Caloric Restriction for Life Extension
- Created on Saturday, 23 June 2018 05:57
It is widely recognized in medical science that caloric restriction is the most proven technique of life extension. Under experimental conditions, it has worked in species large and small, including mammals. I don’t think it has ever been tested experimentally in humans, but there isn’t much doubt that it works.
And many people are acting on it, either through caloric restriction on a daily basis or intermittent fasting. I am seeing a lot about this online, including on Youtube.
But, I actually have an uneasy feeling about it- even though I doubt that it works. What I question is: is it worth it restrict your calories to the point of becoming underweight, where you actually scrawny-icize yourself in the hope that you will live longer?
Realize that if an overweight person, that is, a fat person, was to restrict calories and thereby reduce their excessive body fat, that obviously is an unmitigated, unqualified good. So, if you want to use caloric restriction to get to a healthy level of leanness, that’s fine. But, what if you’re already sufficiently lean? Would it pay to restrict calories and get leaner in the hope of living longer?
Well, in my opinion, there is a healthy weight for everybody, where you look the best and feel the best and have the best proportions and the most energy, etc. So, to get below your healthy weight, especially significantly below it, makes no sense to me, and it is an extreme thing to do.
And, it doesn’t come without risks of its own. You have less reserves in the event that you had a terrible trauma and couldn’t eat normally. If you are already bone-thin, what’s going to happen to you then? Your bones may get weaker from being so light. And if you get below your ideal weight, its very likely that you will lose muscle as well. And the truth is that Nature is working against us that way. There is a natural tendency to lose muscle mass just from getting older. And if you want to prevent it, you really have to work at it. The vast majority of people do experience sarcopenia- the age-related loss of muscle. It’s a cousin to osteoporosis- and you know how common and widespread that is.
So, in my opinion, the only practical and sensible thing is to restrict calories to the extent that it helps you maintain your best and ideal weight. And even if you got slightly thinner than that, you could get away with it and still have a high quality of life. But, if you deliberately make yourself thinner than that through eating restriction, you are doing something very extreme which may backfire.
Life isn’t just about quantity; it’s about quality. And it’s a higher quality of life in many ways if you maintain your best weight, where you look your best, feel your best, and act your best. You are not going to live forever no matter what you do, so you have to keep your priorities straight. To cause yourself actual wasting in the hope of living longer is, again, a very extreme and radical thing to do.
So, I never think in terms of restricting calories as an objective. I think in terms of maintaining my ideal weight and proportions, and strength and energy. And for me, it comes in right around 135 pounds at my height of 5’6”.
Would I prolong my life if I maintained my weight at, say, 125 pounds? I very well might, but I’m not interested. And that’s because I wouldn’t look as good (and of course, I look great) I wouldn’t be as strong, I wouldn’t feel as good about my masculinity from being so scrawny, and when I looked in the mirror I wouldn’t be seeing myself. I’d be seeing this very skinny guy. I would almost feel foreign to myself. So, why would I want to live like that? I wouldn’t want to even if I could be guaranteed to live longer, and of course, there are no such guarantees.
But, I would like to add that the awareness of the effectiveness of caloric restriction is something that we should at least use to keep ourselves from eating junk. For instance, if you are tempted to eat ice cream before going to bed, that’s surely extra calories that you don’t need, and restricting them can only do you good and not harm.
But, even though I don’t practice it as taught, I still enjoy reading about caloric restriction experiments, and I am they will continue. One amusing perspective is that if you restrict calories on a daily basis, you won’t enjoy as much food on a daily basis, but because you will live longer, you will consume and enjoy more food over the course of your lifetime than you otherwise would have. Is that true mathematically? I don’t know, but it is amusing to ponder.