More About Calorie Restriction And Longevity

Research indicating that mice, and now primates, live longer with a calorie restriction diet appears to add fuel to the fire of the notion that reducing calories will prolong life in humans. Many commentators and scientists raise various objections to the notion that calorie restriction will have the same kind of effect in humans. The theories offered having to do with cellular metabolism and the change toward a protective metabolic posture versus a reproductive posture might no translate into human beings the same way they do in rodents or even Rhesus monkeys, so the argument goes.

I think that many of us who have experience in the real world of practical weight loss endeavors for human beings might have a slightly different answer that is less complicated. Let me explain what I mean: for many years we have seen an increasing number of well constructed studies showing a dramatic benefit in longevity after weight loss surgery. I have chronicled these studies elsewhere, but suffice it to say that five robust studies now exist demonstrating that people live markedly longer after weight loss surgery. It is not really necessary to delve into complex theories about cellular regulation in order to understand this survival benefit. It is really a matter of observing that obesity related diseases like diabetes, cancer and heart disease are all markedly reduced after substantial weight loss. In short the answer is the same thing that the life insurance actuarial tables have known for decades: the heavier we are, the shorter our life expectancy.

So, an intervention that results in losing weight and sustaining a lower body weight necessarily results in a longer life expectancy. Far less people who have a normal BMI develop type 2 diabetes than overweight people. And of course the more overweight we are, the more striking the increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes, of course, shortens our life by bringing on early heart attacks, strokes and other complications.

What’s different with laboratory animals and humans is that in the laboratory the scientists can control the calorie intake of all the animals. So one need only look at the photographs of the calorie restricted monkey versus the normal diet monkey to see what is going on here. The calorie restricted diet monkey is skinnier, plain and simple. The monkey’s also do not watch TV commercials and go to fancy restaurants and succumb to the delightful tastes of high fructose corn syrup and other delicious, modern, high carbohydrate cuisine. The simply eat what is passed to them on their tray at meal time.

It appears pretty simple to me, that all of these avenues of research show the same thing: that up to a point, being skinnier leads to longer life or put another way, being overweight is less healthy and shortens life.

It would be great if technology produced some cure to this problem and reduced the impact of weight gain on our bodies, thus allowing us to enjoy the longer, healthier life without actually losing the weight. That may take quite some time to develop technological pharmaceutical solutions for such a wide ranging affect on so many different cells and organs throughout the body leading to diseases as diverse as atherosclerosis, many different organ cancers, and diabetes.
In the meantime, since the data is so overpowering, perhaps we should all just focus on finding ways to lose weight. Clearly the data, whether it is in overweight humans, normal weight Rhesus monkeys, or calorie restricted mice, all point in the same direction: we live longer, healthier lives at lower body weight.


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Dr. Kent Sasse, Medical Director | 75 Pringle Way Suite 804 Reno, NV 89502 | Phone: 775-829-7999

Dr. Kent Sasse serves the entire city of Reno and all the surrounding areas. Dr. Sasse is one of the nation's foremost medical weight loss and bariatric surgical experts.
Dr. Sasse has educated patients about food nutrition and weight loss for many years.

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