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A Case for Starvation?

Posted By Mark Sisson On March 29, 2007 @ 2:04 pm In Diet,Health,Nutrition | 3 Comments

That’s an admittedly provocative headline, but there’s a controversial and compelling idea behind this that I believe is really worth exploring.

I’m going to highlight a few interesting points and encourage you to join in a discussion about metabolism, lifespan, and – yes – not consuming sufficient calories.

1. Calorie Restriction = Fewer Free Radicals?

A fascinating study [7] I caught in PLoS (Public Library of Science) a few weeks back finds that insufficient caloric intake – but not malnutrition – appears to regulate mitochondrial production of free radicals. The mitochondria can be thought of as the engines of our body’s cells. It seems counterintuitive that eating a bit less than what is required to feel satiety – “full” – could be healthy. Really healthy. The antioxidant theory is huge in science and health, and I support it. I think the evidence is very compelling that most diseases and health problems – and ultimately aging itself – are, in a fundamental way, related to oxidative damage from free radicals. We know food and supplements can provide us with beneficial levels of antioxidants to mitigate this oxidative damage. But could our eating habits have an impact upon the function of our cells as well? Think of it this way: we have access to thousands and thousands of calories daily. It’s basically an unlimited buffet. Most of us eat roughly the same amount of calories every day (and that tends to be too high a number – in some cases far too high). But in the “caveman” days – I use this term loosely since there really weren’t “cavemen” so to speak – caloric intake varied wildly from day to day and season to season. Might our bodies have adapted to successfully deal with caloric deficits – even thrive on this?

2. And here’s another one:

Animals live 30 to 50 percent longer [8] when they don’t get quite “enough” calories. There are other observational studies of humans (we can’t exactly put humans in a cage in a lab) which seem to indicate this occurs in humans, too. It’s a tough issue to explore, because our society is fraught with eating disorders – of both starvation and dangerous excess. In fact, many people diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver never touch liquor – it’s a growing problem [9] (pardon the pun) resulting from an overtaxed liver that simply can’t handle excessive calories. Our bodies, from a scientific viewpoint, simply weren’t designed for regular, plentiful, cheap calories. I think a clear indicator that this is the case can be seen if you just look around at the major rates of obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease and other health problems.

What are your thoughts?

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Technorati Tags: starvation [11], calorie restriction [12], calories [13], metabolism [14], lifespan [15], malnutrition [16], mitochondrial production [17], oxidative damage [18]


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[7] fascinating study: http://medicine.plosjournals.org/perlserv/?request=get-document&doi=10.1371/journal.pmed.0040076

[8] Animals live 30 to 50 percent longer: http://www.sciencenews.org/articles/20070310/fob1.asp

[9] it’s a growing problem: http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=mg19325971.700&feedId=health_rss20

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[11] starvation: http://technorati.com/tag/starvation

[12] calorie restriction: http://technorati.com/tag/calorie+restriction

[13] calories: http://technorati.com/tag/calories

[14] metabolism: http://technorati.com/tag/metabolism

[15] lifespan: http://technorati.com/tag/lifespan

[16] malnutrition: http://technorati.com/tag/malnutrition

[17] mitochondrial production: http://technorati.com/tag/mitochondrial+production

[18] oxidative damage: http://technorati.com/tag/oxidative+damage

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