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Eating less is the key to longevity

A study involving mice and rats in the US found that a 30 per cent reduction in daily calorie intake could boost the human life span by up to 50 years. Similar results are expected in human trials on longevity...

long lifeCalorie-controlled diets trialed on mice and rats resulted in increases in longevity of up to 40 per cent. Similar results were found in a long-term study started in 1987, which kept monkeys on calorie-controlled diets. Results found that a calorie reduction can cut the risk of age-related conditions such as cancer, high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Dr George Roth of the US-based National Institute of Health and National Institute on Ageing believes that "if the successful rodent results were repeated in humans, life span could be increased by 40 per cent or up to 50 years". Trials on humans have now begun in the US where participants were consuming 20 to 30 per cent less calories than an average person. "The diets are nutritious, low in fat and high in fiber", says Dr George Roth. "Calorie restriction is the only proven way to fundamentally alter metabolic, physiological and biochemical processes and prolong life".

With the world's oldest validated person dying at age 122, reaching the age of 170 would not be beyond the realms of possibility if the results of the study prove to be true.

Source: adapted from the Sunday Telegraph (NSW), 7 March, 2004

Further research on longevity

Another study backs up this theory by showing how sticking to a low-calorie diet over the long term slows the decline in heart function that normally occurs with aging. According to Dr Luigi Fontana at Washington University in St. Louis, this is the first study that strongly suggests that calorie restriction may delay primary aging in humans.

The researchers assessed 25 healthy adults who had followed a severely calorie-restricted, nutritionally balanced diet (approx. 1,670 calories per day) for an average of 6.5 years, and 25 ‘control’ subjects who ate a typical Western diet (roughly 2,445 calories per day) The researchers looked specifically at diastolic function - how well the heart relaxed between beats.

Diastolic function was significantly better in the calorie-restricted participants than the Western diet group, the team reports, and blood pressures were significantly lower also. According to Fontana, people who followed a severe calorie-restricted diet but with optimal nutrition had a younger heart in terms of diastolic function ­ as you get older your diastolic function gets worse and worse.

The author of a related editorial, Dr. Gary Gerstenblith from Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, says that while it is not likely that many individuals would follow such a low-calorie diet, "the value of the study is that it points to a possible mechanism explaining how aging occurs and, therefore, how it may be modified."

Journal Reference: Journal of the American College of Cardiology, January 17, 2006.

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