I am well along in age, is it too late for me to benefit from a CC diet?

No. Calorie restriction and maintenance of low insulin levels can have a rapid impact on inflammation, oxidative stress, pain perception, growth factor activities, and the process of autophagy which helps to keep the interiors of our cells in optimal working order. Hence – particularly to the extent that a CC diet achieves a measure of calorie restriction – a CC diet initiated even late in life can be expected to have a rapid beneficial impact on: risk of heart attacks, aches and pains, inflammatory disorders, cancer, cognitive function and exercise capacity.

Immediate Benefits of CC Dieting in the Elderly

The impact of calorie restriction on life expectancy in rodents is roughly proportional to the fraction of total lifespan during which calorie restriction is implemented.   Evidently, such restriction will confer its greatest benefits if initiated early in life and continued thereafter.  Understandably, this might dissuade elderly people from starting a CC lifestyle, on the presumption that comparatively little benefit would be achievable.  But such logic would be superficial.  Calorie restriction and maintenance of low insulin levels can have a rapid impact on inflammation, oxidative stress, pain perception, growth factor activities, and the process of autophagy which helps to keep the interiors of our cells in optimal working order.  Hence — particularly to the extent that a CC diet achieves a measure of calorie restriction — a CC diet initiated even late in life can be expected to have a rapid beneficial impact on:

Risk for Heart Attack or Stroke — The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant impact of CC diets on the arterial wall would be likely to decrease the chance of plaque rupture or clot formation — the events which initiate heart attacks and strokes.  This benefit should be amplified as excess body weight is shed and cardiovascular risk factors improve.

Aches, Pains, and Inflammatory Disorders — Calorie restriction has anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects which might make the aches and pains often associated with aging a bit easier to bear.  And it could potentially influence a host of chronic health disorders driven by inflammation and accompanied by  pain — as reported by Dr. Johnson and Laub in patients adopting modified alternate day fasting.  Very likely, a CC diet achieving calorie restriction would be similarly beneficial.

Cancer Risk and Control — The growth factor activities which promote the induction and growth of many cancers can be expected to decline rapidly when a CC diet is initiated.  This means that pre-existing tumors, whether latent or overt, would be expected to grow more slowly, and that pre-cancerous cells on the brink of becoming cancers would be more likely to die off.

Cognitive Function — Short-term fasting has been shown to improve cognitive function in elderly subjects.  Conceivably, calorie restriction regimens might confer similar benefit.  Effective weight loss might also be helpful in this regard, as overweight correlates with more rapid cognitive decline.  Rodent studies show that calorie restriction or intermittent fasting rapidly increase brain levels of “neurotrophic” hormones such as BDNF that aid survival and effective function of neurons, and that promote  neurogenesis, the process which replaces neurons that are dead or incapacitated.  And fasting has been shown to boost autophagy in brain neurons — an effect which could be expected to make them more functionally youthful.  Indeed, a drug which activates autophagy, rapamycin, has been shown to be therapeutically beneficial in mouse models of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases; these disorders are characterized by intracellular accumulation of toxic aggregates of aberrant proteins that can be disposed of by autophagy. Calorie restriction is also beneficial in these mouse models; increased brain neurotrophic activity and/or autophagy likely play a role in this protection.  The potential impact of practical calorie restriction regimens on cognitive function in the elderly is an area that merits the diligent attention of clinical researchers.

Greater Exercise Capacity — The weight loss achieved with CC dieting may make effective exercise more feasible and enjoyable, and should reduce risk for exercise-induced injury.  Regular exercise is a tremendous tonic for people who are elderly.  It helps fend off the loss of muscle mass (sarcopenia) typically seen during aging, and reduces risk for dangerous falls by improving leg strength.  Moreover, exercise training has a favorable impact on risk or severity of many health disorders and dysfunctions commonly associated with aging — and would likely potentiate all of the benefits described above.

And so, while adopting a CC lifestyle in your “golden years” isn’t likely to increase your life expectancy by five years, there’s a good chance it can make those years more functionally youthful and enjoyable.  And, if it helps you ward off a heart attack or cancer, it may in fact increase your lifespan by five years — or more!

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