But what if you ate every meal as leanly as possible? You could live longer.
That’s the aim of those following the caloric restriction movement, nicknamed “CR” by its advocates. The idea is to pack all the nutrients you need to be healthy into as few calories as possible. Everyday staples of the American diet like burgers and fried chicken are banished for low calorie, nutrient-dense options like sweet potatoes and green and yellow vegetables, with little meat, eggs or dairy products.
Considering the barrage of studies regarding the benefits of calorie restriction, some scientists contend that near-starvation can potentially be the most powerful tool we have to combat aging and ultimately extend our lives.
The research claims sound nothing short of miraculous to would-be Ponce de Leons. Caloric restriction (CR) has been linked to the reduction of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, memory loss and most significantly, increased longevity in lab animals. A recent study on mice even linked CR to preventing infertility. All it takes is a little—make that a lot—of self-discipline.
Exactly how CR works is still debatable. While multiple theories abound, one—hormesis—stands out due to its parallels with anti-aging techniques already widely used in the beauty industry: Just as a laser can damage skin cells in order to increase collagen production, this hypothesis contends that the CR diet imposes a low-level measure of biological stress on the body, which provokes a defensive response that helps to delay aging.
But don’t look to CR to preserve a youthful complexion. Ever hear of another saying? “When you get older, you have to be ready to trade your ass for your face?”
Well, consider an observation made by Dr. Elissa Epel, an associate professor in the University of California, San Francisco’s Department of Psychiatry who is involved in CRONA (Caloric Restriction with Optimal Nutrition and Aging Study), an investigation probing the biological processes affected by extremely low calorie intake: “One thing we notice in people doing CR is that because they have so little body fat, including facial adiposity, they actually look more, not less wrinkled,” she said. “Just as people who lose a lot of weight might show more wrinkles.”
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