Eat Less and Live Longer?

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Scientists have shown a link between long-living calorie-restricted mice and the types of microbes residing in the guts of those mice. The finding, published last month (July 16) in Nature Communications, suggests a novel mechanism of living longer by establishing the right kind of microbes in our gut through a low-calorie diet.


“[The study] underlined the effectiveness of the healthy modulation of the gut microbiota along with diet specificities,” Jean-Paul Vernoux, a professor of food toxicology at the University of Caen in France who was not involved with the study, said in an email to The Scientist.

Caloric restriction has been known to extend life span in a variety of organisms, including humans, though the molecular mechanisms of this effect are not known. Recent research has begun to outline the role of the apparently innocuous microbes of the gut in modulating metabolism and immunity of their host. Based on these findings, Liping Zhao of Shanghai Jiao Tong University and his colleagues wondered if caloric restriction may prolong life span by modulating the type and composition of gut microbes.

The team fed groups of mice a high- or low-fat reduced-calorie diet. As expected, mice on a low-fat, calorie-restricted diet lived the longest. Additionally, these mice displayed lowest body weight and fat content coupled with other healthy metabolic parameters such as glucose homoeostasis and a favorable serum lipid profile.

Using high-throughput sequencing, the researchers further showed that these calorie-restricted mice harbored a distinct population of beneficial bacteria such as Lactobacillus, as well as lower counts of harmful bacteria. Moreover, the microbial changes in the gut were concomitant with significantly reduced levels of serum lipopolysaccharide-binding protein (LBP), a soluble inflammatory protein that binds to lipopolysaccharide and other antigens and thus can be used as a blood-based biomarker of inflammatory response. This suggests that animals under calorie restriction can establish an optimal composition of gut microbiota, which in turn may lead to a better health by reducing overall inflammation.

Although more research is needed to translate these findings into humans, the study has far-reaching implications, Zhao noted. The idea of a balanced gut microbiota—with more beneficial microbes and fewer harmful ones—is an advantageous factor of a diet low in calories. However, the gut microbiome is also influenced by an individual’s genetic background and lifestyle, as well as environmental factors, he added, so a tailor-made personalized strategy would be the best approach to figure out how many calories to cut to attain an optimal bacterial community in the gut.

The researchers also suggest that such changes in the gut microbiota could be used as early warning signs of aging and age-related increase in inflammatory responses in the host. “We can analyze the composition of gut bacteria as a biomarker,” Zhao said. “We can also analyze serum LBP and see if that is increased or decreased.”

“There was a significant decrease of the negative to positive bacterial ratio correlated with life span in animals under calorie restriction,” said Vernoux. “It also justified the good positive role of probiotic Lactobacilli. The extrapolation to human is plausible, but it needs a lot of more work.”

Zhao’s team now plans to investigate the molecular mechanisms of how reducing caloric intake leads to changes in the gut microbiota, and would eventually like to run clinical trials to confirm these results.

Written By: Debamita Chatterjee
continue to source article at nature.com

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  1. I wonder how this relates to the system of restricting calories for two or three days a week to 500-600 calories and then eating more normally the other days? I have a couple of friends doing this and they’re not having any trouble with the fasting days. The great advantage is that it seems to be a lot easier to follow than reducing calories to, say, 1600 or 1800 every day. I wonder if it has a similar effect on gut bacteria or not?

  2. Prolific character actor Leon Askin, best known for the role of General Burkhalter on the Television series “Hogan’s Heroes,” weighed well over 300 pounds most of his adult life, and died at the age of 97. That’s one year older than Jack LaLanne was when he died. Just sayin’.

    • In reply to #3 by IDLERACER:

      Prolific character actor Leon Askin, best known for the role of General Burkhalter on the Television series “Hogan’s Heroes,” weighed well over 300 pounds most of his adult life, and died at the age of 97. That’s one year older than Jack LaLanne was when he died. Just sayin’.

      That was the hand he was dealt, this is a discussion about playing your hand well to improve whatever hand you have. Given that you won’t know what hand you’ve been dealt until the end wouldn’t X+Y be better than X (when X represents a number lower than everyone wants & Y represents a number more than or equal to 0)?

      Who knows how long Leon would have lasted if he hadn’t been using X – 300lbs, could have made the century. Just sayin’.

      • In reply to #4 by alaskansee:

        In reply to #3 by IDLERACER:

        Prolific character actor Leon Askin, best known for the role of General Burkhalter on the Television series “Hogan’s Heroes,” weighed well over 300 pounds most of his adult life, and died at the age of 97. That’s one year older than Jack LaLanne was when he died. Just s…

        The argument “Person X was obese and lived a long time therefor being obese can’t shorten the lifespan of anyone” makes about as much sense as the argument that global warming is a myth because we still have some very cold days in winter.

  3. It does make sense. Of course, more research is needed before we can draw final conclusions from this but I have to say I’m not really surprised by this. I have always suspected that we eat way too much. Even those of us who are not obese. We eat what is considered as regular or average quantities of food according to certain norms. Maybe those norms are based on unsubstantiated ideas? Who knows? Maybe skipping meals when we’re not hungry is not as bad for us as we’ve always been told?

    • In reply to #5 by NearlyNakedApe:

      It does make sense. Of course, more research is needed before we can draw final conclusions from this but I have to say I’m not really surprised by this. I have always suspected that we eat way too much. Even those of us who are not obese. We eat what is considered as regular or average quantities of food according to certain norms. Maybe those norms are based on unsubstantiated ideas? Who knows? Maybe skipping meals when we’re not hungry is not as bad for us as we’ve always been told?

      Most of us eat too much because our bodies evolved to survive in an environment where three meals a day was not at all the norm. Our instincts are to over eat when we can because there may be days when little or no food is available in the future.

      I’ve never believed that we had to have three meals a day. I’ve lost a lot of weight in the past two years (went from 190+ to 140) and I never used any kind of diet or anything. Just started little habits like not eating unless I’m actually hungry rather than just because it was “time to eat” or because I was bored and eating more healthy foods. Cutting back on wine with dinner (which was often followed by wine after dinner and wine after after dinner because hey once the bottle is open…) also helped.

    • In reply to #6 by drummo:

      Pardon my ignorance but if I consume fewer calories will I not need to restrict my activity as well?

      If you are malnourished, and living in a refugee camp, then yes. But if you live in a developed country, chances are that you will always consume more calories each day than you burn. If you reduce those, you simply cause your body to burn stored calories. Each metabolic system is unique, but generally, less in and more out, under non-stress conditions, results in a leaner body, if that is what you want. If not, you can shift the balance as you wish.

      • Keep in mind that very many people nowadays, as indicated by various trends in population health indicators, are apparently living with significant metabolic stress all the time. E.g. the link with nutrition and neuro-degenerative disease, mental illnesses, heart disease, many cancers, diabetes, metabolic syndrome etc. and quality of sleep. Which tends to scuttle any otherwise normally functioning homeostatic feedback mechanisms that synchronise energy intake and output. Plus there’s a fairly wide range of efficiencies for absorbing different foods, and alternative options for the purposes the energy is applied. Eg. Directed into forms of short and long-term storage and as energy to power fidgeting, work and exercise, immune system activity, and tissue growth and repair.

        Add the attractiveness, addictiveness, and availability of some kinds of hormonally disruptive (and gut bacteria disruptive) food blends and you literally have a recipe for disaster. Including the now widespread phenomenon of eating more and having less energy as a consequence. Maybe calorie restriction is less like living longer and more like living less shorter.

        In reply to #7 by justinesaracen:

        In reply to #6 by drummo:

        Pardon my ignorance but if I consume fewer calories will I not need to restrict my activity as well?

        If you are malnourished, and living in a refugee camp, then yes. But if you live in a developed country, chances are that you will always consume more calories each day t…

    • In reply to #6 by drummo:

      Pardon my ignorance but if I consume fewer calories will I not need to restrict my activity as well?

      Not quite, because if you weigh less, you are moving around less mass, (in the normal course of your active life), hence need less energy/calories. The opposite is also true, more weight, same activity, more calories used.

  4. Not all calories are created equal (please apologise the term “created”). On a nutritionally dense calorie intake one can be healthy on much less without getting hungry, yes, and intermittent fasting has a detox effect and is beneficial. Look up paleo, primal, intermittent fasting etc. It has changed my life to the better!

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