Research has shown that simple lifestyle changes such as eating less and in a specific time window can increase longevity! Some very well done studies in a variety of animals have shown that restricting calories can lead to a longer, healthier life. New research also shows that eating only during their most active time of day substantially extended the lifespan of mice on a reduced-calorie/high nutrient diet.
On, May 5th in the Journal of Science, researcher T Takahashi and his team studied hundreds of mice over four years. They noticed that a lower caloric and nutrient rich diet extended the animals’ lives by 10 percent. However, feeding mice the diet only at nighttime, when mice are most active, extended life by 35 percent. That combination of a reduced-calorie diet and placing the caloric intake during their most active time added on an extra nine months to their two-year median lifespan. In humans, we would eat a lower calorie/nutrient dense diet and consume our calories in our most active 6-8 hour window during the day.
The research helps disentangle the controversy around diet plans that emphasize eating only at certain times of day, says Takahashi, a molecular biologist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. Such plans may not speed weight loss in humans, as a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine reported, but they could prompt health benefits that add up to a longer lifespan.
Takahashi’s team’s findings highlight the crucial role of metabolism in aging, says Sai Krupa Das, a nutrition scientist at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging who was not involved with the work. “This is a very promising and landmark study,” she says.
Eat Less Calories and Eat more Nutrients
This is a big motto that I use with my weight loss patients at The Natural Path, Decades of research have shown that calorie restriction extends the lifespan of animals ranging from worms and flies to mice, rats, and primates. Those experiments report weight loss, improved glucose regulation, lower blood pressure, and reduced inflammation.
Stu8dying caloric restriction in humans is a bit more challenging since we can’t live in a labs and eat specific food portions for our entire lives, Das says. She was part of the research team that conducted the first controlled study of calorie restriction in humans, called the Comprehensive Assessment of Long-term Effects of Reducing Intake of Energy, or CALERIE. In that study, even a modest reduction in calories “was remarkably beneficial” for reducing signs of aging, Das says.
Caloric Restriction Slows Aging at the Cellular and Genetic Level
we are just beginning to understand how calorie restriction slows aging at the cellular and genetic level. As an animal ages, genes linked to inflammation tend to become more active, while genes that help regulate metabolism become less active.
Recent years have seen the rise of many popular diet plans that focus on what’s known as intermittent fasting, such as fasting on alternate days or eating only during a period of six to eight hours per day. To unravel the effects of calories, fasting, and daily, or circadian, rhythms on longevity, Takahashi’s team undertook an extensive four-year experiment. The team housed hundreds of mice with automated feeders to control when and how much each mouse ate for its entire lifespan.
Some of the mice could eat as much as they wanted, while others had their calories restricted by 30 to 40 percent. And those on calorie-restricted diets ate on different schedules. Mice fed the low-calorie diet at night, over either a two-hour or 12-hour period, lived the longest, the team discovered.
The results suggest that time-restricted eating has positive effects on the body, even if it doesn’t promote weight loss, as the New England Journal of Medicine study suggested. Takahashi points out that his study likewise found no differences in body weight among mice on different eating schedules -; “however, we found profound differences in lifespan,” he says.