Life Extension Foundation Update Exclusive
In research published in the January 17 2006 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, Luigi Fontana MD, PhD, and colleagues at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri reported that individuals who have adopted a calorie restricted yet nutritionally balanced diet have the heart function of people much younger. "This is the first study to demonstrate that long-term calorie restriction with optimal nutrition has cardiac-specific effects that ameliorate age-associated declines in heart function," Dr Fontana announced. The team studied 25 members of the Caloric Restriction Optimal Nutrition Society, who consume approximately 1,400 to 2,000 calories per day, which is 10 to 25 percent fewer calories than most Americans, while maintaining nutritionally adequate diets. Diastolic function of the heart, which is the ability of the organ to relax between beats and which, unlike systolic function, declines with age, was evaluated via ultrasound. Blood samples were evaluated for C-reactive protein, tumor necrosis factor-alpha, and transforming growth factor-beta 1, which are involved with inflammation. The researchers found that the hearts of the subjects examined had greater elasticity than those of control subjects matched for age and gender, and that the organs relaxed between beats in a manner similar to that of younger people. Compared to the control subjects, blood pressure, serum C-reactive protein, tumor necrosis factor-alpha, and transforming growth factor-beta 1 levels were significantly lower in the calorie restricted group. Dr Fontana, who is an assistant professor of medicine at Washington University School of Medicine as well as an investigator at the Istituto Superiore di Sanita, in Rome, believes that deaths from the most common causes in Western societies results from what scientists call secondary aging, a term that characterizes preventable adverse health conditions such as diabetes that contribute to premature aging. Consuming a nutritious diet and engaging in regular exercise help reduce risks resulting from secondary aging; however, calorie restriction could be an even more powerful measure. Although the participants had been practicing calorie restriction for an average of 6.5 years, their diastolic function resembled that of people fifteen years younger, suggesting that the practice may not just prevent, but could reverse the decline that usually occurs with aging. The finding, combined with reduction in inflammatory markers observed in the calorie restricted group, has led the researchers to believe that inflammation could be an important factor in aging.
"Our hypothesis is that low-grade, chronic inflammation is mediating primary aging," Dr Fontana submitted. "It's not the only factor, of course -- aging is a complex process. But we found less inflammation in these people -- less TNFa, C-reactive protein and TGFb -- as well as a more flexible ventricle in their hearts. "Study coauthor John O. Holloszy, MD, summarized, "It's very clear from these studies that caloric restriction has a powerful, protective effect against diseases associated with aging. We don't know how long each individual will end up living, but they certainly have a longer life expectancy than average because they're most likely not going to die from a heart attack, stroke or diabetes. And if, in fact, their hearts are aging more slowly, it's conceivable they'll live for a very long time."
Fasting and calorie restriction:
Claims that various nutritional interventions can extend life span are manifold, but some have greater credibility than others. Gerontologists agree that Caloric Restriction with Optimal Nutrition (CRON) offers the greatest likelihood of succeeding.
If people reduce their current caloric intake from 20-40%, even starting in middle age, they may prevent or delay the development of heart disease. Animals whose food intake was reduced by one-third showed less heart disease. The hearts of mice on a low-calorie diet showed 20% fewer age-related genetic changes and had less DNA damage (Parker, 2002). Recall the persuasive cardiovascular results obtained from the Biosphere II experiment: In the first 6 months body weight dropped 15%, blood sugar 20%, blood cholesterol 38%, and systolic/diastolic blood pressure dropped 30%/27% on a calorie-restricted diet (Walford, 1994; Best, 1995). A 30% reduction in caloric intake in 30 rhesus monkeys led to a 25-point elevation in HDL-2B and a 20-point decrease in triglycerides. Increases in HDL-2B and decreases in triglycerides of this magnitude in humans would be a great health benefit, especially for those at risk for stroke or heart disease (Verdery et al. 1997; Lane et al. 1999). Multiple studies have shown increased insulin sensitivity (four-fold) and decreased levels of insulin on calorie-restricted diets (Spindler 2001b), suggesting that hyperinsulinemia may be a risk factor associated with heart disease.
Until potent and practical medicines are found to enhance longevity, many useful natural options still offer significant benefits (alternatives that The Life Extension Foundation has recommended to members for decades). The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reported that underfed animals (consuming 50% less food) live up to 50% longer, perhaps because of higher levels of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), lower body temperature, and lower insulin levels (JAMA 2002).
Comment: To follow a calorie restricted diet, the main thing is to eat protein snacks instead of carbo snacks and keep your carbs to only 15 grams per meal. If you do this, you will lower your insulin levels which will lower your hunger levels, thus you eat less calories daily, automatically. For another tip on staying young, see Defying The Years on my website.
Christopher Wiechert's Healthblogger is for educational or informational purposes only, and is not intended to diagnose or provide treatment for any condition. If you have any concerns about your own health, you should always consult with a healthcare professional. If you decide to use this information on your own, it's your constitutional right, but I assume no responsibility.
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