Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Calories, longevity and do I care

Last week, the all the media were abuzz with stories about the research indicating that people who restrict their calories (and we're talking restricting from what they "should" consume to about 30% of that) may live longer. The findings are based on research with animals. The best review of that research that I've read is on Sandy Swarc's, BSN, RN, CCP, web site (http://junkfoodscience.blogspot.com/2009/07/calorie-restrictive-eating-for-longer.html).

She goes thru the media reports and actual published research data step by step, refuting or at least pointing out the holes in much of the reporting, findings and logic.

I've often thought about what I can do to ensure that I will live longer. But then I think, "Do I want to live longer or just more comfortably and disease free?". Because that's really the issue. And at my age, how much can I add onto my life by changing what I eat and losing weight? And if it were just one month, would it matter? Possibly, if there was something important to "live for".

Isn't most of the damage done by now? If I were to restrict my caloric intake considerably at my age, I would be hard pressed to get the nutrients I need to keep my body in good working order. As people age, their ability to digest and absorb nutrients declines. It's just a fact of aging. Some of the needs decrease and others increase with age. As it is, it's hard enough for me to meet my protein needs because besides fried chicken and hamburgers (which, mercifully, I do not consume daily or even sometimes weekly), I don't like protein that much. I get most of my protein from dairy products like yogurt and milk.

And it seems to me that to follow the recommendations to restrict up to 30% of calories, one would have to deny hunger. That surely goes against the principles of mindful and intuitive eating. I mean, you'd recognize that you are hungry (so you'd be mindful) but by not eating or not eating enough to satisfy the hunger, you'd be breaking the rules.

A few months ago, I did see a news story about a group of friends (a dinner club???) who meet regularly for a meal....such as it is! They all restrict their calories because they believe it will increase their life span. Interestingly, most of them were older (or looked older!) and were pretty emaciated looking. Kind of skin and bones. Not much muscle. Gaunt. Their shared "happy" meal consisted of tofu and vegetables. No fat. No sugar. Very sparse.

So I wondered at the time, "Are they enjoying the life that they are extending?" I mean, what good is it to live longer if you are suffering hunger (and they all admitted to being hungry most of the time)? Wow. Being hungry most of the time.

Of course, one could not embark on the journey to starvation for the sake of longevity (sorry, maybe that's a little harsh) unless pretty much everyone around her was on board. It wouldn't work for one member of a couple to fill the frig with delectables while the other subsisted on beans and lettuce.

I know most of the reported research seems to substantiate that being fat means you're going to get some dire disease (diabetes, heart disease or cancer) earlier than you should or would if you weren't fat. And the preponderance of reported research seems to support that you will die earlier if you are fat (and get one of those diseases). But I'm not sure I buy it all.

So I'll stick with trying to reduce my caloric intake a little by making "better" choices and not reach for the moon just yet.

Please read the following dietitians' blogs. We are all participating in Women's Health Blogfest.

Angela White at Blisstree's Breastfeeding 1-2-3 - Helpful Skills of Breastfeeding Counselors
Angie Tillman, RD, LDN, CDE - You Are Beautiful Today
Anthony J. Sepe - Women's Health and Migraines
Ashley Colpaart - Women's health through women
Charisse McElwaine - Spending too much time on the "throne?"
Danielle Omar - Yoga, Mindful Eating and Food Confidence
Diane Preves M.S.,R.D - Balance for Health
Joan Sather - A Woman's Healthy Choices Affect More Than Herself
Laura Wittke - Fibro Study Recruits Participants
Liz Marr, MS, RD - Reflecting on Family Food Ways and Women's Work
Marjorie Geiser, MBA, RD, NSCA-CPT - Healthy Women, Healthy Business: How Your Health Impacts a Powerful Business
Marsha Hudnall - Breakfast Protein Helps Light Eaters Feel Full
Michelle Loy, MPH, MS, RD - A Nutritionista's Super Foods for Super Skin
Monika Woolsey, MS, RD - To effectively work with PCOS is to understand a woman's health issues throughout her life
Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog - How breastfeeding helps you, too
Rebecca Scritchfield, MA, RD, LD - Four Keys to Wellness, Just for Women
Renata Mangrum, MPH, RD - The busy busy woman
Robin Plotkin, RD, LD - Feeding the Appetites of the Culinary, Epicurious and Nutrition Worlds-One Bite at a Time
Terri L Mozingo, RD, CDN & D. Milton Stokes, MPH, RD, CDN of One Source Nutrition, LLC - Crossing the Line: From Health to Hurt
Wendy Jo Peterson, RD - Watch Your Garden Grow

1 comment:

Liz Marr, MS, RD said...

Yes, indeed, Sharon, it's all about quality versus quantity, when it comes to enjoying life. And that applies to food, too!