Thursday, August 20, 2009

Culture: Caloric Restriction

TORONTO, ONTARIO - With a lot of attention being paid to health status as a result of the health care reform mess in the United States, alternative ways to maintaining health into old age have been receiving attention. Probably the most promising concept for living a longer, healthier life is caloric restriction, covered in detail by recent article in Chemical and Engineering News.

The idea of eating fewer calories specifically designed to provide all necessary nutrition has proven to be effective in extending life span in a number of species, and according to some anecdotes by practitioners, shows promise in humans. Something about the lower caloric intake seems to change the metabolic mechanism to a famine-type regime in which the body does not age at the same rate as covered by the Chemical and Engineering News article.

Excitement around the idea has become so great that a society has formed to help people practice caloric reduction. Their web site seems extremely thorough in its warnings about the risks involved and the effort required to actually engage in caloric reduction, a point also made in the Chemical & Engineering News article. It isn't easy to plan and execute a diet that actually provides adequate nutrition with a level of reduced calories required to make the scheme work.

Personally, I can't imagine engaging in caloric restriction because I like relatively high-calorie foods too much, and I travel enough that it would be difficult to maintain a regimen during those periods. Plus, I feel like I spend enough time preparing food as it is, and would rather decrease that time, not increase it.

That latter point is a broader cultural phenomenon in North America, especially in the United States. Comedian (more accurately, Renaissance man) Brian Copeland has been known to say that people in the United States are so impatient that "we won't eat Minute Rice because it takes too long." Until that cultural attitude and lack of discipline changes, there is basically no chance that caloric restriction and the attention to diet that it requires will become anything more than a fringe movement, even if it does prove to be effective.

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