Eating Less Beats Exercise for Longevity

A5A3E645-FE70-4F44-BF5D-1C4FDC4F3E6B.jpgThe link between calorie restriction and longevity is in the news again, this time from the University of Alabama where researchers found that eating less is more important than exercise in living a long life.

Derek Huffman and his colleagues studied the effect of exercise and calorie restriction on aging in mice. “Key rodent studies tell us that being lean from eating less, as opposed to exercising more, has greater benefit for living longer. This study was designed to understand better why that is,” said Huffman.

The study supports the theory that caloric restriction leads to physiological changes that do a body good. His team studied biological “markers” related to cell damage in different groups of mice. One of these markers, a hormone called insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), was lowest in calorie-restricted animals versus the exercise group. This suggests that caloric restriction creates beneficial changes in the body’s hormone levels which exercise does not.

These hormonal differences may play a role in the extending life of rats, but what about humans?

“I wouldn’t say this study has direct implications for people right now,” Huffman said. “But it shows what physiological changes caloric restriction and exercise produce.”

Already, a handful of studies comparing calorie restricted people to exercisers found similar hormonal benefits among those eating less. However, calorie restriction studies are difficult to carry out in people because participants often complain of feeling hungry, lethargic, and cold (can you blame them?).

Luckily, yeast cells don’t have the luxury of a voice box. Yet another study released last month offers further insight into why calorie restriction slows the aging process. Maybe someone can translate the press release for me, because I didn’t understand a thing after the word “Gcn4” (nope, it’s not in the Oxford English Dictionary).

The study has something to do with ribosomes, the “protein-making factories in living cells” and this “Gcn4” protein that has something to do with gene expression. If I ever make heads or rattails of this study, I’ll let you know. For now, I can definitively conclude that the human body is a crazy place. I barely understand my big toe, never mind the DNA behind it. Still, I always had a hunch that eating lots and then “working it off” with exercise was somehow not the way forward. What do I mean? Let’s think about it.

Why do we care about all this healthy shmealthy fitness mumbo jumbo? Well, we want to feel good, both now and when we’re older. We also want to fit into that pair of jeans. So, we try to lose weight and exercise because we know how good these are for our overall health. But being healthy isn’t just about “calories in, calories out”. There’s a whole lot going on in our bodies that we can’t see with the scale. Calorie restriction isn’t necessarily the answer, but it’s a good reason to think a little bit more about the “big picture” when it comes to health and fitness. I didn’t need this study to tell me that eating lots and then “working it off” really isn’t cool. It’s not cool because it’s not balanced. And at the extreme, it’s an eating disorder! The end!

Longevity Study In Mice Finds It’s Better To Go Hungry Than Go Running [Medical News Today]

One thought on “Eating Less Beats Exercise for Longevity

  1. Paul Roe

    I love being *somewhat* ahead of the curve on caloric restriction:

    That is, I have been espousing a subjective form of it since 1996, with such narrowly focused but expressive blurts such as, “fat is metabolically inactive, slow, serene, timeless, healthy, and cosmetically enhancing. Bony faces look very bad, imho”, but have refined it over the years, became aware of caloric restriction as a researched diet that dates back decades (thus, I am not really ahead of the curve, just slightly ahead of the popularity curve!), and have softened my stance on exercising:

    I used to be totally anti-exercise, in complete support of absolute idleness and minimal diet. Now, I think moderate brisk walking is ok and occasional aerobic, meditative or yoga-like motions are fine too and certainly not unhealthy.

    But, lo and behold, research such as this suggests that perhaps I softened and moderated prematurely. Perhaps staying the course in principal (I have never veered in practice, just in what I relate to others when asked about looking very young for near-40: don’t want to scare too many people away from healthy, antiaging, fat-laden, lazy, slothful, vegan diet and lifestyle) is the higher road, remaining uncompromising, not giving ground, not seeing the other perspectives.

    Fascinating stuff! 🙂


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