Eat Less, Live Longer

 Occasionally she rings the changes with a stir-fry of greens and beansprouts on soba noodles. Either way, dessert will be no-fat yogurt with strawberries.

Her daily total will come out at a carefully calculated 1,400 calories.  According to mainstream nutritional thinking, a woman of her height should eat at least 2,000. Lara, who is 43, is around 15% under her ideal weight but she is not anorexic. Nor is she on this regime for the weight loss; that has been a mere side effect. She is one of a growing group of hard-core health enthusiasts following a “Calorie Restriction with Optimum Nutrition” (CRON) diet.

There is a considerable body of scientific evidence suggesting that reducing calorie intake by 20-50% below the recommended amount, while meeting nutritional needs, is the best thing we can do if rejuvenation and longevity are our goals.

Many things, including stem cell therapy, human growth hormone, nutritional supplements and a variety of drugs, are claimed to be “anti-aging”. But there is no reliable scientific evidence that anything besides calorie restriction is capable of retarding biological aging nor extending maximum lifespan.

So from that point of view Lara and others on similar regimes are definitely onto something. But the “optimum nutrition” part of the equation is more important than the calorie restriction component. Anorexics, prisoners of war and others who subsist on fewer calories than their bodies require over prolonged periods do not live longer; they perish sooner.

The average CRON diet is certainly streets ahead of the standard diet: empty calories are low to non-existent and junk food doesn’t figure. But if you want to meet all of your nutritional needs in the fewest calories possible, rule number one is to eat as much raw food as possible. Why? Because cooking makes 50-70% of protein in food non-bioavailable, it interferes with the body’s absorption of minerals, it denatures essential fats, and destroys 70%-90% of water-soluble vitamins and phytonutrients.

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