Living Longer Today! Losing weight the old-fashioned way — by eating less. A whole lot less.

According to, “ There are those losing weight the old-fashioned way — by eating less. A whole lot less. As a volunteer in the two-year Comprehensive Assessment of Long-Term Effects of Reducing Intake of Energy (CALORIE) study at Tufts University in Boston, Apollos has lowered his daily caloric intake 25% over the past eight months. The fat, not surprisingly, has melted away; the 52-year-old physical trainer has lost more than 25 lb. (11 kg) since the study began and is down to his high school weight. “

The idea is counterintuitive: If we eat to live, how can starving ourselves add years to our lives? Yet decades of calorie-restriction studies involving organisms ranging from microscopic yeast to rats have shown just that, extending the life spans of the semistarved as much as 50%. Last July a long-term study led by researchers at the University of Wisconsin nudged the implications of this a bit closer to our species, finding that calorie restriction seemed to extend the lives of humanlike rhesus monkeys as well. The hungry primates fell victim to diabetes, heart and brain disease and cancer much less frequently than their well-fed counterparts did.

Scientists have suspected that calorie restriction could extend the life span of animals since at least 1935, when researchers at Cornell University noticed that severely food-restricted lab rats lived twice as long as normal ones and were healthier. Other investigators began exploring the idea and learned that the secret is not merely a matter of body weight: lab mice that ate normally but became skinny by exercising a lot showed no longevity improvements. Only the ones that didn’t get many calories to begin with benefited.

One theory is that a state of slight hunger acts as a mild but constant stressor that makes an organism stronger and more resistant to the ills of aging. (The effect could be an evolutionary adaptation, increasing the odds that animals would survive periods of scarcity.) Taking in fewer calories also slows metabolism, and some data indicate that humans with a slower metabolism live longer. But even if these theories are correct, simply defining the mechanism is not the same as identifying the molecular pathways behind it. If researchers could determine those pathways, they might be able to pharmacologically mimic the effect of calorie restriction. That could be the ultimate benefit of the CALORIE study.

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