Caloric Restriction's Health Benefits Have Been Proved by Recent Research
Although the overall improvement of human health and longevity throughout the 20th century is mainly attributed to advances in medicine and better quality and access to food, it has also been found that a certain level of caloric restriction can boost health even further. Although this may seem counterintuitive, it is clear that people are now overeating, given the growing prevalence of obesity. In the eyes of the general public, nutrient-dense foods are regaining new importance owing to increasing health concerns and persuasive scientific evidence. Recent research efforts have uncovered new understanding about why calorie restriction imparts health benefits.
Scientists from Brigham Young University, US, studied how caloric restriction affects the cell aging process in mice. For the first time, scientists observed that the process of protein synthesis — carried out by ribosomes — slows down under a calorie restrictive regime. It was found that the decrease in calorie intake directly caused a decrease in the activity rate of the ribosome molecules.
Ribosome molecules are instrumental for cell activity because they create all the necessary proteins. Ribosomes tend to wear off over time, but cannot be replaced. This leads to progressively poorer protein synthesis, which is implicated in the natural process of aging.
A caloric restrictive diet slows down ribosome activity, giving these molecules more time to repair themselves and produce better quality proteins. Scientists were, therefore, able to verify a direct causal link between calorie restriction and the resulting aging-delaying biochemical processes in the mice.
Two groups of mice were observed: one group had a vast supply of food, and the other had 35% less food (but with adequate nutrient availability). According to John Price, biochemistry professor at Brigham Young University, the mice under calorie restriction displayed higher levels of physical activity and better health indicators overall. Their health remained comparatively better preserved than the other group. The results of the study were published in the Molecular & Cellular Proteomics journal.
Reasons for optimism
Caloric restriction lightens up the future for nutritionists, health professionals and anti-aging proponents. Given the powerful and well-documented health benefits of caloric restriction on animals, consumers have an easily accessible solution to curb the impact and costs of aging-related diseases in a relatively short period of time. Given the increasing public concern with health, environment and animal rights, the adoption of calorie restrictive diets based on nutrient-dense foods could naturally become a large-scale trend in the near future. And those who will benefit the most from the new dietary regime are the less healthy, as demonstrated by a recent fasting study carried out by the University of South California.