Blog | Friday, September 26, 2008

The fountain of youth...but at what cost?

Thus far, calorie restriction (low calories, balanced diet) is the only scientific intervention we know about that appears to increase people's life span. So what's the catch-- besides having to be extremely strict about what you eat? Might a person, for example, live a long time but have fragile bones that have been compromised by a low-cal diet?

Nope, according to a new study in the Archives of Internal Medicine. A 6-month study of 46 young, non-obese adults found that the bones of those who practiced 25% calorie restriction from baseline energy needs, as well as those who had a 25% energy deficit through diet and exercise, were in fine shape bone-wise at the end of the intervention. All groups took pains to preserve their calcium intake through diet, not supplements. The researchers acknowledge, of course, that a test of longer duration is needed.

What do you think of this practice? Do you have patients who practice calorie restriction, and if so, how do you counsel them about staying healthy? Does this study ease your mind at all about potential adverse effects to the practice?

(For more interesting reading on calorie restriction, check out this profile of a couple who practice it in Philadelphia Magazine, and this article in Slate which argues that calorie restriction is an eating disorder.)