Does Eating Less Calories Mean a Longer Life? Here’s What The Science Says…

Every month in the print edition of TRAIN magazine (or the PDF version which you can download for free by signing up to our newsletter), we take a look at the latest studies and condense them into small, actionable pieces of information for you, the reader.

Due to the word restriction of a print magazine, we can’t always expand fully and explore all the shades of grey for every study. Altug Kop is our print magazine author, digital editor and WBFF Pro athlete who will pick one study from the magazine and go deeper.

 

Less Calories, More Life.

What we originally said in the magazine:

Put that burger down for a second and gather around. The University of Winconsin(1) have tracked 200 monkeys over a number of years and have now found a link between restricting calories and living longer. However, the bad news boys is that females were less prone than us to the negative effects of bodyfat. For a longer life, fellas, download the MyFitnessPal and keep under the recommended 2500 calories per day to keep the bodyfat burning.

 

The full story:

It’s a topic that keeps cropping up and it is interesting for sure, but, and it’s a big but, is that these studies have only ever been done on animals. This one in particular was on monkeys who are genetically pretty close to us (the chimpanzee shares approximately 99% of our DNA).

As close to being our relatives as that sounds, even that 1% change in DNA can make a big difference in how we metabolize and function. In all honesty, it’s beyond my scope of practice to explain such a complicated topic. I’d be doing it an injustice if I even tried. The same resulsts been replicated in many animal models such as in spiders, worms and mice so, the likelihood is that the science is probably on to something.

I did manage to find one study that found caloric restriction improved mitochondrial function in humans along with DNA damage. This could explain why caloric restriction may lead to longer life (3)

The theory is that there is less turnover and damage to our cells, resulting in slower ageing. Looking at some of the longest living populations, like the Okinawans, would suggest this to be true in humans too. They consume a paltry 1200 calories. Compare that to the typical Western diet and you’re looking at around a third of the calories we consume.

The problem with making such blanket statements is that we’re not in the controlled environment that those animal studies were conducted in. We can make an educated guess, but it would be a stretch to say for absolutely certain it’s just to do with calories when there are so many variables that haven’t been controlled for. Types of foods consumed, macronutrient breakdown of the food, stress levels of the environment and that’s just the ones I can think of off the top of my head.

Common sense would certainly suggest eating at, or less than, maintenance calories would make it virtually impossible to become obese and therefore, avoid diseases like heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and other nasties.

As with everything, you don’t need to make fitness as complicated as some do. 99% of the population really doesn’t need to concern themselves with such minutia to live a healthy life. Eat at maintenance calories or less 90% of the time. Keep the diet high in protein and vegetables and I doubt you’ll go too far wrong.

For more articles on nutrition, living longer and training, get TRAIN magazine direct into your inbox every month for free by signing up to our newsletter

 

 


References

Calorie Restriction Monkeys

(1) Julie A. Mattison, Ricki J. Colman, T. Mark Beasley, David B. Allison, Joseph W. Kemnitz, George S. Roth, Donald K. Ingram, Richard Weindruch, Rafael de Cabo, Rozalyn M. Anderson. Caloric restriction improves health and survival of rhesus monkeys. Nature Communications, 2017; 8: 14063 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms14063

(2) http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/7250675.stm – Okinawan cenetarians

(3) http://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.0040076 – improved mitochondrial function in humans

Altug Kop

Written by

TRAIN Digital Editor, contest prep coach and WBFF Pro fitness model.

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