In preparation for my upcoming class on anti-aging (Click here to learn more), I have begun sinking my teeth into the best published research on what we actually know about aging. There are many interesting emerging treatments, from supplements to medications to an ever-growing understanding of the genetic and cellular underpinnings of aging. But something that cannot be missed when researching aging is the startling results made possible by caloric restriction (CR).
In 1935, two researchers, McCay and Maynard, discovered that rats fed a calorically restricted, but nutritionally complete diet, had drastically increased life spans. The life spans of the rats fed the restricted diets were increased up to 50%! Since then, similar findings have been found in yeasts, spiders, worms, fish, mice and recently, monkeys (1). Additionally, animals given these CR diets had decreased markers of cardiovascular disease, better glucose regulation, less cancer and less brain atrophy as they aged (2).
Can a calorically restricted diet increase the rates of eating disorders?
Whether a calorically restricted diet is sustainable or whether it increases our risk for eating disorders is not yet fully known. In one year-long study, a CR diet did not increase the risk of eating disorders (2). However, this is a very new inquiry and there are current studies underway to investigate this dilemma. There are other researchers looking into whether a CR diet is even sustainable for people, regardless of eating disorders (2).
Several years ago, I learned about a different eating paradigm, one that is based around listening to my body, re-claiming my right to pleasure and ditching diets for good. My life was changed for the better by learning about philosophies such as Intuitive Eating and Health At Every Size. Reading the research around calorically restricted diets is quite literally hard for me to swallow. I have also watched my patients gain freedom around their eating and increased body confidence as they have moved away from a dieting mentality. So how can this information be applied without creating more harm in the psyche of the individual?
How can people achieve a calorically restricted but nutritionally sound diet?
The anti-aging benefits of a calorically restricted diet are not found when an individual merely eats a low-calorie diet. The trick; the diet must be nutritionally sound, meaning that it must provide all the essential vitamins and minerals. In fact, calorically restricted diets that do not provide all of our essential vitamins and minerals are actually malnutrition and associated with worse health outcomes. So, what diets allow us to maintain lower calories but an abundance of vitamins and minerals? Diets that are high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains!
Let’s compare some common foods: 1 cup of broccoli contains only 31 calories but gives 8% of our daily requirement of potassium, 135% of our needed Vitamin C and 11% of our Vitamin A. Two slices of bacon gives you 86 calories and virtually no trace vitamins and minerals. One cup of spinach gives you only 7 calories but 56% of our daily need of Vitamin A, 181% of our need for Vitamin K and 15% of our required folate. One tablespoon of butter gives us 102 calories and again, very few vitamins and minerals. Do you get the point? Fruits and vegetables are a terrific way to lower our caloric intake, increased our satiety at meals and increase our health.
For my patients looking to optimize their anti-aging protocol, prescribing a diet high in fruits and vegetables is something that I can feel confident will help them look and feel their best, all while gently lowering their caloric intake. What do I mean by high in fruits and vegetables? I recommend that my patients aim to have half their plates full of fruits and vegetables at every meal. While this prescription is not the newest scientific discovery, it is prudent, reasonable and has withstood the test of time.
To learn more about what the research says about anti-aging protocols, please join me for our upcoming class on January 22nd from 6:30-8:30pm. Click here to learn more.
Dr. Lauren Gresham is always available to help you learn more about your health and how to be proactive to age gracefully. Please call 206.542.4325 to learn more.
- Vitetta, L., & Anton, B. (2007). Lifestyle and nutrition , caloric restriction , mitochondrial health and hormones : Scienti fi c interventions for anti-aging, 2(2002), 537–543.
- Roth, L. W., & Polotsky, A. J. (2019). Maturitas Can we live longer by eating less ? A review of caloric restriction and longevity. Maturitas, 71(4), 315–319. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.maturitas.2011.12.017