Dietary restrictions may help you live longer, according to a new study
12/13/2018 // RJ Jhonson // Views

Did you know that limiting your food intake, albeit not to the point of malnutrition, has beneficial effects on your longevity? According to a new study from the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) published in PLOS Genetics, dietary restriction can have positive effects on your gut health which, in the long run, can make you live longer.

The process of autophagy, also known as cellular recycling, plays a crucial role in lifespan expansion. It involves breaking down the cell’s parts into smaller molecules to eliminate unnecessary or broken cell machinery while providing the building blocks necessary to make new cell components. This is especially important when your diet does not contain the necessary building blocks.

The study used eat-2, a strain of roundworm (Caenorhabditis elegans), as a model to show that autophagy in the intestine is critical for lifespan expansion. It was found that restricting the worms' diet increased the rate of autophagy in their gut which preserved their intestinal integrity and allowed them to move around.

The researchers explained that the worms tended to eat less, so they lived longer than other worms. However, they noticed that halting autophagy in the animals' intestines dramatically shortened their lifespan.

The results led the researchers to examine how inhibiting autophagy impacts the function of the intestines. While normal worms’ gut barriers become leaky as they get older, those of eat-2 worms remain intact. This means that a non-leaky intestine is an important factor for a long life. While the relation of intestinal integrity to longevity is not yet very clear, it’s possible that the age-related decline in the gut’s barrier function allows damaging substances or pathogens into the body.


Furthermore, turning off autophagy caused the worms to move around less. The researchers believe this to be an indication of autophagy's impact on other organs in the worms' body. In particular, inhibiting autophagy mitigated the worms' ability to metabolize nutrients or secrete hormones necessary for the other organs to function.

What you need to know about calorie restriction

Studies on calorie restriction have so far yielded mostly positive outcomes. Indeed, some of these approaches to eating are being studied for their benefits on people with chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.

What many get wrong about calorie restriction is the assumption that its main goal is to lose weight. In reality, although losing weight is sometimes a consequence of restricting one's food intake, it is hardly the goal. For many people who engage in these approaches to eating, the ultimate goal is to stay healthy.

In fact, calorie restriction is not like conventional diets which one follows only until their goals are met. Calorie restriction is a long-term and often permanent approach.

There are several types of fasting, depending on the pattern, duration, or restriction implemented. Common examples are:

  • Time-restricted feeding – Meals are consumed within a set number of hours, with nothing consumed during the other segments of the day.
  • Alternate-day fasting – Eating is restricted only every other day.
  • 5:2 eating pattern – Eating is restricted two days of the week and unrestricted the rest of the time.
  • Periodic fasting – Eating is restricted for several consecutive days in a month and unrestricted on the rest.

In any case, one needs to keep in mind that despite the restrictions imposed on eating, the goal is never to deprive the body of nutrients. Proper calorie restriction takes into account the body's needs and seeks to fill those needs even with the restrictions in place.

Explore the other effects of dieting at

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