An unexpected research finding with great practical significance is
that experimental animals live longer with much lower rates of disease
when they consume less than the recommended daily allowance of calories.
The finding is unexpected because we associate less-than-optimal
nutrition with poor growth and health, and common sense tells us that we
do better if we are well nourished. In fact, most of us may be
overnourished, and too much of a good thing may be doing us harm.
An adequate diet is one that provides not only enough calories but
also all of the nutrients necessary for efficient metabolism without any
excesses that promote disease. What constitutes a good diet is a matter
of controversy, and much of the controversy is based on emotion rather
An average person needs less than 2,000 calories daily, with 300 to
400 of the calories coming from fat. Present labeling laws are helpful
in determining your caloric intake, but maintaining your weight or
losing weight is much more complicated. The FDA supports two ways to
diet: increase exercise and decrease the intake of food.
Dieting Can Make You Fat
That's it? The secret to a long and healthy life is diet and
exercise? Not really! Metabolism slows down during a diet, and the body
burns fewer calories, causing more fat to be stored as a protection
against extended "famine." When the food supply is restored, the
metabolism is slow to respond, and the body stores even more fat. In
humans, this yo-yo phenomenon is harmful - starvation diets simply fool
the body into starting a famine cycle. Once the diet is over, we are
back to where we started, or worse.
Granted, exercise programs help keep the metabolism active, but most
of us are about as committed to our exercise programs as we are to our
diets. We fall off the exercise program at the same time we end the
diet, increasing the yo-yo effect. Then how should we combine dieting
and exercise into a healthy life?
First we need to modify our diets, lowering caloric content without
greatly reducing the amount or the appeal of food we consume. The best
way of lowering caloric content is by cutting the fat content in our
diets. Fat has almost twice as many calories per gram as protein and
Second we need to restrict caloric intake either by fasting or by
eating a limited diet one day a week. Our body's metabolism will not
react quick enough to begin a "famine" cycle during a one-day diet.
Fasting should include plenty of liquids, with enough fruit juices to
maintain a minimum caloric intake. When fasting, reduce the intake of
supplemental vitamins and minerals, as some supplements may become toxic
if not consumed with adequate amounts of food.
Our bodies don't benefit from the food we eat, but rather by what is
digested, assimilated and eliminated. The food is taken in, broken into
smaller and smaller parts until it can be absorbed and the by-products
discarded. Enzymes digest all of our food and make it small enough to
pass through the intestines into the blood. Enzymes are a part of every
metabolic process in the body, from the working of our glands to the
proper functioning of our immune system. Enzymes require vitamins and
minerals to do their work.
Many manufactured vitamin and mineral supplements, because they are
fractionated (broken down into basic elements), are treated as toxic
waste in the body. Some minerals in an unnatural form can accumulate and
cause harmful effects. Fortunately, many commercial vitamin and mineral
supplements are so badly formulated that they pass right through our
digestive systems without breaking down and being absorbed.
Unfortunately, we haven't received the benefit that we paid for.
Many people are now using all-natural herbal forms of vitamin and
mineral supplements. Because these are in a natural form, they are more
easily absorbed than manufactured supplements. They are also much less
concentrated than manufactured supplements, and so are often safer.
However, it is always best to consult with your personal physician
before taking any nutritional supplement.
The proper supplements, combined with proper diet and exercise, can
help you live a longer and healthier life.