthy aging. Exp Gerontol. 2013 Oct;48(10):1003-5.
Csiszar A, Gautam T, Sosnowska D, Tarantini S, et al. Caloric restriction confers persistent anti-oxidative, pro-angiogenic, and anti-inflammatory effects and promotes anti-aging miRNA expression profile in cerebromicrovascular endothelial cells of aged rats. Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2014 Aug 1;307(3):H292-306.