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Lower Calorie, Nutrient-Dense Diet Slows Aging

Monday, June 09, 2008 by: Joanne Waldron
Tags: aging, health news, Natural News

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(NewsTarget) A recent article in The Money Times by Abhishek Garg reports that life expectancy is declining in some areas of the United States. One of the main reasons given for lowered life expectancy in these regions was obesity. Other reasons mentioned were smoking and high blood pressure. The good news is that even though obesity is known to lower life expectancy, there is considerable evidence that a lower-calorie, nutrient-dense diet can actually slow aging.

One new study published in the Journal of Proteome Research and reported in ScienceDaily examined the effects of calorie restriction on Labrador Retriever dogs. Researchers from Imperial College London, Nestlé Research Center (NRC) and Nestlé-Purina used 24 dogs in the study. The dogs were divided into pairs; one dog in each pair was given 25% less food than the other. The dogs given less food lived, on average, 1.8 years longer than the dogs given more food. In addition to living longer, the dogs given less food had a lower incidence of diseases like diabetes and osteoarthritis. They also had a later median age before experiencing the onset of late-life diseases. Researchers determined that the dogs given less food also had healthier gut flora, which they believe is responsible for their better health and increased lifespan.

According to a press release, another new study conducted by University of Washington scientists uncovered some of the details about how calorie restriction slows the aging process. Using yeast cells, the researchers have connected ribosomes, which are cellular components responsible for protein synthesis, and Gcn4, a protein utilized in the expression of genetic information, to the pathways associated with dietary response and aging. University of Washington faculty member, Brian Kennedy, who led the study, explained that while it is still unknown whether or not Gcn4 works the same way in organisms other than yeast, other organisms like worms, flies, mice and humans all have similar Gcn4-like proteins that seem to function in a comparable fashion.

In addition to the various scientific studies concerning dietary restriction and aging, there are numerous lessons that can be learned from looking at the lifestyles of people in areas of the world that are known for longevity. Interestingly enough, when one observes the people in the world who live the longest, obesity is certainly not a characteristic that they share. See a lot of fat people out and about who are over 90? Gorging one's self at all-you-can-eat buffets and a life of fast food gluttony is clearly not the path to longevity.

In a wonderful book called The Blue Zone, Dan Buettner discusses the people of Okinawa who have one of the highest centenarian ratios in the world (perhaps 5 per 10,000 people). The people of Okinawa practice something known as "hari hachi bu." This is a Confucian-inspired saying that serves as a reminder to eat only until one is eighty percent full. Since it takes some time for the stomach to get the message that it is full to the brain, this practice ensures that one doesn't overeat. Compare this method of eating to the method of eating until one can't force down another bite of food and American mothers nagging their children to clean their plates. Using the "hari hachi bu" technique of restricting calories by 20 percent at each meal may not seem like a big deal, but it will also help people to lose weight, which is one of the best things one can do to prevent disease.

As one might guess, restricting calories is not the whole story. In her excellent book 50 Secrets of the World's Longest Living People, Sally Beare notes that while the people of Okinawa may only eat about 1500 calories daily, they also eat a very nutrient-dense diet. The people eat meat very sparingly and enjoy lots of fresh, organic, locally-grown vegetables. They don't eat a lot of processed foods or refined sugar. Instead of drinking soda, they drink green tea and mineral-rich water. They also eat fish and soy protein regularly. These are just some of the health secrets of the people of Okinawa, and there is much more information in the aforementioned books.

Sadly, fast food restaurants have found their way to Okinawa these days, and there has been a dramatic increase in the number of obesity-related diseases. According to Buettner, Hormel now exports five million pounds of SPAM per year to Okinawa. There is a price to pay for convenience and prosperity.

(Author's note: Remember that children need a certain number of calories because they are growing. While restricting a child's access to junk foods with no nutritional value is always advisable, children should be offered plenty of healthy foods, especially fresh fruits and vegetables.)

About the author

Joanne Waldron is a computer scientist with a passion for writing and sharing health-related news and information with others. She hosts the Naked Wellness: The Gentle Health Revolution forum, which is devoted to achieving radiant health, well-being, and longevity.

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