Want to live a long life?
For years, research using mice as test subjects has suggested that one way to do it is to cut way back on how much you eat. Additional research on monkeys added weight to the idea that calorie-restricted diets may be a special path to longevity.
As a result, many people harbored hopes that they might live to be 100 or older if they could hold their calorie intakes to edge-of-starvation levels.
But new research calls these ideas into question.
New findings from a long-term study of rhesus monkeys, published this month in the journal Nature, found that monkeys fed 30 percent fewer calories than the amount usually needed to support a typical weight lived no longer than monkeys eating a normal diet.
So what does this mean for you and me? Should we give up the idea that cutting back is good for us?
Dont stop counting calories yet. The value in watching what you eat extends to more than just extending your life.
Theres plenty of evidence to support the idea that if you stay slim and eat a healthy diet, you can improve the quality of your life.
And after all, isnt it as much about living better as it is about living longer?
Keep your weight down and you can decrease your risk for coronary artery disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis and other chronic, degenerative diseases and conditions that can make your life less enjoyable, if not shorter.
Thats my goal. I moderate my calorie intake and eat a consistently nutritious diet. After all, your diet is one of the primary factors you can actually control to influence your health.
If I live longer as a result, thats great. But its not whats driving me.
And lets face it: Most of us probably dont want to go around chronically hungry anyway, like the lab animals were forced to do. However, you may be willing to eat less than youd like to keep your weight down. And thats enough challenge for most of us.
So dont lament the fact that an extreme diet hasnt been proven to promote extreme longevity. Set your sights on a more near-term goal: Stay slim, eat well, and see where that leads you.
Suzanne Havala Hobbs is a registered dietitian and clinical associate professor in the departments of Health Policy and Management and Nutrition in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. Send questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.