Low Calorie Diets: Increase Immunity and Longevity!

Recent research has suggested that a low calorie diet plan can be a way to increase longevity in humans.  There seems to be some correlation between restricting calories and declines in DNA damage, which is intriguing to many.  When considering a healthful eating plan, it is never wise to try a very low calorie diet and restrict caloric intake so severely that necessary nutrients, including vitamins and minerals, are scarce in the diet. However, there seems to be increasing evidence that points towards a connection between living longer and eating a low calorie diet!

One theory is that restricting calories leads to a slowdown in metabolism, which conserves energy and thus decreases production of free radicals in the body, which can lead to aging. The metabolic slowdown takes place as an evolutionary survival tactic, to protect the body so that it does not starve if food intake is dramatically reduced. On the other hand, suddenly and dramatically reducing calories in a diet can be a stressor on the body and problematic. If the body gradually adapts to a lesser caloric intake, which it inevitably will, its natural response would be to slow down and conserve calories. In turn, this in itself can lead to weight gain, which is indeed ironic, and could be counter intuitive to the advantages brought about by a slowdown in metabolism. Nonetheless, the correlation is intriguing.

A good way to balance possible side effects from metabolic slowdown is to choose among low calorie diets that reduces calories but maintains a high level of nutrients. Maintaining a high level of nutrients is thought to slow down aging while decreasing insulin levels in the body and body temperature.  Studies have been performed on monkeys to test the effects of calorie reduction on a possible slowdown in aging, and results have suggested that there is indeed a correlation. In addition, similar studies performed on mice show that there is a reduction in cancer rates on low calorie diets!

Other tests suggest that restricting calorie intake can lead to improved T-cell functioning in immune-compromised individuals. If this is the case, it may counter the natural tendency in a reduction of T-cells during the aging process. At any rate, an improvement to the immune system of individuals could certainly contribute to an increase in longevity.

Another observation noted by researchers has been an improvement in the elasticity of the cardiac muscle, or heart, of people who have strictly reduced their caloric intake. At rest, the heart seemed to have the same level of elasticity as seen in younger individuals.

The caveat to this strategy, if indeed a good one, is that nutrition in the diet must be maintained. Therefore, if calories are restricted, nutrition must not be restricted as well. This means to continue to eat healthy low calorie snacks and split meal times into 5-6 a day. The reduction of calories must not affect the nutritive value in a diet by lessening it. Otherwise, the effect will be an acceleration of aging. However, the correlation seen between a low calorie diet that maintains its nutritive value and a reduction of aging among both animals and humans is noteworthy indeed.

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