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Reduced Calories, increased immunity

Postpone A Wormy End, and Gorillas Should Have the Right to Vote


By —— Bio and Archives--March 4, 2008

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William Shakespeare wrote “A man may fish with the worm that hath eat of a king”. He could have added,  “or fish with the worm that eventually gets us all.” This is not a pleasant thought to pass along to readers at the start of the day. But since the life of worms and other insects can be extended, it may be possible for humans to postpone that final wormy day as well.

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Studies show that restricting calories in worms, insects, mice and rats does prolong their lives. This usually means eating about 25 percent less than what they would normally consume to maintain normal weight. It’s been labeled “under-nutrition without malnutrition”. 

So far it’s the only intervention tried by scientists that has been shown to prolong life. Caloric restriction also decreases the risk of developing chronic diseases common in later life. For example, a Japanese study showed that decreased calories resulted in an increase in the blood’s T cells that provide immunity against infection.

Another experiment at the University of Wisconsin studied certain strains of mice noted for developing lymphoma (cancer of the lymph nodes) and liver cancer. In mice on a decreased caloric diet, cancer incidence was 38 percent. For those mice given a freely fed diet the rate of cancer jumped to 78 percent.

What about monkeys? It wasn’t surprising that monkeys on a calorie restricted diet lost weight and had less body fat than their counterparts on normal diets.

But monkeys consuming fewer calories also had lower body temperatures, decreased blood sugar and insulin levels, along with lower blood cholesterol and triglyceride. They also had increased high density lipoproteins, the good cholesterol.

All these factors decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease. But since monkeys normally live for many years this experiment isn’t completed so we don’t yet know if these monkeys will live longer.

But how does a calorie restricted diet slow down aging at the cellular level?  A reduced caloric diet slows destructive processes that take place every second in our cells. For instance, the metabolism of oxygen causes waste products called free radicals (like coal dust left over from the burning of coal) which are believed to be a leading cause of aging and death.

So how does this research apply to humans? The genetic jump from monkeys to humans is not great. Monkey DNA matches ours 98 percent of the time. In fact, a human rights group in Vienna, Austria, recently demanded that gorillas be given the same rights as humans, except the right to vote! (I believe this was a terrible mistake. Given the mess humans have created in this world, surely gorillas should have been given the right to vote long ago.) 

A report from Mayo Clinic says that short term trials of humans using calorie restricted diets have shown some benefit. Typically, the changes have been a positive effect on blood pressure, blood sugar, body fat percentage, cholesterol levels, heart rate and weight. But they question whether these changes will mean a longer life.

This is a strange conclusion. If we don’t die from a premature heart attack, hypertension and complication of diabetes, this surely translates into longer life. And we know “over-nutrition” is currently causing a world-wide epidemic of obesity that drastically shortens lives. 

So what is the right prescription for longer life? I don’t suggest jumping onto a severely restricted calorie bandwagon, as you may find yourself weak, tired, cold and constantly hungry. It may also result in decreased bone density, anemia, loss of muscle tissue and depression.

It makes more sense to practice under-nutrition until you reach a normal weight. It’s also crystal clear that sidestepping obesity and all its complications does increase the chance of delaying Shakespeare’s wormy end.


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Dr. Gifford Jones -- Bio and Archives | Comments

W. Gifford-Jones M.D is the pen name of Dr. Ken Walker graduate of Harvard. Dr. Walker’s website is: Docgiff.com

My book, “90 + How I Got There” can be obtained by sending $19.95 to:
Giff Holdings, 525 Balliol St, Unit # 6,Toronto, Ontario, M4S 1E1

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