The Link Between Calorie Intake and Longevity

The Link Between Calorie Intake and Longevity

We all love food! What we eat and how much we eat form important aspects of our lives and have a huge impact on our health. Despite how much we love to eat, there are downsides to over-indulgence. In fact, eating less just might increase your lifespan. How? You may ask. Read on, and find out.

Diet and Longevity

Scientists have discovered that reducing calorie-intake by about 20 to 50% is a strategy for extending lifespan.1 In animals such as rodents, caloric restriction can increase lifespan up to 50%, in addition to improving general health.1 There is even more evidence suggesting that amount of food intake influences rate of aging and onset of diseases in animals and possibly humans.2 In our society today, where overeating, sedentary behaviors and obesity are on the rise, such evidence is significant.2 It highlights the potential consequences of overeating. As a result, there is growing effort in this area to better study and understand the mechanism of aging in relation to caloric restriction.2

Benefits of Eating Less

  • Healthy aging and disease prevention: research studies have been able to associate calorie-restricted diets with healthy aging and longevity.3 Reducing food intake reportedly has the potential to slow down the aging process. It may also help improve mood and protect against age-related diseases.3 One study found that reducing calorie intake by 15% over two years can slow aging and reduce the risk of diseases such as cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s.3 Researchers were able to conclude that when you eat less and weigh less, you increase your chances of living longer. This is because a calorie-rich diet makes the body generate more free radicals which causes damage.3
  • Energy efficiency: cutting back on the amount of food we consume allows the body to use energy more efficiently, which also contributes to longevity.3 However, it is important that a healthy diet, while low in calories, needs to be balanced and nutrient-rich.3 So, just reducing food intake without good nutrition, may lead to deficiencies in essential vitamins and minerals.3
  • Stronger immune system: calorie-restriction may inhibit the expression of some genes responsible for inflammatory responses in the body.4 It has also been shown to improve the function of the thymus, a gland which is part of the immune system and produces white blood cells essential for fighting infections.4

Useful Tips for Reducing Food Intake

Here are some helpful tips on how to eat less to live longer.

  • Eat more vegetables: vegetables contain a lot of water and fiber, but little calories.5
  • Include proteins with every meal: proteins increase feelings of fullness. Good sources of protein are lean food sources such as eggs, skinless poultry, dairy, seafood and fish. Plant-based sources are also great and they include beans, tofu and nut butters5
  • Drink lots of water: drinking water, particularly before a meal, can help reduce the chances of over-eating5
  • Use smaller plates and cutlery: studies show that people who used smaller eating utensils generally ate less5
  • Eat mindfully: try to limit distractions while having your meals. This means avoiding the use of your smart phone or watching television while eating. Distracted eating increases the chances of people eating more.5

Other tips for reduced calorie intake include:5,6

  • Eating spicy food
  • Including fiber-rich foods in your diet
  • Checking food labels
  • Don’t pick at leftovers

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References

  1. Pifferi F. et al. (2018). Caloric restriction increases lifespan but affects brain integrity in grey mouse lemur primates. Commun Biol 1, 30 (2018). https://www.nature.com/articles/s42003-018-0024-8#citeas
  2. Weindruch R. & Sohal R. (2010). Caloric intake and aging. N Engl J Med. 1997 Oct 2; 337(14): 986-994. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2851235/
  3. Gustke C. (2018). Eating less just might help you live longer. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health-news/calorie-restrictive-diets-benefits
  4. Lang K. (2022). Calorie restriction trial reveals gene that may prolong healthy life. Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/calorie-restriction-trial-reveals-gene-that-may-prolong-healthy-life
  5. Jennings K. (2017). 8 tips to reduce food portions without increasing hunger. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/8-tips-to-reduce-portions
  6. BHF (2022). 8 top tips for portion control. Heart Matters. British Heart Foundation. https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/heart-matters-magazine/nutrition/weight/perfect-portions/top-tips-for-portion-control

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