Calorie Restricted Diets & Natural Anti Aging | Health Newsletter

Date: 02/28/2005    Written by: Jon Barron

Caloric Restriction

First, Vitamin E Revisited

Many of you will remember that back on November 8th, I released a special newsletter dealing with the news story that was widely released the day before attacking the safety of Vitamin E. Well, despite the fact that we know there are over 300 media people who subscribe to this newsletter, only one bothered to cite the rebuttal I presented in that newsletter.

However, let's be generous and say that at that time I was only one voice and the anti Vitamin E study came out of Johns Hopkins -- so who am I to challange Johns Hopkins. But since that time, a number of authorities and institutions (including many medical doctors and researchers) have raked that study over the coals and eaten the data, the methodology, and the conclusions of that study for lunch. And still nothing from the mainstream media. Considering how gleefully they published the results of the study trashing Vitamin E, the media's silence now that those conclusions have been pretty much proven false is embarrassing to say the least. For example, some of the things we now know are:

  • The study was a compilation of already existing studies, not a gathering of new data. What is now known is that the researchers deliberately culled for studies that indicated Vitamin E might be a problem and deliberately excluded studies that demonstrated Vitamin E might be beneficial and prolong life. Out of the thousands of studies conducted on vitamin E over the years, they selected 36 negative studies for their compilation -- and in fact, ended up removing 17 of those 36 studies when they did not find enough deaths in them. This, of course, skewed the numbers to a meaningless predetermined result. It's kind of like looking for people who drink lots of water and have strokes -- then expressing astonishment that you end up with a high correlation between people who drink water and have strokes. It's nonsense.
  • Of the 19 studies they included, one was the Cambridge Heart Antioxidant Study (CHAOS). After the CHAOS study was completed, it was discovered and widely reported (in scientific circles) that as many as 60% of the participants did not actually take their supplements during the study. That meant that 60% of the data upon which the conclusions of the study were based were invalid. And yet, even though this was widely known, the Johns Hopkins researchers decided to incorporate this erroneous data into their conclusions, again misleadingly skewing the results in a predetermined direction.

I could go on. Numerous other problems with the Hopkins study have come to light and, as I have already said, been published by various authorities -- but not the mainstream media. Here's just one example of a rebuttal that was pretty much ignored.:

At one time being a journalist meant something. Apparently things have changed.

Caloric Restriction Without the Pain

Note: If some of the following seems familiar, it's because I have covered much of this information in previous newsletters. However, in this edition, I have expanded upon those previous articles and included new information and insights.

According to a Scientific American article published in August of 2002, consumption of a low-calorie yet nutritionally balanced diet, works extraordinarily well in a broad range of animals to increase longevity and prolong good health. Unfortunately, for maximum benefit, people would probably have to reduce their caloric intake by roughly 30 percent (equivalent to dropping from 2,500 calories a day to 1,750 nutrient dense calories a day) to realize that benefit.

Although few people would be able to stick to such a diet, there is no question but that of all the things one can do to increase longevity, caloric restriction (CR) is the only one that has been proven to actually extend life across the board. Caloric restriction is the only means of retarding aging that is both well-researched and proven. (Note: CR is not the same as dieting or starvation. It entails the reduction of caloric intake while maintaining the optimal intake of essential nutrients, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, proteins, and essential fats.)

How Does Caloric Restriction Extend Life?

To begin with, much of the research indicates that CR can protect brain cells from destructive free radicals, which are thought to crop up during old-age and during the progression of neurodegenerative diseases. Many scientists believe that these unstable free radical molecules react with brain cells, thereby causing their destruction. Research, however, has uncovered evidence that caloric restriction limits detrimental free radical activity and protects the brain cells and their function.

Other studies have indicated that CR boosts the production of substances called growth factors, which have been shown to aid brain function by promoting the growth and survival of brain cells. To add to this, preliminary work also shows that compared with unrestricted eaters, rats on a CR diet produce a significantly greater number of new cells in a brain area that is important for memory.

In addition, CR appears to:

  • Lower body temperature
  • Raise DHEA levels
  • Lower plasma insulin levels.

Interestingly enough, lowering plasma insulin levels also tends to lower body temperature and increase DHEA levels, indicating that insulin may be a prime factor in the aging process. And in fact, this was supported by studies that showed that the glucoregulatory agent, metformin, might be just as effective as CR in reversing aging and rejuvenating the elderly -- thereby resulting in an article in Life Extension magazine that said that regular use of metformin might be the "Most Significant Anti-Aging Discovery in Medical History." And although this might be a bit of an exaggeration, the exaggeration by no means diminishes the importance of the concept.

Insulin and Aging

The role of insulin in the aging process is becoming more and more apparent as new research becomes available. For example, last summer, Brown University scientists published a study concluding that insulin played a “central role” in aging. According to the study, when the chemical messages sent by an insulin-like hormone are reduced inside the fat cells of a fruit fly, the fly's lifespan increases significantly, by an average of 50%. Although a similar phenomenon has already been observed in worms, according to Brown biology professor Marc Tatar, the results seen in fruit flies are particularly important because fruit flies and humans share some 13,601 genes.

The Brown University experiments shed important light on the role insulin plays in the regulation of its own synthesis. The study shows that if you block the hormone's action inside a few specific cells, the entire body stays healthier longer. Scientists previously thought insulin triggered other hormones to achieve this effect, but Tatar and his team found that insulin regulates its own production and that it directly regulates tissue aging. Bottom line: keep insulin levels low and cells are stronger, better able to fight off infection and age-related diseases such as cancer, dementia and stroke.

“Think of the body like a car,” Tatar said. “We knew insulin controlled the car's speed by regulating things like the gas pedal and the fuel injectors. Now we know that insulin is also the fuel that makes the engine go.”

To conduct the experiment, Tatar and four other Brown researchers created a line of genetically altered flies which had dFOXO – a protein controlled by the fly equivalent of insulin – inserted into the genetic material of fat cells near their brains. Some flies were fed mifepristone, a chemical copy of progesterone. This hormone activated a switch attached to dFOXO, which in turn repressed the normal insulin signals inside the cells. As a surprising result, insulin production was lowered throughout the body. These flies lived an average of 50 days – 18 days longer than flies whose insulin signals went unchecked.

“We now know that insulin is a direct player in the aging process,” Tatar says. “So the research fits some key puzzle pieces together. And it should change the way we think about aging.”

In contrast to the other hormones of aging that decline as we get older and cause manifestations of the aging process through their lower levels, circulating insulin levels actually increase in many individuals as they age. This occurs because the tissues that respond to insulin to lower blood sugar levels (liver, muscle, and fat cells) become resistant to its action. This in turn leads the pancreas to secrete more and more insulin in an attempt to keep the blood sugar at a normal level. This is sometimes called the pseudo-diabetes of aging.

The higher circulating level of insulin sets into motion a cascade of damaging effects:

* The cells lining the arteries produce higher levels of clotting factors--increasing the risk of a heart attack.

* Fat is accumulated, particularly in the abdominal region, which in turn makes the tissues more insulin resistant.

* The higher blood sugar levels increase the accumulation of Advanced Glycation End Products which can destroy proteins, break down organs, and stiffen connective tissue.

* High insulin levels have also been linked to a higher incidence of certain cancers.

If these levels remain high enough for a long enough period of time, they can kill the insulin producing cells in the pancreas and cause overt diabetes.

Bottom line: A major focus of any anti-aging program is to keep insulin levels in a low normal range.

So where do we go from here?

  • First, although as far as drugs go, metformin is relatively benign, it is not totally without side effects. It occasionally causes death from lactic acidosis, for example, which is not insignificant for those who die.
  • But more importantly, it is quite likely that some minor changes in lifestyle and the use of natural supplements can offer the same benefits with no negative side effects and at less cost.

What Can We Do For Health

  • Cut way back on your use of refined carbohydrates. In Lessons from the Miracle Doctors (Chapter 6), I call refined carbohydrates the number two killer in the diet. It now seems they may rank as the number one controllable aging factor. If you find that you are actually addicted to grains and sugars and can't cut back, you might want to check out Dr. Joseph Mercola's book, The No-Grain Diet, which will provide a pathway for cutting back on your grains and sugars. Bottom line, move your diet away from refined grains and sugars to one that consists of complex carbohydrates found in most vegetables (but not potatoes), proteins, and natural fats (avoiding refined oils and hydrogenated oils). Fresh fruits are okay in moderation, but absolutely unacceptable in processed form (as found in pastries and jellies, etc.) and unacceptable as found in bottled juices.
  • Do a fresh vegetable juice fast one or two days a week. I have always recommended doing just that for its health benefits in cleaning out the body; but as it turns out, it also has significant longevity benefits. As Life Extension points out, "Studies have shown that rodents fed all they can eat, but fasted every two, three or four days, also have an increase in longevity, though the increase isn't quite as great as that of rodents on the standard kind of calorie restriction."
  • Use natural glucoregulatory herbs with your meals. These include herbs such as:
    • Nopal cactus
    • Konjac mannan
    • Gymnema sylvestre
    • High galactomannan fenugreek extract
    • Banaba leaf extract
    • Bittermellon extract
    • Blueberry leaf extract
  • The use of these herbal extracts will significantly reduce the amount of simple carbs your body absorbs, and minimize the insulin response from those that get through. In effect, they will mimic the effect of metformin, without the side effects. For this purpose, I created Glucotor®-2.
  • Use a full spectrum antioxidant formula such as Ultimate Antioxidant to minimize the destructive aging impact of free radicals produced in the body. Use an L-carnosine based formula such as Ever Young to minimize the impact of Advanced Glycation End Products which can destroy proteins, break down organs, and stiffen connective tissue.
  • Consider using an all-natural progesterone crème (such as Kokoro women's or men's crème) to help throttle back insulin production in the body.

One final note. It's never too late to start. Studies have shown that CR is just as effective in extending life span late in life as it is early in life. In fact, many of the major benefits can be received in as little as four weeks on the program.

PS: One other thing the staff at the Foundation has been bombarded with over the past few weeks is hundreds of requests that I check out this or that new "energy patch" MLM now hitting the market (there are at least a dozen of them out there now). And so, in the next issue of the newsletter I will do just that...unless something new and exciting moves it aside for an issue.

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