Human Exceptionalism

Radical Life Extention: Calorie Restrictors–You Call That Living?

Front page story in today’s SF Chronicle: “UCSF Taking Closer Look at ‘Calorie Restrictors.” From the story (no link until Saturday):

Trent Arensault has eaten the same breakfast, lunch and dinner for the past four or five years: a fruit smoothie in the morning, a spinach salad at noon and another fruit smoothie after work.  Every now and then he’ll add a snack to his day.  Maybe a spoonful of almond butter or a few walnuts. All in all, Arsenault consumes about 1800 calories a day–or several hundred calories fewer than what a typical man of his size would expect to eat.

The 35 year-old Arensault is 6’1″ and weighs 150 pounds:

“My blood pressure is equivalent to a 10-year-old’s. My triglyceride level is very healthy for a 20-year-old,” said Arsenault, a 35-year-old engineer who works out of his home in Fremont. “It took y ears for me to refine my diet to what works for me and keeps me healthy. But I think it’s worth it.  I haven’t gotten sick once since being on this diet.”

Whatever gets you through the fear of death, I guess. He and other calorie restrictors will be studied by scientists:

Now researchers at UCSF are looking at a group of 28 people–including Arsenault–who strictly control their calorie intake.  Specifically, the scientists are studying what effect the diets may have on certain markers that suggest someone may live a long life, such as cholesterol and blood pressure levels and the length of an individual’s telmoreres, which are the caps on the ends of chromosomes that regulate cell aging. They’ll also be looking at several molecular-level signs of aging that have never been studied in humans before.

But there’s a dark cloud noted in the story:

But dieting is stressful, and stress hormones like cortisol are well known to be damaging to the body. [Researcher Elissa] Epel wonders what is happening in the bodies of calories resertictors that lets them remain healthy even as their body is flooded with cortisol–of if, perhaps, they’re not quite as healthy as the dieters and doctors assume.

I know another way to extend life: Don”t ever leave home and you’ll never be hit by a truck.

Kidding aside, as I read the story, an old Ira Gershwin line from the great Porgy and Bess popped into my mind from the song “It Ain’t Necessarily So:”

Methus’lah lived nine hundred years

Methus’lah lived nine hundred years

But who calls dat livin’ when no gal’ll give in

To no man what’s nine hundred years

Here’s how I see it–and I don’t think you need an expensive study to prove its validity:  Life is meant to be lived.  Eat moderately, behave responsibly, don’t smoke, avoid solipsism, try to put others first, and find what gives existence ultimate meaning.  Do that, and you’ll likely survive a decent length, and even more importantly, you’ll find fulfillment and satisfaction in the time you have.

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