In Dr. Fuhrman’s book Eat to Live, he draws attention to studies suggesting that restricting number of calories consumed while maintaining adequate nutrition extends lifespan. Although human research on the subject of caloric restriction (CR) is still in its early stages, studies on a number of different species have shown that metabolic rate slows, body temperature decreases, and lifespan is dramatically elongated when calories are restricted. In experimental animals, long-term CR with adequate nutrition is the most effective means to slow aging and prolong lifespan.1 Humans practicing caloric restriction (CR) tend to have low body fat, low levels of chronic inflammation, low blood pressure, and low levels of cardiovascular disease risk factors.2
We know that exercise benefits the cardiovascular system and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. Regular aerobic exercise increases the heart’s pumping efficiency, reduces resting heart rate and blood pressure, decreases total and LDL cholesterol, decreases triglycerides, and reduces stress.3,4
An interesting new study posed this question:
For overweight individuals, which produces greater cardiovascular benefit: weight loss via restricting a certain amount of calories from the diet or weight loss via restricting a half of those calories from the diet and burning the other half via exercise?
As part of a larger human study on CR and longevity, 36 overweight participants were assigned to one of three groups for a period of six months: a control group who ate a weight-maintaining quantity of calories, a group who restricted calories by 25% (CR), or a group who restricted calories by 12.5% and burned another 12.5% via exercise (CR+EX).
After six months, weight loss, total fat loss, visceral fat loss, and systolic blood pressure (top number) reduction were similar between the CR and CR+EX groups. However, only the CR+EX group showed significant improvements in diastolic blood pressure (bottom number), LDL cholesterol, and insulin sensitivity.5
Achieving a healthy weight by restricting calories is beneficial, but this is only one component of a disease-preventing lifestyle. This study demonstrates that exercise provides cardiovascular benefit above and beyond calorie restriction alone for individuals attempting to lose weight. According to these results, those practicing calorie restriction with the intention of achieving enhanced longevity can expect to reap additional benefits from exercise.
Dr. Fuhrman’s diet-style effectively and naturally reduces calories by providing a high volume of high nutrient low calorie foods, providing phytochemical benefit along with a smaller number of calories. For achieving excellent health, exercise is an essential addition to this healthy eating style.
1. Fontana L. The scientific basis of caloric restriction leading to longer life. Curr Opin Gastroenterol. 2009 Mar;25(2):144-50.
2. Holloszy JO, Fontana L. Caloric restriction in humans. Exp Gerontol. 2007 Aug;42(8):709-12. Epub 2007 Mar 31.
Fontana L, Villareal DT, Weiss EP, et al. Calorie restriction or exercise: effects on coronary heart disease risk factors. A randomized, controlled trial. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2007 Jul;293(1):E197-202.
3. Sasaki JE, dos Santos MG. The role of aerobic exercise on endothelial function and on cardiovascular risk factors. Arq Bras Cardiol. 2006 Nov;87(5):e226-31.
4. Wagenmakers AJ, van Riel NA, Frenneaux MP, Stewart PM. Integration of themetabolic and cardiovascular effects of exercise. Essays Biochem.2006;42:193-210.
5. Larson-Meyer DE, Redman L, Heilbronn LK, et al. Caloric restriction with or without exercise: the fitness versus fatness debate. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2010 Jan;42(1):152-9.