Could Eating Less Make You Live Longer?

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Earlier this year, I attended “Controversations”: a Nutrition and Health symposium sponsored by The Dairy Farmers of Canada. Over 300 dieticians and I got a chance to listen to the latest research on many hot button nutritional topics. What got my attention was the talk given by Dr. John R. Speakman* on calorie restriction and longevity. Could eating less really make you live longer?


Calorie restriction (eating less energy than your body’s needs) is an old idea; historical figures like Benjamin Franklin and Francis Bacon thought it could add years to your life. Even today, many people swear by it.

Animal studies show restricting calories, while keeping optimal nutrition, extends the lives of some species, so why not us? Well, this effect isn’t universal in all animals; in fact, some even lose years off their lives!
Animal studies also show the later in life you start calorie restriction, the less benefit you get from it. If you put this data directly into humans, starting a calorie restriction of 15-30% at 55 would give you a mere 6-12 weeks of added life!
As expected, calorie restriction also makes you hungry. This was found when studying mice, and it’s suggested that these constant hunger pangs may even play a role in providing longevity benefits.  So, despite seeing these results in animals, we can’t say the same thing about calorie restriction and longevity in humans.


I’ll leave you with the question that Dr. Speakman asked us at the end of his talk:

“Would you like to live an extraordinary long and healthy life?”

Of course! Now let’s ask that same question in a different way:

“Do you want to spend the next 20-40 years being hungry, cold, and with a loss of libido?”

In that case, I much rather have that cake, and eat it too! 😉

*John R. Speakman is the former director of the Institute of Biological and Environmental Sciences at University of Aberdeen in Aberdeen, Scotland, where he continues to run his research group.


Meet Alessandra, Cappino’s expert nutritionist.  


Dietitian Alessandra BarbaRegistered dietitian and member of l’ordre professionnel des diététistes du Québec (l’OPDQ), Alessandra has a passion for nutrition, healthy living, and helping people achieve their personal goals.  She is a graduate from McGill University who excelled academically and was nominated by her peers to represent her graduating class as valedictorian. Alessandra has a multitude of experience with different clinical specialities, including weight loss, geriatrics, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, sports nutrition, among others. She understands that a good rapport with open communication between a dietitian and her client is a crucial factor for success, and her enthusiasm for her work is contagious.  To book an appointment with Alessandra click here.

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