An interesting aspect of animal lifespan is that an animal living under a mild or moderate amount of stress may live longer than either an animal that experiences little stress or lots of stress. A classic type of stress is food deprivation. Generally speaking, reducing calorie intake in a variety of animals by ~30% extends lifespan. This has been observed in multiple animal models including rodents, worms and fruit flies. While the details vary by particular type of animal, the trend is the same: reduce food intake, extend your lifespan.
This might sound like a decent tradeoff on the surface, assuming you are willing to eat ~1750 calories per day (if you’re an average man) or ~1400 calories per day (if you’re an average woman). But whether this will work for the committed few who can pass on dessert and about 1/3 of their normal daily food intake, is still an unanswered question. Two long term studies (25 years) testing this idea in monkeys have yielded substantially different results. In one study, caloric restriction resulted in a reduction of all-cause (that is, all deaths) and age related mortality (that is deaths due to diseases of aging). A separate study failed to find evidence of any benefit in restricting calorie intake. While the differences between the two studies are beyond the scope of this post, it is clear that reducing your food intake isn’t a guaranteed way to live longer or to live better. Trials in human subjects are ongoing, so more information will likely be available in the future.
Despite these limitations and gaps in our knowledge, there are a committed group of people who are voluntarily choosing to test this concept on themselves (see the Calorie Restriction Society International). See our latest SAGE interview with the President of the CR society, Brian Delaney, for more information about the motivations, goals and methods that members of this group use.
Please note: WE HERE AT SAGE AND THE BUCK INSTITUTE DO NOT RECOMMEND OR CONDONE CALORIE RESTRICTION, AND ATTEMPTING THIS LIFESTYLE WITHOUT PROPER NUTRITIONAL CONSULTATION OR SUPERVISION CAN EASILY SHORTEN YOUR LIFESPAN.