Stay Hungry, Live Longer: the Science Behind the Calorie Restriction Diet

An SMU biologist thinks the secret to the fountain of youth may be found by putting fruit flies on a diet.

Paul McGlothin, 60, and wife Meredith Averill, 62, were subjects in several of the first controlled studies—at Harvard and at University of Washington in St. Louis—testing resveratrol's effects on people. "We're probably the most tested humans in the world," says McGlothin, CEO of an ad agency in Westchester, New York, and board chairman of the Calorie Restriction Society. After the studies, McGlothin and Averill decided to continue the calorie restriction regimen they started 15 years ago, without taking resveratrol—"though we think it's worth consideration," McGlothin says.

In their guidebook, The CR Way, the couple advises CRONies to eat 30 percent protein, 30 percent fat and 40 percent carbohydrates, focusing on making every bite as beneficial to the body as possible. No processed foods. Nothing fried, grilled or breaded. A day's worth of oatmeal, blueberries, lentils, poached salmon, barley broth, steamed sweet potatoes, fresh greens and other healthy vittles might add up to between 1,100 and 1,800 calories, depending on the person's height and weight.

By comparison, a typical adult American male under age 50 who's not on a restricted diet and leads a fairly sedentary life, eats about 2,500 calories a day without gaining weight. A typical female, about 2,000. For most Americans, too many calories come from high-fat, overprocessed food.

Rather than take resveratrol to be fat and healthy, McGlothin and Averill believe remaining underweight is the key to better health and feeling younger. McGlothin is 6 feet tall, weighs 133 pounds (down from 160 pounds 15 years ago) and has a 30-inch waist. He estimates that he consumes around 1,800 calories a day (the equivalent of one double-cheeseburger, large fries and a shake). Averill dropped 20 pounds after converting to calorie restriction and now weighs 110. Both say they haven't been sick in years.

Their eating day begins with the gradual intake of small meals, starting around 5 a.m. Their largest meal is breakfast, followed a few hours later by a lunch that might include raw or slightly steamed vegetables, beans, grains, fruit, fish and healthful fats. By 1 or 2 p.m., they're finished eating for the day. Fasting for 12 to 15 hours between "dinner" and breakfast, they believe, allows the digestive organs to rest.

"With CR, you feel more energetic, more than you ever dreamed possible," says McGlothin, who was featured with Averill in a recent 60 Minutes piece on CR, resveratrol and their effects on longevity. "You begin to just function better. My health was always average, not standout. But after CR, all my health markers began to be like that of a person 15 to 20 years younger."

McGlothin and Averill have worked closely with doctors, including Sinclair, to chart their progress as CR practitioners. "We're proving how it works," McGlothin says. "We're in this to accelerate research." And they like to boast that for many years now, they've been planning their 125th birthday parties.

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Back in the all-you-can-eat world, soaring obesity and inequality of health care are producing the first generation of Americans who may have a shorter life span than their parents.

After a century of increases in average life expectancy, America now ranks just above Mexico and most Eastern European nations for longevity, say statisticians at Boston College. Researchers at the University of Illinois in Chicago calculate that in the first half of this century, U.S. life expectancy will level off or get shorter.

In France, Switzerland and Japan, both men and women who live to age 65, are expected to live years longer on average than Americans who reach 65. It's estimated that 34 percent of American women currently are obese (typically, that is 20 percent over ideal weight), compared with just 4 percent in Japan. For men, it's 28 percent and 2 percent, respectively.

With obesity come related diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease and cancer. By 2040, according to several studies, it's projected that two-thirds of all American adults will be obese or overweight. Childhood obesity is already at crisis levels, with dramatic increases in type 2 diabetes among the very young. As those overweight kids transition to overweight adults, mortality levels will spike as they fall victim to early heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure and other obesity-related ailments. Meanwhile, baby boomers who've gained a pound or two a year in every year of middle age will be lurching heavily and unhealthily into their late 60s and 70s.

"Definitely as you age, you need fewer calories," says Jo Ann Carson, Ph.D., who teaches clinical nutrition at University of Texas Southwestern Medical School and is a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. "Your metabolism slows down, requiring fewer calories to function. But those calories should come from better quality nutrients."

Carson offers a simple formula for calculating how much to decrease daily food consumption to reap the health benefits. For women, subtract 7 calories per day (from an average of 2,000) for every year past age 19. For men, it's 10 calories per day. Between ages 20 and 50, that's a gradual decrease of between 210 and 300 calories (the equivalent of a couple of slices of buttered toast).

Guidelines issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2005 (the next set of guidelines will be issued next year) also advise that Americans need to eat fewer calories, fats and carbs, and should add more fruits, vegetables and whole grains to their diets. Also recommended are 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity most days of the week.

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16 comments
Singleton_78
Singleton_78

I am 33 yrs old, why does it seem like eating less was easier when I was in my 20's? Is thier a biological or metabolic reason for this? This totally perplexes me. I get 1 hour of cardiovasucular excercise 3 to 4 times per week but it is not having the same effect on my figure as it did when I was just 2 years younger. What should I do about this?

Stephan
Stephan

Dr. J - I thought you where taller then me and I didn't know you weighed less then me - Stephan G

At 5-foot-7-inches, 140 pounds, the German-born scientist (who looks about 19) never exercises, doesn't take resveratrol and has never been on a diet. "Humans evolved as omnivores. They ate everything in their path," he says.

Rick
Rick

Obesity and overweight pose a major risk for chronic diseases. That's about 2/3 of the population yet no doubt the same group that banned public smoking (due to health concerns ha ha)

When will fat and obese people be taxed for driving up health care costs for the good people who don't eat eat eat? They drive up health care costs more then smokers did plus they cause accidents... Have you ever seen an overeater try to drive? They can hardly back a car up because they can not turn around to look behind them... overweight people should be given a restricted license as well.

Quit eating so much and try this restricted diet.

Lukka
Lukka

This is really great article about losing weight on healthy way...

Jill
Jill

Just to correct a bit of misinformation in the article:

Eating vegan or raw is NOT a variation on the calorie restriction diet. The vast majority of vegans and raw foodists have chosen their diets for health, environmental and animal abuse reasons and do not purposely eat fewer calories than is currently deemed necessary.

Jill
Jill

Just to correct a bit of misinformation in the article:

Eating vegan or raw is NOT a variation on the calorie restriction diet. The vast majority of vegans and raw foodists have chosen their diets for health, environmental and animal abuse reasons and do not purposely eat fewer calories than is currently deemed necessary.

Stevemle
Stevemle

To Tim's comment:"I would rather die middle-aged and happy than be old and miserable."

I say: "Don't knock it, until you try it. You might surprise your self."

SS
SS

"Vyff now eats once a day, usually a lean chicken breast poached in water, some steamed broccoli or squash and maybe a glass of fresh orange juice. She eats red meat once every two weeks and prefers it cooked rare. Her daily calorie count hovers around 1,200 if she's not exercising"

This is complete BS. If she eats ONCE a day and that once a day is a lean chicken breast poached in water w/ veggies and MAYBE a glass of OJ she isn't coming anywhere NEAR 1,200 calories per day. That is probably a max of 300 calories. The math here doesn't add up in the least.

George
George

So SMU professor wants us to eat 6 walnut halves (3 walnuts) and 3 chocolate chips.

Some of the SMU students already do this, so it shouldn't be too hard. Except that THIS IS AN EATING DISORDER, NOT A HEALTH BENEFIT.

Harris
Harris

Well we certainly shouldn't be publishing information intended to help people make nutritional choices on the basis of fruit fly studies and children's book authors.

Quack medical advice like this is hurting people for a few quick bucks.

Express your distaste for such dangerous nonsense by not buying the Observer.

izz
izz

"Vyff now eats once a day, usually a lean chicken breast poached in water, some steamed broccoli or squash and maybe a glass of fresh orange juice. Her daily calorie count hovers around 1,200"

One meal a day does NOT come to 1,200 calories, even at McDonalds. One serving of veggies, oj & chicken has less than half that amount.

This woman needs to see a nutritionist. Calorie restriction is defined as getting your dietary needs met with vegies, fruits, beans & wholegrains. Living on three chocolate chips is the definition of anorexia.

S. Gupta
S. Gupta

The red wine extract resveratrol is a calorie restriction mimetic, in other words it mimics the effects of calorie restriction without the need to reduce calorie consumption.

Since the Harvard resveratrol study on aging by Dr. Sinclair was published in the journal Nature a flood of dubious companies have sprung up selling resveratrol. Many have no scientists, no labs, no quality control and no experience. Both I and Dr. Mehmet Oz have recommended Biotivia Bioforte and Transmax. They are made by a company with 18 years of experience, and Biotivia supplies many of the university medical schools, health ministries and researchers.

Consumer Lab, an independent testing authority, evaluated the major brands and found many lacking in content and quality. The highest potency products that passed their evaluation were Biotivia, Transmax and Bioforte. A product by Life Extension Co. failed badly with only 26% of the claimed resveratrol. This is clearly a case of buyer beware. Look for a reputable company with the resources necessary to product this compound.

tina
tina

"Vyff now eats once a day, usually a lean chicken breast poached in water, some steamed broccoli or squash and maybe a glass of fresh orange juice. ... Her daily calorie count hovers around 1,200 if she's not exercising; 1,600 to 1,800 if she runs 5 or 10 miles on the treadmill."

This doesn't compute at all. One chicken breast, some broccoli, and a glass of orange juice is nowhere near 1200 calories. (Unless it's a whole jug of orange juice and some mutant chicken breast.) I personally also eat approximately 1000-1200 calories on a daily basis, and I eat lots more than that - Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and at least one or two snacks.

Tim Covington
Tim Covington

I would rather die middle-aged and happy than be old and miserable.

Diana Ivette
Diana Ivette

That´s true. People often tell me they are envious of how much food I eat without gaining weight. But I think it's not about how much you eat but what you eat and the variety in your diet.

For example while most people drink a glass of orange, i eat the whole fruit, which is more satisfying and has less calories. I eat vegetables of all colors before eating the main course, whatever it is, I try to adapt. If i eat a hamburger i don't put dressing on it, and change the fries for salad, and that doesn't make it less appetizing. For dessert I choose a fruit or have some ice cream. I have no problem with it. I enjoy what i eat. In fact I've never liked dressings and fatty food too much.

By the other side, I can see that most of the people who are dieting eat little plates of lettuce with lots of dressing to have a less terrifying experience, and end up with the feeling of being miserable and hungry asking themselves why if they eat so little, they still stay fat.

The point is that my daily count is low and I eat much more than a piece of chicken and steamed broccoli. That's miserable and unnecessary. I love food and love to be healthy too.

 
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