I remember being at my grandparents’ house when I was 11 or 12 years old, and asking my grandpa why their cat, Ringo, was able to live to be 19 years old. Without batting an eye, my grandpa said:
“Because animals that live on a semi-starvation diet live the longest.”
Keep in mind, he was a professor of social work and, as far as I know, had no training in nutrition, so I have no idea what he was basing that on. But, the fact remains that thought always stuck with me.
Fast forward to last week and, while reading Science Daily, I came across an article entitled “How Calorie Restriction Influences Longevity: Protecting Cells from Damage Caused by Chronic Disease.” This got me thinking about the conversation with my grandpa, so, of course, I clicked the link to find out more.
Turns out some scientists at the Gladstone Institutes have found that a low-car, low-calorie diet – otherwise known as the ketogenic diet – can potentially delay the effects of aging, including many “age related” diseases.
Here’s a summary of some of the articles high points:
[R]esearchers in the laboratory of Gladstone Senior Investigator Eric Verdin, MD, have identified the role that a chemical compound in the human body plays in the aging process — and which may be key to new therapies for treating or preventing a variety of age-related diseases.
In the latest issue of the journal Science, available online December 6, Dr. Verdin and his team examined the role of the compound β-hydroxybutyrate (βOHB), a so-called “ketone body” that is produced during a prolonged low-calorie or ketogenic diet. While ketone bodies such as βOHB can be toxic when present at very high concentrations in people with diseases such as Type I diabetes, Dr. Verdin and colleagues found that at lower concentrations, βOHB helps protect cells from “oxidative stress” — which occurs as certain molecules build to toxic levels in the body and contributes to the aging process.
Pretty interesting stuff, right? This study also goes on to support the idea that intermittent fasting – as promoted by many of the people in the Paleo community, including Mark Sisson – is good for us:
“Over the years, studies have found that restricting calories slows aging and increases longevity — however the mechanism of this effect has remained elusive” Dr. Verdin said. Dr. Verdin, the paper’s senior author, directs the Center for HIV & Aging at Gladstone and is also a professor at the University of California, San Francisco, with which Gladstone is affiliated. “Here, we find that βOHB — the body’s major source of energy during exercise or fasting — blocks a class of enzymes that would otherwise promote oxidative stress, thus protecting cells from aging.”
The article goes into a lot of the science behind it all, too, so if you’re interested (and I think you should be) click here to read the article in its entirety.
So, what are your thoughts on caloric restriction? Do you ever fast? Is this nothing but hot air? Leave your comments below and share your thoughts!