August 25, 2005


Dieters Eat Less to Live Longer (Joanna Glasner, Aug. 25, 2005, Wired)

Lisa Walford considers her current weight of 82 pounds to be just about optimal.

Granted, it's not easy to maintain. For much of her adult life, Walford, a petite 4'11", hovered around 95 pounds. Sustaining her new weight requires consuming only about 1,300 calories on most days, 15 percent less than what she used to eat. live it this way?

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 25, 2005 10:11 AM

Imagine how much you'd have to hate life to be so obese that it affected your health and shortened your life.

Oh, wait, that's 30% of adult Americans.

Would you say that living without cigarettes or alcohol was an indication that a person hated life ?

Lisa Walford eats enough to keep herself alive, and not so much that she becomes dangerously overweight.

Within those parameters, why would there be a higher standard ?

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at August 25, 2005 4:26 PM


Posted by: oj at August 25, 2005 4:30 PM

OJ: are you admitting you hate life or have you had an epiphany regarding smoking?

Posted by: carter at August 25, 2005 4:44 PM

No, I'm agreeing that engaging in behaviors that shorten your life and make you miserable are indications you're unhappy with life. If you're fat enough for it to damage your health, drink enough to, or smoke, you've got issues.

Posted by: oj at August 25, 2005 5:08 PM

These people are doing this, if memory serves, because of some studies on mice. Evidently half-starved mice live longer than normal weight mice. How much the half-starved mice enjoyed their longer lives was not reported, perhaps the researchers neglected to interview them.

Posted by: joe shropshire at August 25, 2005 5:16 PM

Half-starved mice in a controlled labratory environment, no less.

Posted by: oj at August 25, 2005 5:21 PM

A half hour of exercise (or any of these other "life-extension by self-denial" cult activities) to extend a life years later by 15 minutes (most likely while wired up and plugged in inside a hospice) is a net loss. Better to enjoy life now while it's enjoyable, and act accordingly

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at August 25, 2005 5:49 PM

Joe: I'm doing this from memory, too, but I think the mice lived 20% (or four or five months) longer. The people mimicking the mice expect to increase their life-span by 20%, but they're likely only to get another four or five months.

Anyway, I thought that there was a study recently that burst this bubble.

Posted by: David Cohen at August 25, 2005 6:01 PM

Michael -

The people who buy into this aren't obese in the first place - they are fit and they believe that anorexia can grant them immortality. I too thought I had seen a study that had finally falsified the starve and live longer fad - I'll have to search for it.

I saw a show on these nutcases a few years back - many of them can barely walk and move around - they are hardly living a robust and fulfilling life.

Posted by: Shelton at August 25, 2005 6:26 PM

If being underfed makes you live longer, how come the residents of the Sahel don't all live to 100?

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at August 25, 2005 6:49 PM

Most likely the half-starved phenomenon is based that humanity is designed to survive through periods of feast (summer) and famine (winter). Since that was the natural state of man for most of our existence, it makes sense our bodies would be optimized for it.

Posted by: Chris Durnell at August 25, 2005 7:18 PM

Like many of us who are inclined to portliness, I once lost quite a lot of weight in a support-group program.

As a committed pedantic curmudgeon, even in those days, I delighted in bringing in quotations from this of that history describing how some criminal regime tortured prisoners or inmates by starving them with a diet of as little as 1300 calories per day, while most of us were below that count just to maintain our weight at the level required by the program.

Posted by: Lou Gots at August 25, 2005 7:26 PM

I go on periodic diet and exercise binges to bring my weight down. I've never been fat, but after long periods of intense work where I'm doing 13 hour days and eating alot of crappy junk food I do get a bit pudgier. Even that small amount of additional fat is uncomfortable, and demoralizing, I can't imagine what it's be like to be actually obese, it must be hellish.

My point is that being thin and fit is it's own reward in the here and now, it feels good, it makes my life better, I'm not doing it to live longer and I think neither are most of the people who exercise.

Maybe some of these nuts are but they must be a small minority.

Posted by: Amos at August 26, 2005 12:49 AM

The Okinawans are among the longest-lived people on Earth.

They eat sparingly throughout their lives, and continue to be active while elderly. "Exercise" might be stretching it, but they walk and do tai chi.

Most likely the half-starved phenomenon is based that humanity is designed to survive through periods of feast (summer) and famine (winter). Since that was the natural state of man for most of our existence, it makes sense our bodies would be optimized for it.

That is apparently correct:

Skipping Meals Might Offer Health Gains

Week of June 7, 2003
By Ben Harder

People assume that the ideal meal schedule spreads calorie intake over the course of the day: Never skip breakfast, keep your blood sugar on an even keel, and all that. But Mark Mattson, a neuroscientist at the National Institute on Aging in Baltimore, [says that] "it may be healthy to have reduced meal frequency." In other words, skipping some meals—or occasionally fasting for the day—might be beneficial, even if overall calorie consumption remains unchanged. [...]
In one set of experiments, Mattson and his colleagues fed some mice on alternating days and forced them to fast on the days in between. They allowed other mice to eat daily. Both groups of animals were given unlimited access to food when they were permitted to eat. The mice that fasted intermittently gorged themselves when they could and so consumed as many calories on average—and gained as much weight during the 20-week study—as did their counterparts that ate daily. Past studies have established that animals tend to age more slowly and live longer when they consistently consume fewer calories [...]Researchers are still working to understand how calorie restriction slows aging, but they've observed that calorie-restricted animals have improved insulin sensitivity. [...] Mattson and his colleagues observed better insulin sensitivity in the mice fed every other day than in those that ate daily. [...] Intermittent feeding also improved the animals' resistance to a neurotoxin that simulates Alzheimer's disease [...]
In another study, Mattson and two other researchers gave rats unlimited access to food either daily or every other day. They studied the animals' heart rate, blood pressure, and other physiological measures for 6 months. [...] When resting, rats fed only on alternating days had lower heart rates and blood pressure and less circulating glucose and insulin in their blood than did the other rats. The sometimes-fasting rats also showed muted cardiovascular responses to stress, suggesting that they more readily adapt physiologically to such situations. [...]
"A meal-skipping diet . . . is good for cells throughout the body" because it periodically reduces the amount of glucose from digested food available to cells, says Mattson. During those times, cells build their ability to take up glucose when it's available he hypothesizes. Thus, the mild stress of temporarily having less glucose may help cells prepare to cope with major stresses later, Mattson says.
Fasting every other day, while cutting few calories, may reduce cancer risk

By Sarah Yang | 14 March 2005

[H]ealthy mice given only 5 percent fewer calories than mice allowed to eat freely experienced a significant reduction in cell proliferation in several tissues, considered an indicator for cancer risk. The key was that the mice eating 5 percent fewer calories were fed intermittently, or three days a week. What is encouraging about the findings is that the reduction in cell proliferation from that intermittent feeding regimen was only slightly less than that of a more severe 33 percent reduction in calories. [...]
"Cell proliferation is really the key to the modern epidemic of cancer," said Marc Hellerstein, professor of human nutrition in the Department of Nutritional Sciences and Toxicology at UC Berkeley's College of Natural Resources. [...] Cancer is essentially the uncontrolled division of cells, and its development typically requires the presence of multiple mutations. "Normally, a cell will try to fix any damage that has occurred to its DNA," said Hellerstein, "But, if it divides before it has a chance to fix the damage, then that damage becomes memorialized as a mutation in the offspring cells. Slowing down the rate of cell proliferation essentially buys time for the cells to repair genetic damage." [...]
Studies over the past 70 years have established that substantial calorie reduction - up to 50 percent in some studies - not only can reduce the rate of cell proliferation, it can extend the maximum life span of a variety of organisms, including rats, flies, worms and yeast. The results can be dramatic, with 30 to 70 percent increases in life span reported in the studies. "Significant caloric restriction is the one and only thing that has been scientifically proven to extend life span," said Hellerstein. [...] He noted that while exercise and good nutrition can prevent premature death by disease, they have not been shown to extend a maximum life span.
Cutting calories has also been shown to reduce the development of cancer, enhance insulin sensitivity and lower the risk of heart disease. Yet, as remarkable as those studies may be, their applicability to a human diet is clearly limited. The researchers refer to an old joke that goes along with the findings on caloric restriction: "It's not that you're living longer, it just feels that way." [...] "What we found is that it may not be necessary to severely restrict calories to reap some of those health benefits," said Elaine Hsieh, a UC Berkeley Ph.D. student in molecular and biochemical nutrition and lead author of the study. "Cutting just a few calories overall but feeding intermittently [works well, and people might actually do it]. Although it's too early to say whether similar results would be seen in humans, this study at least provides some hope that another option to severe calorie reduction exists."
The researchers conducted several trials with a control group of mice that ate "ad lib," or freely. They compared the control group with mice that ate 5 percent fewer calories but were fed three times a week with mice that were given 33 percent fewer calories. [...]. As expected, the researchers found that mice on the 33 percent reduced calorie diet exhibited significantly decreased proliferation rates, [...] only 61 percent of that for mice fed freely. The surprising finding came with the results of the more modest 5 percent reduced calorie diet that was fed intermittently. Mice in this group had skin cell division rates that were 81 percent of those for mice fed freely. [...] Tests revealed that the estrus cycle stopped for mice on the lowest calorie diet. The mice fed intermittently, on the other hand, continued to cycle regularly. [...]
"A five percent reduction in calories would be the equivalent of reducing about 100 calories a day in a human diet," said Hellerstein. [...] Hellerstein noted that animals in the wild regularly go through cycles of too much and too little food, though not by choice. Major predators, such as lions, may go days without eating and then binge when they make a successful kill. "It may be normal to have periods where we are not eating," said Hellerstein. "But in domestic life, there generally is continuous access to food."

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at August 26, 2005 3:34 AM

Why bother?:

If you're as vkinny as this chick you're miserable.

Posted by: oj at August 26, 2005 8:57 AM

The point of the articles that I linked to is that it's NOT NECESSARY to cut calories by 30% - eating 4,000 calories EVERY OTHER DAY is enough to get most of the benefits of caloric reduction.

Thus, no "skinny" required, nor even much sacrifice.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at August 26, 2005 5:35 PM

just utter self-absorption and dissatisfaction with one's life.

Posted by: oj at August 26, 2005 5:54 PM

It feels good to be thin and fit, is that so hard to understand?

Posted by: Amos at August 27, 2005 12:44 AM

Eating one's vegetables is a sign of self-absorption and dissatisfaction with life ?

Up-thread you were saying that the obese are self-destructive, and now you don't like the super-healthy.

What gives ?

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at August 27, 2005 1:46 AM

Limiting oneself to 1,300 calories a day.

Posted by: oj at August 27, 2005 8:55 AM

As I pointed out, there's no need to do so, to reap the benefits that they're attempting to get.

Eating 4,000 calories every other day does 80% of the same thing.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 27, 2005 5:09 PM

There are no benefits, just self-loathing. Eat like a human.

Posted by: oj at August 27, 2005 7:04 PM