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How to live longer
November 13, 2003 12:38 PM   Subscribe

Extending your life, how to age well. The Seattle Times is running a week long series of articles on how to extend your life. One of the most interesting ideas is calorie restrictive diets. The basic idea is that you consume approximately 30% less calories than you need, and you will live a 30% longer lifespan. The Calorie Restriction Society website can answer any questions you have. Of course any plan that has problems like "Getting used to looking gaunt" and "How do I stop waking up from hunger" seems a little iffy to me.
posted by patrickje (32 comments total)

 
So wait, let's see if I get this right. 30% fewer calories equals 30% longer life. So if I go to 100% fewer calories than I'll live 100% longer?

And wasn't "Getting Used to Looking Gaunt" part of the So You Wanna Be a Model Handbook? (btw, you might note that registration is required to view the CalorieRestriction.com links).
posted by fenriq at 12:57 PM on November 13, 2003


What's the point of living longer if, in order to do so, your life is going to be miserable?

Hooray for food!
posted by deathofme at 1:04 PM on November 13, 2003


I'll smoke to that!
posted by psmealey at 1:08 PM on November 13, 2003


Irony at work:

Hooray for food!
posted by
deathofme
posted by Utilitaritron at 1:27 PM on November 13, 2003


The calorie restriction people have been around for a long time. I read their site a few years back and came to the same conclusion that deathofme did. I'd rather live a slightly shorter life that I enjoy every minute of, then starve myself and outlive all my loved ones.

Didn't Ray Kurweil recently say he was totally into the low calorie thing and how he wanted to live to 150? Maybe it was another sci-fi/AI person but I could have sworn it was him, because I remember thinking "maybe those low calorie people aren't as nuts as I thought, or maybe this guy is more nuts than I thought."
posted by mathowie at 1:29 PM on November 13, 2003


If a long life is what you're after you could always have your reproductive organs removed.
posted by keks at 1:56 PM on November 13, 2003


On NPR awhile back there was some nutritionist who explained that for the average American today, not necessarily including exceptional people who literally work for a living (in a way that involves labor and causes perspiration, as opposed to sitting on one's butt in a cubicle) or who exercise several times a week, the calories in one fast food meal exceed daily requirements. In the same feature, another nutritionist pointed out the triangle thing they taught us when I was in elementary school doesn't work anymore - that it never worked, and now a bunch of nutritionists are in some padded cell eating twinkies and drinking diet coke and trying to figure out what the new food triangle is gonna look like, and whether or not one of the food groups is gonna be "air." I heard all that and have pretty much decided I'm just gonna be fat and die a painful, immobile death.
posted by ZachsMind at 2:03 PM on November 13, 2003


Actually, the most recent research has tentatively shown that constant caloric restriction is probably unecessary - you can do it intermittently. How about the 'one day on, one day off' regimen?.

Further, in certain cases, the less you eat the less you want to eat - the stomach shrinks. This doesn't hold true for all people by any means. I've, effectively, been on the caloric restriction diet for probably ten years and.......damned if I don't look young for my age! But I don't feel as if I'm suffering at all. I'm just not so food oriented as some people.

By the way, red wine has been shown to produce some of this "caloric restriction effect".......but only up to a point. More than a couple of glasses a day and you're probably lopping off potential lifespan.


But here's another odd twist - the most toxic class of substances our bodies tend to encounter often sometimes daily or even constantly - are our body's stress hormones.

So if starving a little stresses you out at all, you're probably cutting your lifespan and feeling miserable while you're at it.

I wonder - rather than caloric restriction, perhaps most people would benefit more - and age more slowly - from stress management and relaxation techniques?
posted by troutfishing at 2:09 PM on November 13, 2003


Sure you can remove your reproductive organs to live longer but then things get kinda iffy.
posted by soren at 2:10 PM on November 13, 2003


My favorite recent quote on the subject: Exercising vigorously your whole life may add about two years to that life, but that’s it (and, according to one Stanford University study, most of that time will have been spent exercising).

from page 149, Enough, by Bill McKibben (2003)
posted by LeLiLo at 2:17 PM on November 13, 2003


Aeading researcher in this "field" says that he is nearly 6 feet, weighs 125, eats no breakfast, no lunch, and an ordinary or customary dinner. He exercises daily.

While it seems that a diet that restricts calories helps, some of us have genes that will affect longivity, one way or the other, so that caloric intake is not the sole factor in life span.
posted by Postroad at 2:35 PM on November 13, 2003


White men over 85 have the highest suicide rate in the nation — more than five times the national average.

Wow.
posted by 4easypayments at 2:45 PM on November 13, 2003


In related news, "the world's oldest person died in Hiroshima overnight at the age of 114, less than two weeks after taking over the title from another Japanese woman."

"Guinness says that Charlotte Benkner of North Lima, Ohio, is now the oldest living person in the world as she will turn 114 on Sunday."

I wonder if she'll quit her Walmart greeter job anytime soon.
posted by msacheson at 2:57 PM on November 13, 2003


"Actually, the most recent research has tentatively shown that constant caloric restriction is probably necessary - you can do it intermittently. How about the 'one day on, one day off' regimen?."

Actually the most recent research says you can start anytime you want before you're dead and you'll see a benefit.

It has long been know that reducing calorie intake can extend lifespan in yeast, fruit flies, and mice and probably for humans as well. I figured as did most people that less calories mean less damage to cells due to stress from the oxidation of sugar. Cells burn sugar somewhat like a car burns gasoline and so the theory goes if you eat less food you were putting fewer miles on your internal engine.

But it seems like that isn't true according to a recent study published in Science (pdf). The rate of death in fruit flies put on a restricted diet slows down within just a few days no matter how old the flies are. That could mean that animals of any age can benefit from a restricted diet.

Its more likely now that what happens is that the body goes into "starvation mode" very quickly when food is scarce and that animals live longer while in this regime. Surprisingly, the effects of smoking seem to work in a similar way.

You can speculate that the point of this adaptation was to enable an organism to make it through extended periods of starvation to times of abundance. I imagine there probably are costs to living under this regime as well. But the good news seems to be that you can switch to a calorie restricted diet anytime (before you're dead) and see benefits assuming what applies to mice applies to humans as well.
posted by euphorb at 3:07 PM on November 13, 2003


What's the point of living longer if, in order to do so, your life is going to be miserable?

Yes, because heaven forbid you should adjust your expectations to a healthier level, thus accomplishing your intake goals while avoiding making yourself "miserable."

Exercising vigorously your whole life may add about two years to that life, but that’s it (and, according to one Stanford University study, most of that time will have been spent exercising).

Even assuming that to be true, one can reasonably assume that though the duration may be the same, the quality of life will be increased by the improved strength, stamina, boosted immune system, decreased effects of aging, and general health benefits of the exercise.
posted by rushmc at 3:47 PM on November 13, 2003


In the first world countries we are overweight and try to emulate those in their world countries who die of things other than obesity.
posted by Postroad at 3:52 PM on November 13, 2003


If I can't have pie, 150 years of life is 150 years of hell.

Seize the day, motherfuckers.
posted by angry modem at 3:54 PM on November 13, 2003


William S Burroughs had a theory that heroin users lived a long time because they were always either withdrawing or using. Thus perpetually keeping themselves in a cycle of growth or death. Which extened their lives.
posted by nyxxxx at 4:01 PM on November 13, 2003


Good counterpoint to the "Fun Food" thread. (Who says MetaFilter doesn't give both sides?)

To paraphrase my comment from that other post: A thread like this only becomes legitimized when it gets a comment from a user with a handle like "deathofme"...

Hey, but the new Doctor Who cartoon might make 'gaunt' popular again!

Burroughs died at 83... maybe my yoyo dieting will have the same effect as frequent heroin withdrawals. Probably not.

I'm fighting the twin fights of trying to improve my health and my quality of life daily. Sometimes they conflict, but when they don't, those are my best days. And even though I am at an age where I almost certainly have more days behind me than ahead of me, I am most inspired by the words of a now-retired L.A. radio personality: "I just want to grow old disgracefully."

Better seizing the day than seizing your chest...
posted by wendell at 4:10 PM on November 13, 2003


I thought that this theory had been largely discredited--what seems to make the difference in mammals is lower insulin signaling, not total caloric intake. Mouse studies have indicated that longevity is polygenetic, and that reduced caloric intake only may only affect mice's longevity by reducing their supply of growth hormone.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:40 PM on November 13, 2003


William S Burroughs had a theory that heroin users lived a long time because they were always either withdrawing or using. Thus perpetually keeping themselves in a cycle of growth or death. Which extened their lives.

Actually, you can that part (or part of that part) from his book Junky here. Skip to page xvi, middle of the page.

I just finished this great novel the other week.
posted by angry modem at 4:46 PM on November 13, 2003


I couldn't remember where Burroughs wrote that but I thought it might be Junky. I couldn't find the citation on the web.

Can't search that amazon book.
posted by nyxxxx at 5:20 PM on November 13, 2003


'...heaven forbid you should adjust your expectations to a healthier level, thus accomplishing your intake goals while avoiding making yourself "miserable."'

rushmc, despite the fact that we occasionally find ourselves holding opposing opinions I like and respect you and much of what you have to say. Once again I'm afraid I will maintain the status quo: I find it difficult to imagine that a life of setting and "accomplishing intake goals" is one lived by someone who is, in fact, enjoying that life. Perhaps it takes a certain personality type beyond my mental grasp.
posted by majick at 6:10 PM on November 13, 2003


There's also no good evidence that the years you tack on to your life are productive ones. It could very well be that restricting caloric intake to 60% of normal will keep you from being as smart or as creative. That's not really a risk I'm willing to take, frankly.
posted by yellowcandy at 6:45 PM on November 13, 2003


In related news, "the world's oldest person died in Hiroshima overnight at the age of 114, less than two weeks after taking over the title from another Japanese woman."

See? It's the stress all right.
posted by soyjoy at 7:34 PM on November 13, 2003


I find it difficult to imagine that a life of setting and "accomplishing intake goals" is one lived by someone who is, in fact, enjoying that life.

It sounds worse than it is. Really!
posted by rushmc at 8:28 PM on November 13, 2003


Is it a matter of reducing caloric intake by 30%, even if you're already undernourished, or a matter of fat-ass couch potatos in America reducing their super-sized caloric intakes by 30%?

Because I'm thinking here that in the latter case, it's a no-brainer. Colour me surprised if it also works for the already-scrawny.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:52 PM on November 13, 2003


Fear of dying is very funny. Many billions of people have been born in human history and 100% of them died. There's no point in trying to live just to stave off dying. Staying healthy during your normal lifespan is a much more worthwhile undertaking. I mean, being a very active septugenarian is probably a lot of fun, but being a 100-year-old husk is probably a pretty empty victory.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:07 AM on November 14, 2003


Many billions of people have been born in human history and 100% of them died. There's no point in trying to live just to stave off dying.

That's a rather defeatest attitude. Although I agree with the latter statement if you stress the "just."
posted by rushmc at 5:24 AM on November 14, 2003


(1) What's the point of living longer if, in order to do so, your life is going to be miserable?
(2)Yes, because heaven forbid you should adjust your expectations to a healthier level, thus accomplishing your intake goals while avoiding making yourself "miserable."
I should think that being unable to sleep through the night due to hunger pangs would qualify as "miserable".

There's a healthy withdrawal from being excessively food-oriented, and there's reducing food intake to the point of regular physical discomfort.
posted by Karmakaze at 7:36 AM on November 14, 2003


There's a healthy withdrawal from being excessively food-oriented, and there's reducing food intake to the point of regular physical discomfort.

Certainly. But it's easy to dismiss the former as the latter in order to excuse yourself for not making the effort in the first place, since the two conditions can feel superficially similar at first, until your body adapts.
posted by rushmc at 7:44 AM on November 14, 2003


Exercising vigorously your whole life may add about two years to that life

Exercise also adds quality to your life.
posted by callmejay at 7:53 AM on November 14, 2003


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