Fasting, calorie restriction: have we found the fountain of youth?

An impressive number of studies indicate that eating little or fasting is one of the main factors that can allow us to live a long healthy life, to protect ourselves from stress, to have more energy and to stay young.

For almost a century, studies have shown us that those who eat fewer calories (without suffering from nutritional deficiencies in essential elements), live much longer than those who ingest greater quantities of food.

In mice, for example, a 30% reduction in caloric intake causes a 40% increase in longevity. A gain that is largely caused by a significant reduction in cardiovascular diseases, cancers and neurodegenerative diseases.

Similar effects have been repeatedly observed in a variety of model organisms in research, in particular yeast, fruit flies and certain worms. The impact of calorie restriction on the aging of more complex animals such as humans remained poorly understood until recently, but everything is clear now.

Eating less leads to fewer dangerous free radicals

In humans, the dramatic improvement in quality and life expectancy that results from reduced calorie intake is due to profound changes in metabolism. On the one hand, eating less causes the mitochondria to use less oxygen and/or convert energy more efficiently into ATP, which in both cases results in a lower production of free radicals, derivatives of oxygen very toxic to cells.

Calorie restriction: slow aging and better manage stress

On the other hand, caloric restriction induces significant reprogramming of cell metabolism, in particular the activation of certain defense mechanisms involved in the stress response. Activating these mechanisms, including a class of proteins called sirtuins, causes a series of positive effects that collectively reduce the aging of cell components and thus allow organs to function optimally for longer. Eat less to live a long and healthy life.

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Who would have thought that the “fountain of youth” so sought after by humans could be so simple?


Colman et al. Caloric restriction delays disease onset and mortality in rhesus monkeys. Science, 325:201-4.


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