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Unformatted text preview: THE QUEST TO BEAT AGING 44 SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN PRESENTS FIGHTING WEIGHT: Michael Cooper has cut his calorie intake nearly in half in his bid to beat aging. the battle against aging GREG SMITH SABA Copyright 2000 Scientific American, Inc. THE QUEST TO BEAT AGING SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN PRESENTS 45 SEVERELY RESTRICTING DIET MAY INCREASE LIFE SPAN, BUT FEW WILL BE ABLE TO FOLLOW SUCH A HARSH REGIMEN D espite the national propensity for fad di- ets and miracle health cures, despite the ubiquitous talk of “eating healthy”—a concept so mercurial that every decade brings a new definition—only a single di- etary regime has ever been conclusively demonstrated to extend the life span and improve the health of laboratory animals, let alone humans. It is known in the scientific lingo as “calo- ric restriction” or “calorie restriction” and less tech- nically as “eating considerably less than you might normally prefer”—perhaps 30 to even 50 percent less. In other words, an average-size human on a calorie-restricted diet might consume 1,500 calories a day, compared with the 2,100 calories of the typi- cal American. It’s four or five small meals a day, pre- dominantly vegetables and fruits, and a life in which you are perpetually cold, painfully thin and constant- ly hungry. Calorie restriction, quite simply, is a Dra- conian diet and a lifelong one at that. “It requires a psychological profile only one person in 1,000 has,” says Richard Miller, associate director for research at the University of Michigan Geriatrics Center. Nevertheless, the study of calorie-restricted diets has lately become a hot-ticket item among longevity and nutrition researchers, who have taken to ex- tolling its virtues with remarkably unrestrained en- thusiasm. Their reasons are clear—the list of the beneficial effects of calorie restriction in laboratory animals reads like the packaging on a miracle cure. Calorie restriction will, for instance, increase both average and maximum life spans, and the fewer cal- ories consumed, the greater the increase; it will re- duce the occurrence of virtually all age-related dis- eases, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer. It will prevent kidney disease and cataracts as well as the development of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. It will lower blood cholesterol and forestall the age-related deterioration of the immune system. In mice, calorie restriction from an early age raises the maximum life span from 39 months to 56 months and at the same time preserves what passes for intel- lectual function: a three-year-old calorie-restricted mouse, for example, can negotiate a maze with the quickness and ease of a normally fed mouse of six months, which is the mouse version of salad days....
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This note was uploaded on 04/03/2010 for the course NPB 105 taught by Professor Fuller during the Spring '10 term at UC Davis.
- Spring '10