It seems a bit odd, really. The very fuel you need to keep your body running may also be the culprit that shortens your life. Food, that is. Even real, healthy food. The issue appears to be the quantity you consume. And, new research shows that sometimes less is better.
Researchers at Saint Louis University wanted to find out if calorie restriction would be beneficial for humans. Previous studies have shown that mice placed on a calorie-restricted diet are healthier and live longer. If the same were true in humans it would be big news.
They studied non-smoking men and women, between the ages of 50 and 60, who were in slightly less than ideal physical condition, but were free of cancer, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, lung disease, and diabetes. The study divided the participants into 3 study groups: a calorie-restricted group, an exercise group, and a control group. Yes, the control group made no lifestyle changes, continuing on their hapless pursuit of whatever struck their fancy.
Calorie restriction works.
The researchers found that both the calorie-restricted group and the exercise group lost similar amounts of body fat. But, the calorie-restricted group also showed a lower level of the thyroid hormone T3. The scientists have theorized that restricting calories lowers the T3 levels, which results in a lower metabolism and a slower rate of aging for the body's tissues.
The calorie restriction was 300 to 500 calories per day. Certainly doable. Further studies need to be completed to confirm these findings, and to confirm the role of T3 in the process.
A couple of notes. The researchers believe calorie restriction may not only help you live longer, but may help protect against a host of illnesses. This is good news. But, there are cautions to be considered as well. The scientists point out that because calorie restriction lowers the metabolism it may place the individual at greater risk of weight gain in the future. A lower metabolic rate simply means burning fewer calories. This is not the case with weight loss achieved through exercise.
Other studies have also shown that weight loss achieved through calorie restriction takes a toll on your muscle mass. But, weight loss achieved through exercise actually helps improve muscle tone.
So, the bottom line is to find the right balance. A little less food, a little more exercise, a good night's rest - now you're talking...To read more about the study, see this from ScienceDaily. To learn more about the calorie restriction lifestyle, see this from The Calorie Restriction Society.