Observations Medicine and the Media

Calorie restriction and longevity: fast and loose?

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e6872 (Published 24 October 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e6872
  1. Margaret McCartney, general practitioner, Glasgow
  1. [email protected]

Can we achieve longer life by starving ourselves? A recent television programme claimed so. Margaret McCartney looked at the evidence and found a dearth of long term studies in humans

“This is the beginning of something . . . it could be genuinely revolutionary.” Horizon’s “Eat, Fast and Live Longer” was an hour long documentary presented by the doctor and producer Michael Mosley.1 He had wanted to find out how to “live longer, stay younger, and lose weight in the bargain.”

The programme began with the world’s oldest marathon runner finishing in London—and gave the implication that he had reached the age of 101 in full health, with no signs of heart disease and taking no drugs, because of his diet, which was mainly fresh fruit. We can’t alter our genes, said Mosley, but we can choose what we eat. He said that in the United States “truly remarkable” research was linking diet and longevity.

During the great depression, he explained, life expectancy actually rose. Meanwhile in recent animal experiments severe food restriction had been found to increase life expectancy. With obesity and type …

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