Strong fit shirtless man eating a salad with a green towel around his neck, with a cherry tomato on his fork wonder is calorie restriction and longevity true.

Why Calorie Restriction And Longevity May Not Mix For You

You’ve probably heard of the popular low-calorie diet. When you’re on this diet, you focus on eating foods that are low in calories and high in nutrients. You may have heard about benefits of calorie restriction and longevity, things like low-calories may actually help you extend your lifespan. However, scientists at Washington University School of Medicine (WUSM) in St. Louis have found that it may not be as effective as you think. You should know about these fascinating research findings before you try a low-calorie diet—or if you’re on it already, hoping that it’ll help you increase your longevity.

Why Is Calorie Restriction And Longevity So Popular Of A Topic

If you know much about the calorie restriction diet, you may have heard about a study that explored the effects of the diet on rodents. This research showed that laboratory animals could live up to 50 percent longer when they were given 30-50 percent less food. You can probably understand why so many people wanted to try this diet. Wouldn’t you like to extend your lifespan by 50 percent? But, just because the diet worked for rats and mice, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it will have the same effect on you. There’s a bigger picture involved that you need to be aware of. 

Everything You Need to Know About IGF-1

The original study on the effects of a low-calorie diet on rodents focused on the levels of IGF-1 in their bodies. IGF-1 is a growth factor that plays an important role in your longevity. It’s mainly produced in your liver and is similar to insulin. Growth hormones cause your body to produce more IGF-1. But, when you have lower levels of IGF-1, you’re more likely to live longer. The original study found that the IGF-1 levels of the animals on a calorie-restricted diet decreased by about 30-40 percent. But, will that diet have the same effect on your IGF-1 levels? The scientists at WUSM discovered that it won’t (1).

The Fascinating New Research at WUSM

The scientists at WUSM studied a group of people who were on a long-term calorie restriction diet. They called themselves CRONies because of their “Calorie Restriction with Optimal Nutrition” diet. They’d been on that diet for an average of seven years when the WUSM scientists measured their IGF-1 levels. The scientists also measured the IGF-1 levels of some sedentary people who ate a standard Western diet. The IGF-1 levels in the two groups were virtually identical. The low-calorie diet had a huge impact on IGF-1 levels in rodents but made no difference in humans. That means that restricting your calorie intake is unlikely to significantly increase your lifespan. There are some other factors to consider, though, that could help you increase your longevity. 

A Deeper Study into Factors that Influence Your Longevity

Because the scientist at WUSM found such a drastic difference between the effects of calorie restriction diets on rodents and humans, they decided to create a new, more in-depth study. They wanted to compare the effects of calorie restriction, exercise, and biological factors on health and longevity. They called it the CALERIE study: the Comprehensive Assessment of the Long term Effects of Reducing Intake of Energy. The scientists gathered 48 participants and randomly divided them into three groups. Eighteen people cut their caloric intake by 25 percent for one year. Another 18 started exercising to increase their energy expenditure by 25 percent for a year. A third group of 10 people didn’t change anything.

At the end of the year, the scientists measured the IGF-1 levels in all three groups. Again, the group that followed a calorie-restricted diet showed no reductions in their IGF-1 levels. The other two groups didn’t have any changes in their IGF-1 levels either. But calorie intake isn’t the only factor that influences your IGF-1 levels. Protein does as well. So, the scientists decided to again adapt their study but this time focus on protein intake.

Why You Should Consider Reducing Your Protein Intake

The WUSM team had already been following a group of strict vegans for several years. You probably won’t find it surprising that because vegans don’t eat meat, they tend to eat less protein than most people. So, the scientists decided to compare the IGF-1 levels of the vegans with the levels of the CRONies. The strict vegans took in about 10 percent of their total calories from protein, whereas those on the calorie restriction diet tended to get about 23 or 24 percent of their calories from protein.

Astonishingly, the vegans had significantly lower levels of IGF-1, even if they were heavier and had more body fat than the CRONies. This seems to show that the amount of protein in your diet seems to correlate with lower levels of IGF-1. You may be able to lower your IGF-1 levels by decreasing your protein intake. The scientists at WUSM wanted to double-check their findings, though, so they conducted one study.

Don’t Confuse Calorie Restriction Vs Intermittent Fasting

How Low Calorie Diets & Intermittent Fasting Affect Metabolism

A Final Study

For the final study, the scientists asked a group of CRONies to eat less protein for a few weeks. This was difficult for them since they often increased their dietary protein intake to avoid becoming malnourished. If you’ve ever tried a calorie restriction diet, you know that you have to do a lot of calculating and measuring to make sure you don’t eat too many calories but still get enough nutrition. Increasing your protein intake is a great way to cut back on calories but still get plenty of nutrients.

For the study, six of the CRONies agreed to lower their protein intake. Then the scientists measured their IGF-1 levels after three weeks. The scientists found that the CRONies’ IGF-1 levels had declined dramatically after only three weeks on the new diet. These astounding findings mean that you might be able to extend your lifespan just by decreasing your protein intake. Other research at WUSM has also shown that reducing the amount of protein in your diet might also help protect you against some cancers. 

Is Calorie Restriction For Longevity Or Protein Restriction For Longevity The Best Diet for You?

Most nutritionists won’t tell you that you’re eating too much protein, but based on this study, maybe they should. That doesn’t mean that you need to start a radical low-protein diet. This research is still preliminary, and the scientists plan to confirm it with more future studies. In the meantime, though, you should definitely keep an eye on your protein intake if you want to improve your health and longevity. Reducing your protein intake seems to be much more effective than restricting your calorie intake. You’ll find it a lot easier, too. 

Your best option is to follow the current recommended daily allowance (RDA) for protein, which is 0.82 grams of protein per kilogram of your body weight. That’s about 56 grams of protein per day if you’re an average adult man or 46 grams if you’re an average adult woman. If you’re like most people, including the CRONies, you probably consume much more protein than the RDA recommendation. So, you can probably afford to cut back on your protein intake and potentially extend your lifespan (2).

What Is The Best Diet Or Dietary Lifestyle For You

Everyone is on a diet. Although most people are on the convenience diet, or the taste good diet. These people eat what makes them feel good at the moment while they are eating, and choose foods base on their convenience. Next, there are others who are on a special dietary lifestyle because of an allergy or medical condition. However, wouldn’t it be better to be in a thirds group, people who have a dietary lifestyle of health and happiness. We have looked at many diets, and have found that you have to find the one that works best for you and you can start here with heathy eating.

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