by Tiffany Houser, Green Monkey Interactive
"You are what you eat," says the old adage, but what about "you are what you are not eating?"
Calorie Restriction (CR) is the practice of eating fewer calories (5 - 40% less) while achieving adequate or optimal nutrition. Since the 1930's extensive scientific research has shown that calorie restriction improves health and extends the life span of nearly every species tested due to the reduction of stress on the digestive and immune systems.
The theory is that your DNA recognizes that you body is working more efficiently and re-creates efficient cells. Cardiologist and Oprah's medical expert Dr. Mehmet Oz believes that calorie restriction can have longevity benefits. "We think we can actually reach life spans of 150 years with calorie restriction," Dr. Oz says. However, Dr. Oz says it is far too difficult for most people to restrict calories.
Paul McGlothin and Meredith Averill, authors of The CR Way: Using the Secrets of Calorie Restriction for a Longer, Healthier Life, and Calorie Restriction Society Board Members, say CR can improve brain power, decrease inflammation, lower the risk of cancer, boost happiness and increase your life span.
Dr. Oz explains that calorie restriction sends a message to your body that you will not be able to reproduce because there is not enough food. The body is then sent a self-preservation message. "Preserve what you've got because you can't afford to waste it," he says.
According to the Calorie Restriction Society (CRS) the goal of Calorie Restriction is to achieve a longer and healthier life by eating fewer calories and consuming adequate vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients.
Simply eating less may not improve health or extend lifespan - it can lead to malnutrition. Before worrying about how many calories you're eating, make sure that the foods in your diet provide sufficient nutrition to avoid malnutrition once you begin to restrict them.
In order to chart your progress, and to make sure that you are avoiding nutrient deficiencies and other hazards, the CRS recommends getting at least the minimal recommended blood tests done. You'll want to know these results before your calorie restriction begins, so that you'll have a baseline for comparison as you move into calorie restriction.
Once your diet consists primarily of nutrient-dense, calorie-sparse foods, you can safely begin to reduce your total calorie intake. Make sure, however, you have considered your current state of well-being and consult with your doctor to ensure this is the right plan for you.
The recommended time for the transition from your current diet to increasingly introducing more steps towards calorie restriction, according to Dr. Roy Lee Walford, a pioneer in the field of life extension, is a minimum of 6 to 9 months, but preferably 1 to 2 years.
Adult mice that were suddenly put on calorie restriction experienced shorter life spans, than mice that were slowly transitioned into to calorie restriction.
Even though most people on CR cut their calorie intake by 30%, they say it is not necessary to follow a drastic diet in order to reap the benefits of calorie restriction. They suggest that even cutting calories by 5 to 10 percent, can be a great starting point.
Here are some things to consider before moving forward with calorie restriction:
"Negative" appearance changes due to weight loss
Bone health challenges due to weight loss is often accompanied by reduced bone mass
Cold sensitivity due to reduced body mass
Children, adolescents, and young adults (under approx 21) should be advised against starting CR.
Loss of "cushioning" - discomfort sitting on hard surfaces, etc., due to reduced body fat.
Reduced energy reserves due to less body fat
Hunger (both psychological and physical effects), cravings, or food obsession
Menstrual irregularity due to dramatic weight loss. Women planning to get pregnant soon, should not begin CR until after having (and weaning) their baby.
Pregnancy - low body mass index is widely regarded as a risk factor in pregnancy.
Loss of strength and/or stamina due to loss of muscle mass from the weight loss
Rapid weight loss (greater than 1 - 2 lbs/wk) - may do more harm than good
Slower wound healing - potential hazard in major accidents, violent attacks, surgeries, etc.
The CRS also mention how it can affect other lifestyle factors including social interaction such as going on CR without support from people in your inner circle or the separation it can create if you cannot participant in social gatherings or need a different meal during holidays and family dinners. CR can also be costly since most of the food is fresh and organic. CR represents a dramatic change in diet which can appeal to people who are attracted to the extreme or who may push the limits of safe or healthy CR practice.
The Calorie Restriction Society was formed to inject some scientific responsibility into the discussion of attempts to slow the aging process. As any scientifically responsible review of research in the field of gerontology, the study of the aging processes and individuals as they grow from middle age through later life, will quickly reveal, the only valid life-extension method that has any proven scientific backing behind it at all is Calorie Restriction (CR), from which "The Calorie Restriction Society" derives its name.
The CRS stresses that calorie restriction is not a weight loss program and should not be approached as a dieting tactic. This is lifestyle approach to adding years to your life by easing the work your body does to digest an over abundance of food and processed food which is a major stressor on your immune system.
So if you are what you are not eating then according to calories restriction you are promoting your health and longevity.
Check out this follow-up video from the 1991, 60 Minutes Report, Wine Rx, on the French Paradox, discussing Resveratrol and calorie restriction diets.