By pure serendipty - Mary Crowell and Clive McCay of Cornell University observed during the Great Depression in 1934, that laboratory rats fed a severely reduced calorie diet while maintaining micronutrient levels resulted in life spans of up to twice as long as otherwise expected.
These most amazing findings were explored in detail by a series of experiments with mice conducted by Roy Walford and his student Richard Weindruch over decades.
In 1986, scientist Weindruch reported that restricting the calorie intake of laboratory mice proportionally increased their life span compared to a group of mice with a normal diet.
Equally amazing, the calorie-restricted mice also:
>> maintained youthful appearances;
>> maintained youthful activity levels longer
>> and showed delays in age-related diseases.
The results of the many experiments by Walford and Weindruch were summarized in their book The Retardation of Aging and Disease by Dietary Restriction (1988)
The findings have since been accepted and generalized to a range of other animals. Researchers are investigating the possibility of parallel physiological links in humans. In the meantime, many people have independently adopted the practice of calorie restriction in some form.
A study on rhesus monkeys, funded by the National Institute on Aging, was started in 1989 at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and is still ongoing. This study has so far shown that caloric restriction blunts aging and significantly delays the onset of age related disorders such as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and brain atrophy.
At the 20 year point, 80% of the calorically restricted monkeys were still alive, compared to only half of the controls.
The most recent study found that dieting monkeys show many beneficial signs of caloric resistance, including significantly less diabetes, cancer, and heart and brain disease, and the monkeys are expected to live another 20 years!
Effects on humans
Positive effects are that cancer and cardiovascular risks are reduced - strokes, heart attacks and disease.
Improved memory, prevention of Alzheimer's, dementia, etc.
A 2009 research paper showed that a calorie restricted diet can improve memory in normal to overweight elderly.
The diet also resulted in decreased insulin levels and reduced signs of inflammation, arthritis, rheumatism, etc.
** Negative potential side effects can produce Musculoskeletal losses:
In addition to the many benefits, short-term studies in humans report loss of muscle mass and muscle strength, and reduced bone mineral density - UNLESS intense exercise and weight-resistence training is maintained.
Moreover, "the quality of the diets consumed by the low-BMI individuals are difficult to assess, and may lack nutrients important to longevity." Typical low-calorie diets rarely provide the high nutrient intakes that are a necessary feature of an anti-aging calorie restriction diet.
Thus multiple-times-daily supplementation is a must!
Although calorie restriction may provide quick weight loss, several studies have shown that the body adjusts to the new diet in more or less half a year, whatever the diet may be, ending weight loss.
Researchers argue that people who have little body fat (Highly trained-fit individuals, should not use this method of losing weight but rather should exercise more because calorie restriction in this case can be harmful.
The reason for this is that after the body's fat reserves have been burned for energy, the proteins within muscle tissue will be consumed.
In severe cases where individuals do not acknowledge the dangers they are exposing themselves to, they may suffer serious loss of the muscle mass.
Individuals trying lose weight on a calorie restricted diet of less than 1,500 calories a day need to be monitored by a specialist in order to prevent potential side effects.
Extreme calorie deprivation risks developing cold sensitivity, menstrual irregularities and even infertility and hormonal changes in young women.
Moreover, calorie restriction has been reported in mice to hinder their ability to fight infection, and needs to be compensated for with high-does of vitamin C.
Free radicals and glycation
Two very prominent proposed explanations of aging which have a bearing on calorie restriction are the free radical theory and the glycation theory.
With high amounts of energy available, mitochondria do not operate very efficiently and generate more superoxide.
With CR, energy is conserved and there is less free radical generation.
A CR organism will have less fat and require less energy to support the weight, which also means that there does not need to be as much glucose in the bloodstream.
Type II Diabetics are people with insulin insensitivity caused by long-term exposure to high blood glucose. Obesity leads to type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes and uncontrolled type 1 diabetes are much like "accelerated aging", due to the above effects. There may even be a continuum between CR and the metabolic syndrome.
Physical activity testing biases
While some tests of calorie restriction have shown increased muscle tissue in the calorie-restricted test subjects, how this has occurred is unknown.
Muscle tissue grows when stimulated, so it is possible that the calorie-restricted test animals exercised more than their companions on higher calories.
Calorie restriction comes into conflict with the high calorie needs of athletes, and may not provide them adequate levels of energy or sufficient amino acids for repair.
However, it is certainly possible to be an unhealthy athlete, or an athlete destined to die at a young age due to poor diet, stresses, etc.
*** Moreover, in experiments comparing CR to exercise, CR animals live much longer than exercised animals.
Spindler, Dhahbi, and colleagues who showed that in late adulthood, acute CR partially or completely reversed age-related problems, and that mice placed on CR at late age still show increases in lifespan.
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