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Eat less, live long


A GROWING number of middle-aged Australians are joining a “calorie restriction” movement in a drastic bid to live for longer.

They believe eating about 20 per cent less than the recommended daily intake will extend their lifespans and help them avoid getting sick.

Evidence shows animals given fewer calories, or kilojoules, have longer life expectancies than those that eat an average amount.

Calorie restriction may also reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.

However, critics warn people who drastically restrict their diets may be more likely to develop eating disorders, nutritional deficiencies and fertility problems.

Arthur Everitt, Honorary Associate Professor at Concord Hospital and Sydney University, follows the principles of calorie restriction with a diet high in fruits and vegetables plus some protein.

The 83-year-old, who has been researching ageing and calorie restriction in rats for more than 50 years, warns baby-boomers may be leaving the diet a bit too late.

“Calorie restriction should really be started early in life as a young teenager or adult,” he said.

“It’s extremely difficult to do but I think almost everyone can reduce the amount of food they eat, even if it’s by five per cent.

“I do think people over-consume. When you go to a restaurant, the size of the meal that’s set down in front of you is twice what it would have been 20 years ago.”

Prof Everitt says he cuts large meals in half and takes the remainder home with him for another time.

Claudette Wadsworth, a Bondi Junction nutritionist and naturopath, says focusing on good quality food is more important than limiting quantities.

“Obviously you don’t want to over-eat but I would rather people think about quality of food they are eating rather than the amount,” she said.

“I recommend lots of fruit and vegetables, good quality lean protein and omega oils from deep water oily fish.

“The danger (of calorie restriction) is people can go to extremes, particularly when they are trying to lose weight.”

Calorie restriction is also spawning a new generation of anti-ageing diet books, such as the Beyond The 120 Year Diet.

Celebrity nutrition expert Dr John Tickell agrees Australians are routinely over-consuming and could extend their lifespans if they simply reduced the amount they ate.

He believes one of the main reasons that people live longer and have less illnesses in Okinawa, in southern Japan, is because they eat less.

“I am absolutely on the side of people who say calorie restriction does extend life expectancy,” he said.

“The Okinawans often live until they are in their 90s or over 100.”

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