Is the response to calorie restriction purposeful?

Today’s post is a bit different, since so far as I can see no actionable advice can come from it. So you may wish to stop reading here.

Several months back, I wrote a paper on some ideas of mine, hoping to get it published in a refereed scientific journal. For various reasons, that didn’t work out. However, a site that exists in order to publish scientific articles, “an open access online science publishing platform that employs open post-publication peer review”, The Winnower, has allowed me to publish it: Is the response to calorie restriction purposeful? A challenge to life history theory.

The crux of the article is this: calorie restriction (CR) reliably extends lifespan in virtually all animals tested. Yet how it does so is debated. One school of thought holds that, since growth and longevity are negatively related, the mere cessation of growth causes a decrease in aging. If this is the case, then the response to CR is not purposeful, being merely an artefact (we might say) of growth cessation.

However, another school of thought holds that organisms have been shaped by evolution to respond to periods of less food or even outright famine by allocating resources to anti-aging repair, delaying fertility, strengthening antioxidant defenses, and so on. If this is the case, an organism’s response to CR is purposeful.

Life history theory holds that organisms respond to their environments in such a way as to maximize implicit fitness, that is, to have the maximum number of viable offspring. Life history theory would imply that less food in the environment would produce a response leading to a change in life history strategy. And in fact, CR produces changes that look very much like a change in life history strategy, for instance fewer offspring, delayed fertility, greater anti-aging defenses.

Depending on whether the response to calorie restriction is purposeful or not, then either life history theory or the “quasi-program” theory of aging may need to be modified.

This may be a lot of hooey on my part. But the more I thought about it the more I thought that something had to give, so there it is.


Leave a Comment:

Sam says January 12, 2015

Makes sense to me. Also if you stop eating food might want the body to shape up to get some as a last gasp effort.

George Ironthumb says January 12, 2015

CR would indicate “famine” and would tell your body that
“today is not a viable time to have offspring”

Learning that that is the case, the body would delay aging as a response so you will have more time in the future to produce an offspring..

farfetched but what do you think?

    P. D. Mangan says January 12, 2015

    George, no, not farfetched at all, IMO. Indeed, whether CR does this purposefully or not is the crux of my article. I think we don’t know.

      George Ironthumb says January 12, 2015

      Well this could be useful for would be cougars, yes?
      So they wont hit the wall too soon

        Sam says January 15, 2015

        Ha HA so now we can tell Women being skinny is good for their health?

Sam says January 23, 2015

Ran across this.

“…increasing the activity of a gene that targets damaged cells…”

Hmm…fasting does the same.

The 20 Principles of Rogue Health - Rogue Health and Fitness says January 11, 2016

[…] Calorie restriction (CR) robustly extends lifespan in lab animals, but intermittent fasting gives most or all of the […]

How to make cheap anti-aging supplements - Rogue Health and Fitness says April 3, 2016

[…] is another supplement in the same arena. It claims to be designed to mimic calorie restriction, the robust life extension intervention. (Many of the benefits and few of the downsides of calorie […]

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