Caloric restriction and longevity

A New York Times article, The Calorie-Restriction Experiment, details a study where researchers attempted to find out if eating less increased longevity. 132 men and women reduced their daily calories by 25 percent for two years to see if a Spartan diet affects the aging process and its associated diseases. 

Subjects experienced “astounding drops in cardiovascular risk factors”.

BUT, another quote:

“Ninety-nine percent can’t do it,” John Holloszy, a medical doctor who is the lead investigator at Washington University, told me. “The people in the study are not going to stick with it” after they leave.

Damn.  Two years to figure that out?

The study was about factors effecting longevity, but what I found interesting was that subjects lost about 15 % of their body weight and reached a plateau at a “weight stability” level. It is important to note that subjects were of normal weight to slightly-overweight to start. They did not have much to lose. I am guessing that weight loss was not all fat tissue. If you attempt to lose weight by calorie restriction your body will catabolize lean body mass to lower the body’s metabolism to compensate for the decreased caloric intake. Who wants a "weight stablity" level where you have to go through life under-muscled and hungry?

A more reasonable approach might be to cut back eating just a bit and exercise a bit more. A different study found that more muscle was positively associated with longevity. If you add proper strength training to the mix your body will make a positive adaption to withstand the stresses placed on it by the strength training. The body does so by maintaining or even adding muscle mass and thereby increasing metabolism.

At Austin Personal Training and New Orleans Fitness Training we offer high intensity training (HIT) that has been show effective for weight loss. All you have to do is stick with it and make modest changes in eating habits.  You will lose fat and more likely keep it off.