Permanent Diet = Long, Miserable Life

From the LA Times, via Agoraphilia:

Evidence has been mounting for years that the practice of caloric restriction — essentially, going on a permanent diet — greatly reduces the risk of age-related diseases and even postpones death. It has been shown to significantly extend the lives of yeast, worms, flies, spiders, fish, mice and rats.

A longer life, but are they happy?

Are they happy? Are they hungry? Can they think as fast?

When UCLA evolutionary biologist Jay Phelan put mice on caloric restriction, he got the distinct impression that they didn’t appreciate it.

“They bit people and were more agitated,” he said. In contrast, the mice who ate a normal diet “would just sit around and let you pick them up.”

I’m a professional female; I know some hungry folks.  Interesting that in one of the most overweight countries on Earth, reducing even healthy intakes would benefit us all.

More interesting is the fact that lower caloric intake leads to a longer life but a much worse life.  Smokers, heavy drinkers, lazy people can all agree that quality of life beats quantity.  But it’s wild that reducing intake prolongs our lifespan even despite the negative externalities from the edginess and unhappiness and further isolation, etc., that will bring.

In his examinations of people who have been practicing caloric restriction for an average of 6 1/2 years, Fontana found their heart function was equivalent to those of people 16 years younger.

These studies have been around for a very long time.  I remember my father delicately mentioning having read such a study when I was around the tender age of 16.  The interesting thing is that it doesn’t seem to be net calories (calories – exercise), but rather gross; it’s all about intake and how hard the body has to work to process it all.

Change of lifestyle?  Not so much.  Just interesting when trade-offs — the stuff of life — are so black and white.  Quality v. quantity.

Edit: Apparently researchers monkeyed around w/ the rhesus studies, excluding all “non-age related deaths” from the statistics.  Reason also ran this story today and included the following from food policy blogger Sandy Szwarc at Junkfood Science:

The lower mortality claimed among the monkeys on the calorie restricted diet were achieved only after eliminating 37% of the monkey deaths. They defined mortality as “age-associated deaths” and eliminated any cause of death they didn’t believe was associated with aging. As the supplemental data explains, 16 deaths from “non-age-associated causes were censored and their age of death used as the time variable in the regression.”

Science doesn’t really work that way. Researchers can’t simply ignore the evidence that doesn’t support their hypothesis. That would be the difference between research done to build evidence to support a hypothesis, from science that is objectively studying a hypothesis…

The non-aging-related causes of death included monkeys who died while taking blood samples under anesthesia, from injuries or from infections, such as gastritis and endometriosis. These causes may not be aging-related as defined by the researchers, but they could realistically be adverse effects of prolonged calorie restrictions on the animals’ health, their immune system, ability to handle stress, physical agility, cognition or behavior.

As we know, the most important endpoint in medical interventions is all-cause mortality. Selectively looking at only one cause of death, while ignoring that more patients died from something else, is not evidence to support the efficacy of a treatment. “The treatment worked, but the patient died” is not good medicine that considers the whole patient.

Hrm.  So it’s just a suggestive study absent any findings that are necessarily significant.  The trade-offs extrapolation is still interesting, but I think I’ll make my trip to TangySweet tomorrow after all.

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