Diet and Longevity: Are They Really Connected?

By Anagha Dogiparthi


Living Forever Representation (How Long Do You Want to Live? This Technology Could Potentially Help People Live Forever)


Living forever, or even living for a longer period of time than most people do, has always been regarded as a very futuristic concept. If everyone were to collectively comb through comic books from the twentieth century, it’s almost guaranteed that they would find the element of immortality or extended lifetimes.


As a result , people often rush to dismiss the possibility of these “futuristic” concepts ever coming to life. They push the topic away, often responding with snarky remarks like, “Science doesn’t back that up,” or, “All of that is just fiction.”


Another common household fact is that junk food is bad for you because it destroys your body and makes you irritable and unhealthy. But what if someone were to tell you that, if you were to maintain that “perfect” diet and almost unattainable lifestyle, it could potentially prolong your lifespan so much that you could meet up to those futuristic immortal standards?


Although the concept of a perfect lifestyle is intriguing, let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. According to the Jackson Laboratory, that perfect lifestyle as described by the American Heart Association is the following: “no current smoking, body-mass index of less than 30, physical activity at least once weekly, and a healthy diet involving higher consumption of fruits, nuts, vegetables, whole grains, fish, dairy products,a reduced amount of refined grains, processed meats, unprocessed red meats, and sugar-sweetened beverages.”


Now, you might be thinking, “Wow, that’s a lot to take in.” And truthfully, it is. Even the most health-obsessed celebrity or famous health guru turned influencer will probably not be able to meet these standards of living—which is most likely why they haven’t announced their impending lack of mortality yet.


Another theory scientists keep coming back to is the connection between calorie restriction and longevity. This may seem a little counterintuitive because people typically approach calorie restriction as a phenomenon relating to weight loss—something that has the potential to reduce life span, not increase it.


The thought process is not unreasonable, but there are two specific theories that are essential to understanding this particular idea. Namely, the rate of living theory and the free radical theory.


The rate of living theory first arose from the main observation that larger animals tended to live longer than smaller ones. Scientists did more research and also discovered that those larger animals typically had a much slower metabolism than the smaller ones—meaning that they expended less energy throughout the day. Later on, they accumulated all of this data and did much more experimentation, which led to the theory that slower metabolisms could be associated with living longer.


Free Radical Image (Free Radicals: Where They Come from and How They Affect the Body)


The second theory, the free radical theory, has to do more with the DNA side of longevity. A specific type of reactive molecule or atom, called free radical, is believed to eat away at proteins, DNA, and fatty tissue—the resulting damage of which is thought to lead to aging. These free radical atoms and molecules are most frequently produced during the metabolic process, hinting towards the idea that slower metabolisms could potentially decrease the production rate, and therefore extend lifespans.


Another common fact or idea is that reducing caloric intake can dramatically decrease metabolic rate if done properly. This is essentially the “missing puzzle piece” of all the data and connects the two theories together. Basically, the thought process is that if someone were to decrease their caloric intake, it’d decrease the free radical production—meaning that less DNA damage would occur.


Although many scientists and researchers have attempted to test out this theory, there have been arguments regarding the accuracy of the results due to concerns about the differences in which the control group is treated. Because the experimental group is placed on a highly restrictive diet, the control group takes that as an opportunity to consume much more than they typically would—which could potentially alter the results of the experiment being conducted.


Calorie Restricted Diet Representation (Calorie-restricted diet may help keep the mind sharp)


Another issue is the immense difficulty of being placed on a calorie-restrictive diet; it’s not custom nature for many people and could lead to harmful mental issues if taken too far.


Overall, much more research relating to longevity and diet needs to be conducted and eventually will be covered. It’s truly an intriguing topic and can lead to many new changes for the human race in the future.


The next time someone tells you they plan on living forever, make sure to ask them what their diet is like (for research purposes only, of course)!


Bibliography

  1. Peterson, J. D. A. (2019, September 5). Looking for clues to longer, healthier life. The Jackson Laboratory. Retrieved September 11, 2021, from https://www.jax.org/news-and-insights/2019/september/looking-for-clues-to-longer-healthier-life.

  2. says:, J. W., says:, K. G., says:, A. L., says:, J., says:, J. H., Says:, S., says:, S., says:, R. L. D., & *, N. (2020, August 2). Can calorie restriction extend your lifespan? Science in the News. Retrieved September 11, 2021, from https://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2020/can-calorie-restriction-extend-your-lifespan/.

  3. Fontana, L., & Partridge, L. (2015, March 26). Promoting health and longevity through diet: From model organisms to humans. Cell. Retrieved September 11, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4547605/.