Subtracting Calories May Not Add Years To Life

YOU AND I ARE NOT IMMORTAL.  There.  I said it.  Was I not clear enough?  Try this: YOU AND I ARE GOING TO DIE SOMETIME BEFORE OUR 120TH BIRTHDAY.  

Morbid?  No.  I choose to live in the real world.  Our life spans are mostly determined by our genetics.  We’ve all known or heard the stories about someone who smoked 5 packs a day of unfiltered cigarettes and lived to 90, and died of completely unrelated causes.  No matter how you may want to deny this biological truth, the fact is that modern neuroscience, combined with biology and organic chemistry, are showing that our lives, thoughts, and even choices, are mostly in the hands of factors completely out of our control.  We can, at best, be aware of what we are doing as we start doing it, and try to be reflective on the likely outcomes.  In that way, we might be able to modify what we’ve started doing, and change course if we think the outcome will be bad.  For more on this point, I highly recommend this book: FREE WILL, by Sam Harris.  Sam Harris has a degree in Philosophy from Stanford University, and a PhD in neuroscience from UCLA.  For more information about Sam Harris and his work, click on his name.

What you can do is focus on improving the quality of whatever life you will have, as opposed to desperately trying to prolong it at all costs.  Exercise to ensure that you have energy and vitality and strength to meet life’s challenges at all stages of your life and be able to both take care of yourself for as long as possible, and enjoy yourself, for as long as possible.  What I’m afraid of is the loss of my physical independence; of becoming so frail and weak that i can’t take care of myself or play with my grandchildren, or walk a dog.  My grandfather Max died in 1975, almost 90 years old.  He wasn’t rich.  He lived in a small, one bedroom apartment that he moved into after his wife died.  And he had a girlfriend 30 years his junior.  He died in his bed, (not that way…) but lived his last day as an independent, self-sufficient individual.  That’s the way to live, and that’s how I want my last day to be.

This brings me to the article linked below.  It is a follow-up to a decades older research study that has entered the popular consciousness.  That study found evidence that when rats were fed extremely low-calorie diets, their average lifespan increased by 15-30%.  It was merely the first study published trying to determine the effect of caloric intake on lifespan.  Some people, privileging the purpose of life with longevity, have slavishly tried to extrapolate that rat study to their own lives, believing that their lifespan would be similar extended.  Not too many people, mind you, because to emulate the calorie count for adult human weight would allow you to consume 600-800 calories per day.  As a point of reference, that’s the same caloric allotment German Nazi’s allowed the Jews in concentration camps; the idea being to slowly starve them to death while allowing them to perform some forced labor until they became too uselessly weak.  You should know what happened next.

The very idea that a starvation diet would allow you to improve your odds of living longer is so blatantly counter intuitive that it should have set up severe warning signals in everyone who read this study.  But the press reported it with conviction, hailing it as a potential major breakthrough, and the public who read it took to this snake oil promise of longer life with fervor, even if they couldn’t abide by the strict caloric requirements.

Now comes this study, using our closest relatives, and it refutes the findings of the older study, at least to the efficaciousness for humans.  Read the last paragraph.  Study and memorize the last paragraph.  Embed and imprint the last paragraph into your brain stem.  There is 100 years of research, tried and tested and found valid, in that last paragraph.  Then go and do something fun and exciting.

I found the following story on the NPR iPhone App:

Subtracting Calories May Not Add Years To Life by Nell Greenfieldboyce

NPR – August 30, 2012

Scientists have known for decades that lab rats and mice will live far longer than normal if they’re fed a super-low-calorie diet, and that’s led some people to eat a near-starvation diet in the hopes that it will extend the human life span, too….

“ Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see. ” – Arthur Schopenhauer


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