Harvard Health Letter

Should I restrict calories for longevity?

Ask the doctor

Q. Is there anything to the idea that calorie restriction is good for health, and will that ever translate to a medication?

A. It is true that many animals live longer (and healthier) if the calories they eat are restricted to some degree. Scientists studied why that happens and identified some changes in the body’s chemistry that result from calorie restriction. Then they developed some potential medicines that appear capable, in animals, of producing the same changes in body chemistry that calorie restriction does. One such potential medicine is called resveratrol. In animals, resveratrol and several similar (and more potent) compounds have extended life span.

However, we are a long way from concluding that these potential medicines will actually offer health benefits (or longer life) to humans. That will require more studies in animals, and studies in humans that will-necessarily-take decades.

— Anthony Komaroff, MD

Editor in Chief, Harvard Health Letter

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