Is Caloric Restriction Good For You?

Is Caloric Restriction Good For You?
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Animal studies suggest caloric restriction is beneficial, but what does some of the first human data show?

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What about getting really skinny, though? Severe caloric restriction—like not eating every other day—has been found to extend the lives, and improve cognition, of animals in laboratories.

But human data has been lacking, until now. A study was published this year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, one of the most prestigious scientific journals in the country. You can’t get enough people to stick to alternate-day fasting long enough to see if people actually live longer, but if you pay them enough, you can get them to go three months with skip-a-day eating to at least study the cognitive dimension.

So, for human beings, does caloric restriction help, or not?

They found a dramatic improvement in memory.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

image thanks to fakepunju via Flickr.

What about getting really skinny, though? Severe caloric restriction—like not eating every other day—has been found to extend the lives, and improve cognition, of animals in laboratories.

But human data has been lacking, until now. A study was published this year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, one of the most prestigious scientific journals in the country. You can’t get enough people to stick to alternate-day fasting long enough to see if people actually live longer, but if you pay them enough, you can get them to go three months with skip-a-day eating to at least study the cognitive dimension.

So, for human beings, does caloric restriction help, or not?

They found a dramatic improvement in memory.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

image thanks to fakepunju via Flickr.

Doctor's Note

For some of the most recent videos on caloric restriction:
Caloric Restriction vs. Plant-Based Diets
The Benefits of Caloric Restriction Without the Actual Restricting

And check out my other videos on memory

Also see my associated blog post, Eating To Extend Our Lifespan.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

43 responses to “Is Caloric Restriction Good For You?

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    1. Hi there
      I wanted to ask the Dietitian a question. How do I go about doing this? You are advised to do this under a video but I’m not clear about which videos?
      Thanks
      Saira

    1. Hello becochic!
      One can assume that since the people studied were all elderly, they were not highly physically active. When one is physically active we burn through glucose pretty quickly and need more nutrients to maintain our current stride. Where we get into trouble though is eating when we are not hungry. As Dr. Joel Fuhrman puts it, our body, when not digesting, is the most efficient. Your body cleans out any built up toxins and does the most repairing when not digesting. Dr. Fuhrman also mentions that people who consume a typical western diet eat when they feel “discomfort”, like a headache. This is not true hunger but toxic hunger. Their body is so built up with harmful chemicals that when they finish digestion they feel uncomfortable. They must eat again so the discomfort can go away temporarily. This does not allow their body to adequately heal itself. Before you eat your meal, aim to feel true hunger. True hunger is when you are about to run out of glucose (energy). This is not a craving but an actual feeling in your stomach, mouth and throat. Your taste buds become very sensitive in this state and this is when food tastes so good! Check out some of the most nutrient dense foods here http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/antioxidant-content-of-300-foods-2/

  1. The video seems to be saying that the people were fasting on alternate days, but the linked study seems to say that they weren’t!

    “..intervention was to reduce each subject’s individual caloric intake by 30%, compared with pretrial levels. To avoid cognitive changes due to malnutrition (79), minimal intake was set to 1,200 kcal per day.”

    Am I missing something?

  2. Yes! You are missing the ADF paper: “Short-term modified alternate-day fasting: a novel dietary strategy for weight loss and cardioprotection in obese adults” by Varady, Bhutani, Church, and Klempel. Amazing stuff – I am doing it and have lost 5 pounds in a week and feel incredible!

  3.  I’m unsure what the take-away message is…I eat really healthy vegan meals but when I miss one I feel drained and can’t think as clearly.  Would these scientists recommend eating much more on one day but nothing the next?   It seems to me that it depends on diet since the time/energy the body requires for digestion varies quite a bit across foods…

  4. I’m big on fasting and have gone with just water a dozen times for 21 days sometimes more. My body looks forward to it, I do limit my physical activity and can get tired easily, but I generally feel good especially mentally during these fasts. I’m on one now and I am going to go vegan this year after listening to all these videos.

    1. I dont at ALL. But they say it is different for females. I keep being hungry and keep thinking about food all days long. I tried it as experiment.

    2. I am interested on water fasting but I haven’t found good scientific information about it (I don’t have experience I must say). However there are a lot of big names that backup water-fasting. I got interested after watching doctor Dr. McDougall vouching for Dr. Goldhammer and his True North water fast center. He has a lot of videos on youtube and what he says make sense (he also uses the whole food plant based diet as a treatment). So I will like to see what Dr. has to say about the water-only fasting for long periods of time.

      1. I am at True North right now on day 5 of a 12 day water fast. I also water fasted here 3 years ago for 28 days. Both times I have found the facility and the process to be very pleasant, and I experienced improvements in my health. Medically supervised water fasting is very effective for reversing a large number of health issues, but a WFPB SOS-free diet must be followed afterwards to help prevent the issues from recurring.

  5. Instead of alternate day fasting, I’ve been doing intermittent fasting daily…fasting 19 hours and eating vegan during a 5-hour daily window (like 2-7pm). I’ve lost 13 pounds in two months, about 1-1.5 lbs/week with very little effort, and my junk food cravings have stopped completely. I have more energy than ever and feel truly amazing. I think IF, combined with a vegan diet, is the perfect combination.

    1. I am also doing intermittent fasting. I first saw this on the Mercola site a few months ago. There is a wealth of info on theiflife.com. It really is amazingly painless. I have some mild hunger pangs around 0930 that I feed with a cup of tea. I also started sprouting a few weeks ago. These measures, along with whole body vibration exercise (which I also learned about from Dr. Mercola) combined with modest strength training on a Chuck Norris Total Gym have me in better shape at 60 than I was at 30.

  6. I’m vegan. I find when I do intermittent water fasts that I feel lighter, more energetic and it also addresses any food addictions I might have. I try to do a one day water fast at least once a week.

    I read that longer water fasts can address chronic illnesses. I have only done short fasts at this point, but I would like to do longer ones. I would highly recommend water fasting :)

    1. I am curious about the difference between water fasting and anti-oxident fasting. Eg. Coffee/tea/herbal tea/hibiscus every three hours.

      If the fasting benefits come from protein scavenging or from short ketosis periods, then you would expect antioxidents and even low-calorie vegetables to help. If there is a stress component, like muscle-building, and a digestion component, then maybe the opposite. Thoughts?

    1. No, fasting is not at all what Dr. Greger is advocating. He is saying you can get the benefits of fasting primarily from extra DHEA through dietary modifications.

  7. What does the doctor make of the recent hype over the book, “Grain Brain”? Dr. David Perlmutter claims that carbs cause Alzheimer’s and is recommending huge amounts of red meat and coconut oil.

    1. Bubby: I don’t speak for Dr. Greger, but in response to your post: I would refer people to “Power Foods For the Brain – An Effective 3-Step plan to protect your mind and strengthen your memory” by Dr. Barnard. This book covers Alzheimer and provides what I consider to be convincing evidence.
      I can tell you that he doesn’t blame carbs on Alzheimers…

      Grain Brain sounds just like another variant of the Paleo/Wheat Belly/etc. diets. All of which have been soundly discredited.

      You might also be interested in Dr. Greger’s book, Carbophobia. It used to be free on-line somewhere as an e-book, but I’m not sure Dr. Greger offers that option any more. But $10 isn’t bad:

      http://www.drgreger.org/books

      Just some thoughts for you.

    2. I would also recommend Dr. Barnard’s book, Power Foods for the Brain. The idea that whole grains causes Alzheimer’s is not the best hypothesis. As Dr. Barnard points out it has been associated with many factors including saturated fats, animal food and certain metals. There of course have been correlations that help reduce the likelihood such as vegetables, fruits, exercise and sleep. The latter make more sense given what we know about our biochemical and anatomical make up plus what we know about the other chronic diseases. The nice thing about Dr. Barnard’s book is that he provides references for the scientific articles that he cites and provides some down to earth recommendations. Given the magnitude of the dementia problem I would expect many more “entrepreneurs” to publish a line of books such as we have seen with the diet industry over the years. The best thing to do is to develop a good understanding of the science which come from reliable sources that are free. For me these include NutritionFacts, Dr. John McDougall, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and Jeff Novick’s blog.

  8. Hello Dr. Gerger,
    I would like to ask you if you recommend practicing alternate day caloric restriction as I do feel enticed of doing so?

  9. Fasting has gotten a lot of attention lately, since it’s supported by vegan doctors like Doug Lisle and Alan Goldhamer… and I’ve always wondered if I should try it. This video touched on the potential benefits for memory, but what about the other physical effects of fasting? Overall, is fasting a good idea? Is it recommended by Dr. Greger?

  10. I have been trying an eat once schedule , so it is about a 24 hour fast , I feel wonderful and don’t find it difficult since I also stopped eating Flour & Sugar. However I cannot get off my 2 cups of morning coffee. ( skim milk and fake sugar) am I really missing out on the benefits of the fast because of that Morning Coffee?

    1. Correen Raterman: I don’t know the answer to your question. However, I understand that NutritionFacts will be covering intermittent fasting at some point in the future. Maybe your question will be answered when those video(s) come out.

  11. James: re: Does Dr. Greger recommend target percentages for the macronutrients?
    No. Dr Greger’s recommendations for eating are his “Daily Dozen”. You can learn about the Daily Dozen from free phone apps or from part 2 of Dr. Greger’s book, “How Not To Die”. I think Dr. Greger’s approach is that if you eat a variety of foods following the relative percentages/portions outlined in the Daily Dozen, you will naturally get the ratios of carbs, protein and fat that are ideal.

    Having said that, people have entered their Daily Dozen foods into the free website cronometer.com and come up with some percentages that might give you an idea of what to shoot for. You might put together what you think is the perfect Daily Dozen foods for a day and enter into cronometer and see what you get out. If you that, please share as I’m interested.

      1. Thanks for your response.
        We’ve suggested to our friend’s wife that she add nuts and avocados to the smoothies she blends for him. We’re wondering, though, about the fact that Dr. Greger has pointed out studies showing that eating lots of nuts daily doesn’t cause significant weight gain. Is it possible that the results could be different for people who are extremely underweight?
        Also, are there any other foods that we could suggest? She says that his system does not handle changes very well, so we’re hoping that there’s a good variety of foods she could try.

        1. You asked about foods that might assist in weight gain. Perhaps peanut butter would help, or almond butter. Avacodos have higher fat content too. Certainly desserts made with whole grains using fruits will have higher calorie content and can increase weight if indulged in. Mashed potatoes with nut-based cheese or nutritional cheese on top might be well tolerated and again are more calorie dense than other vegetables. Hope that might help.

  12. Hi there, my dad is stuggling to eat enough calories – he is a long term alcoholic but up until a few years ago ate apx 2500 calories a day. Now he probably eats closer to 800 (majority plant based, in particular homemade veg soup) and his doctor has reccomended Complan which he takes and likes. However, I’ve read the ingredients and see it is built of milk powder. If he has anything growing in his body this would not be good for slowing down that growth.

    Any recommendations for how I can get him to increase calories / easy to eat or drink foods / alternatives to Complan?

    Thanks! Helena

    1. Helena,

      what about nuts/seeds? They are very caloric-dense. Also consider eating more avocados, beans, peanut/almond butter and hummus. What about those :)?

      Hope your dad is doing good,

      Adam

    1. Randy ,

      Please see AdamP’s response….. Go calorie dense….seeds/nuts/avocado top the list of easy to concentrate and get into a typical diet. Also don’t forget to put these into the unusual places…. add nut butter to a smoothie… or your oatmeal….and you might want to add a bit more oils to your intake….see Dr. Greger’s new piece on olive oil.

      Dr. Alan Kadish moderator for Dr. Greger http://www.CenterofHealth.com

  13. I’m a huge fan of Dr. Greger and this website after the book How Not to Die opened my eyes. One of the things I loved about the book is that Greger rips up the idea of telling people what’s healthy based on a preconceived idea of what people are likely to eat – instead of just telling people the evidence based information, and letting the public decide how far to take it.

    Related to that – I’m really interested in Dr. Greger’s more in depth view on fasting. Have there been material studies – anything like the China study? I’ve read a bit about intermittent fasting, water fasting, caloric restriction, and even dry fasts. That all said – how much has been put to the test?? Dry fasting sounds too extreme, but extended water fasting or the work of people like Dr. Valter Longo? Is there sufficient research despite the lack of any industries willing to fund it, or professional doubts about people having enough willpower?

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