A new study has confirmed that primates who eat a low-calorie diet can, according to researchers, "slow the aging process." Restricting your calorie intake means you're three times less likely to develop age-related disorders, particularly in the brain.
The system of caloric restriction has been studied in yeast and mice, and now a long-range study in monkeys has confirmed what many suspected. Primates who reduce their calorie intake live much longer, healthier lives than their counterparts who eat whatever they wish. This gives hope to people hoping to apply this insight to humans, since humans are close genetic cousins of monkeys.
According to a release from Science:
Ricki Colman and colleagues began their study at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center in 1989 by assigning adult rhesus monkeys, each between age seven and 14, to either a caloric restriction group or a control group. Once the monkeys were assigned to a group, the researchers determined their baseline food intake and began reducing the diets of those monkeys in the caloric restriction, or CR, group by ten percent for three months until they reached the desired 30 percent restriction. At the end of the study, 37 percent of the control group had died of age-related causes while only 13 percent of the CR group had. This finding means that the control monkeys experienced a death rate from age-related conditions such as diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and brain atrophy three times that of the CR group.
Adds researcher Sterling Johnson:
Both motor speed and mental speed slow down with aging. Those are the areas which we found to be better preserved. We can't yet make the claim that a difference in diet is associated with functional change because those studies are still ongoing. What we know so far is that there are regional differences in brain mass that appear to be related to diet.
If you'd like to try this experiment on yourself, keep in mind that eating fewer calories does not mean giving up healthy items. You'll want to eat more veggies and fruits, as well as complex carbohydrates, and cut out fats. The researchers suggest that the ideal amount of restriction is 30 percent fewer calories than you currently consume, which you should achieve gradually over time. So first restrict yourself by 10 percent, then 10 more, and so on. Losing a few desserts is worth it if it means your brain will be healthy when you're 90.