(CBS) Looking to live a long, healthy life? As CBS News correspondent Mika Brzezinski reports, for people like Joseph Cordell, that means counting every single calorie (video).
Forty-seven year-old Joseph Cordell is not only counting his calories, but counting on every single one.
"This is all about getting the most bang for your buck nutritionally, trying to squeeze the most nutrition out of the fewest calories," Cordell says.
In Cordell's case, that means he eats about 30 percent fewer calories than most people.
"Green peppers," he remarks. "Wonderful."
And he restricts his choices to food with the very highest nutritional value. It's called "calorie restriction optimal nutrition," or C.R. for short.
"The whole idea of calorie restriction is recognizing that calories are basically bad for you," Cordell says.
So, what does he eat? Well, twice a day, he eats a big bowl of "blueberries, nuts, and apple peels," he tells me.
That's right, just the peel. The peel is where the most nutrition is stored.
For lunch, Cordell eats a huge salad made up of the right kinds of food.
He has it down to a science. "I bet the calories on my plate, which is significantly larger than yours, are certainly no more than 300, maybe less," he says.
His largest meal is dinner with his family. Tonight, that means another salad, broccoli, asparagus and salmon.
Known as the "120 Year Diet," followers believe they'll live a lot longer by eating a lot less.
"Definitely his life expectancy is higher than an average American," Dr. Luigi Fontana says.
Doctors like Fontana are conducting long-term studies of C.R. They're convinced it protects against major diseases.
Dr. John Holloszy, principal investigator, agrees. "There's no chance of them getting type 2 diabetes, they have very low blood pressure, and the risk of them developing cancer is markedly decreased," Dr. Holloszy says.
And exercise? Not an option. C.R. dieters simply don't have the calories for it.
"The calorie restriction protects them from the same diseases that exercise protects against, and more potently actually than exercise," Dr. Holloszy says.
His doctors say Cordell's has the blood pressure of a child, the cholesterol of a teenager, and his risk of heart disease is close to zero. Average middle-aged men have 23 to 25 percent body fat; Cordell's is 7 percent.
"If there wasn't a substantial benefit to C.R., no one would do it," he says.
For Cordell, the potential payoff is worth eating this way, something many of us might have a hard time with.
Cordell understands. "Americans, many Americans, are not good at deferred gratification," he says.
What are Americans good at?
"Gratification," Cordell says.
It's not about a short term new year's resolution; it's about a complete diet overhaul that Cordell will stay on for what he believes will be a longer, healthier life.
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February 20, 2009
Something about the way Americans eat isn't working -- and hasn't been for a long time.
The number of obese Americans is now greater than the number who are merely overweight, according to government figures released last month. It's as if once we taste food, we can't stop until we've gorged ourselves.
Taking that inclination into account, some people are adopting an unusual solution to overeating. Rather than battling temptation in grocery stores, restaurants and their own kitchens, they simply don't eat. At least not at certain times of the day or specific days of the week.
Called intermittent fasting, this rather stark approach to weight control appears to be supported by science, not to mention various religious and cultural practices around the globe. The practice is a way to become more circumspect about food, its adherents say.
But it also seems to yield the benefits of calorie restriction, which may ultimately reduce the risk of some diseases and even extend life. Some fasters, in fact, ultimately switch from regular, if comparatively rare, periods of hunger to permanent deprivation. They limit calories all the time.
"There is something kind of magical about starvation," says Dr. Marc Hellerstein, a professor of endocrinology, metabolism and nutrition at UC Berkeley, who studies fasting.
Adds Mark P. Mattson, chief of the laboratory of neurosciences at the National Institute on Aging: "In normal health subjects, moderate fasting -- maybe one day a week or cutting back on calories a couple of days a week -- will have health benefits for most anybody." Mattson is among the leading researchers on the effects of calorie restriction and the brain.
Not all nutrition professionals see the merits of fasting. Some think of it as a recipe for disaster, setting up a person for binge eating and metabolic confusion.
Ruth Frechman, a registered dietitian in Burbank and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Assn., says she frequently sees such extreme strategies backfire. "You're hungry, fatigued, irritable. Fasting is not very comfortable. People try to cut back one day and the next day they're starving and they overeat."
Researchers who study fasting and caloric restriction, however, say the body's hunger cycle ultimately adjusts.
And from a biological standpoint, they say, fasting can be helpful whether someone is overweight or normal weight.
"We're brilliant at this," Hellerstein says, referring to humans' physical reaction to not eating. "We're not good at responding to too many calories, but we're very good at responding to fasting. Fasting, in itself, is not an unhealthy process."
Benefits to body
During fasting, almost every system in the body is "turned down," Hellerstein says. The body changes how it uses fuel. Certain hormone levels fall. Growth stops. Reproduction becomes impossible.
"By the end of three weeks of fasting you are a completely different metabolic creature," he says.
"It affects many, many processes -- but in a somewhat predictable way that takes you toward disease prevention."
Put simply, intermittent fasting appears to offer the same advantages as long-term calorie restriction -- defined as eating at regular times but consuming 25% to 30% fewer calories than what is recommended for that person based on age, size and gender (see accompanying article). People who eat this way tend to do so by filling up on nutrient-dense but low-calorie foods. They get all the protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals the body absolutely needs -- and very little else.
With intermittent fasting, "the idea is that maybe you can trick the system to think it's starving, but not make it starve every day," Hellerstein says.
Researchers aren't sure why the body apparently benefits from a state of mini-starvation.
One theory is that the process produces just enough stress in cells to be good. "What our evidence suggests is that nerve cells in animals that are on dietary energy restriction are under mild stress," Mattson says. "It's a mild stress that stimulates the production of proteins that protect the neurons against more severe stress."
What they do know is that occasionally going without food or reducing calories daily makes the body more sensitive to insulin, which helps maintain normal blood sugar levels. And animal studies suggest calorie restriction may reduce the risk of cancer by slowing the growth of abnormal cells.
"We've been finding that putting an animal on a reduced-calorie diet for a couple of weeks dramatically slows cell proliferation rates," Hellerstein says. "This is the case in pretty much every tissue you look at: prostate, skin, colon, liver, lymphocytes."
Intermittent fasting and calorie restriction have also been shown in animals to reduce cognitive decline in diseases such as Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease, Mattson says.
Little research yet
Researchers caution that not many studies have examined humans who are practicing intermittent fasting or caloric restriction. But the little evidence that exists is favorable.
A study published last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that reducing calories 30% per day increased the memory function of elderly men and women. The study was performed at the Salk Institute in La Jolla.
University of Utah scientists looked at health data from members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who have lower rates of heart disease than most Americans. Mormons typically don't smoke or drink alcohol, and some abstain from food on the first Sunday of every month. After controlling for several factors that protect against heart disease, the researchers found that only fasting made a significant difference in lowering the risk of heart disease. Among 448 people surveyed, intermittent fasting was associated with more than a 40% reduction in heart disease risk. Fasting was also linked to a lower incidence of diabetes. The study was published in October in the American Journal of
Another study showed that asthma patients who fasted had fewer symptoms, better airway function and a decrease in the markers of inflammation in the blood than those who didn't fast or restrict calories. The study was conducted because being overweight is known to worsen asthma symptoms. The study was published in 2007 in the journal Free Radical Biology & Medicine.
"They complied with the diet pretty well," Mattson says. "If people know that tomorrow they can eat whatever they want, today they can eat less."
The National Institutes of Health is now supporting calorie-restriction research at three medical centers. At one study site,
Washington University in St. Louis, Dr. Luigi Fontana is following the largest group to date of people who practice caloric restriction or intermittent fasting. So far his research shows that such people are not malnourished and have excellent cardiovascular health.
"Eating less is important because 65% of the American population is overweight," Fontana says. "But another question is: If you are already lean, should you change your diet to improve your health and possibly extend your life span?"
That ultimately may be the strongest selling point of a reduced-calorie lifestyle.
(For first-person accounts, see accompanying article.)
"It does demand more than some other diets," says Joseph Cordell, a St. Louis lawyer who limits his intake to 1,800 to 1,900 calories a day.
"But surely the payoff is dramatically better than anything else. I feel so much better and have more energy. And there is this prospect of living so much longer than you otherwise would."
By Rosie Mestel
Los Angeles Times
For 10 years, Joe Cordell has been living a life diametrically opposed to that of most Americans: Instead of eating too much, he’s deliberately been eating too little.
The 54-year-old St. Louis lawyer was inspired by the science that suggests that calorie restriction of this type could significantly lengthen a creature’s lifespan, as well as ward off diseases of old age.
We spoke with Cordell about how he got into calorie restriction, what his daily diet is like -- and what his wife of 21 years and his two teenage daughters feel about it. We asked him what he felt about a new study that didn’t prolong the life of calorie-restricted monkeys -- although it did seem to help ward off cancer.
Here’s what Cordell had to say, edited for length and clarity:
How did you get into calorie restriction?
I had previously been interested in health and fitness and had a pretty traditional approach. Then I was visiting my parents in Florida and was in a bookstore when I came across a book called “The 120 Year Diet” by [pioneering calorie restriction scientist] Roy Walford.
I read the blurb on the back and saw the guy’s credentials, that he was on faculty at UCLA. Then he started quoting these animal studies in which animals had lived beyond the maximum lifespan of their species and it wasn’t a controversial thing, it was a well-settled fact.
I saw enough to intrigue me. I bought the book, and over the next two days as I rode in a car with my parents who were coming to visit in St. Louis, I was immersed in this book. I found it fascinating – my mother probably didn’t find it quite as fascinating; I was telling her things as I was reading. I was amazed then, and am still amazed, that such earth-shattering, revolutionary information about not just longevity but health and longevity could be out there and so few people know about it.
I was converted. Not only that, I was an evangelical convert. I naively thought others would be as excited to hear the information as I was -- I probably was a bit of an annoying dinner guest over the next few years. But I’ll tell you, I can count on one hand the number of people I’ve converted in 10 years.
What appeals to you about it?
It wasn’t just the longevity piece, though I know that’s emphasized. Just as radically impressive are the [chronicled] reductions in cancer rates, in heart disease and diabetes. It’s just a truly healthful diet and far beyond what else is out there.
You could make the case that it requires too much. But I think it’s a very difficult case to make that it’s not an intelligent way to live your life.
Was it hard to start off with?
I’m not trying to be dismissive about the challenges [but] it’s like anything: If you’re really excited about something, it’s easier. I can’t say I agonized over restricting my calories that first year. I implemented it slowly, as recommended, over a period of six months or so.
Because it's become more routine, it’s more difficult in some ways.
How do you watch your weight?
My weight has stayed the same for 10 years at 129-130 pounds. When I get out of bed I go straight to the scales. It’s very important to me that I do not vary.
The diet doesn’t require a machine-like consistency in number calories taken in every day, happily -- animal studies show that what really counts is the average. So if I have a holiday coming up or big family event with lots of gourmet food there, if I want to splurge that’s OK -- but you have to compensate.
The only thing keeping you really honest on the compensation is tracking your calories and your weight.
At times, my weight will go up to 131 pounds. And on New Year’s Day I often will weigh 132 pounds, because New Year’s Eve is a day I allow myself to eat whatever I want.
What about Thanksgiving and Christmas Day?
Not anything I want. I’ll eat more calories, but there are certain things I just categorircally don’t eat. Bread. Sweets. Desserts. Mashed potatoes, not much -- they are calories with very little nutrition.
This is not necessarily CR [calorie restriction] orthodoxy. If you lined up 10 of us doing CR, what we’ll have in common is we’re restricting calories and we’re taking in extra amounts of nutrition -- lots of vegetables, a substantial amount of fruit.
But we would disagree about things such as how much much meat to eat or whether to eat any meat at all.
How do you make sure you’re getting adequate vitamins, minerals and other nutrients?
It takes care of itself. if you focus on a plant diet, you’re good. I eat lots of plants, but good plants: richly colored vegetables, berries. And nuts, which have calories but have oils and other things that are healthful.
Most Americans, even those taking in 4,000 calories a day, get easily less nutrients than I do. I’m not suffering from a deficiency. But I have to be sure to do that in the context of a smaller number of calories.
You learn to like salads without lots of dressing. There are other things you can use, like balsamic vinegar. Mustard is delicious in a salad; most people think mustard only goes on lettuce in a hamburger. I use a rich variety of vegetables, just a really, really, varied salad.
You can eat a tremendous amount of food, as you can see from pictures and whatnot that are out there of me. I walk away from lunch much fuller than anybody else at a table. They’ve eaten much less food and I’ve eaten two pounds of salad and taken in maybe 400 calories and feel completely satisfied.
If I ate what they ate for lunch, I would be hungry.
Peels -- that’s another tip. With an apple, you can decide to cut off a little thicker peel and get a bit of the taste of apple. Eating predominantly the peel eradicates 80% of the calories. You have a ton of fiber in peel plus you get rid of all the sugar and it tastes wonderful and its just a load of phytochemicals, plant chemicals.
What’s a typical meal plan for the day?
My typical menu is kind of boring to some people, not to me.
Breakfast is my biggest meal of the day. I have two cups of strawberries, two cups of blueberries. Sometimes I’ll shake it up and put in bag of raspberries. You’d be surprised by how many berries you can eat -- and you feel very full. I eat mine frozen; that’s a personal taste. It’s cheaper and easier to get year-round and you can buy organic that way too.
Add apple peels, some nuts -- generally walnuts -- and sometimes stevia on it to sweeten it up. And that’s my breakfast. I don’t eat it immediately. I generally make my bowl, take the dog outside, walk her, then sit down and eat it and then it’s perfect. Kind of like ice cream.
Lunch I’ll often skip, actually. But if I don’t, it will be the mega salad. If I don’t have a large salad at lunch, I’ll be sure to have it at dinner.
How does your family feel about your diet?
My wife loves to cook. It’s an irony that my wife’s favorite hobby is to make food and mine is to not eat it.
We have come up with reconcilations. In recent times, I’ve reduced or eliminated what I eat at lunch. It allows me to be more productive during the day, and then in the evening I’ll have some of my budget left.
But I would be less than completely frank if didn’t say it can be frustrating to her. For everyone who does CR, it’s always a little inconvenient to the chef in the family and others who are eating with them.
My daughters oscillate between on the one hand being frustrated and finding it annoying because we’re out traveling and I want to go to a restaurant I can eat at, and they’re saying "No no, we want to go to the pizza place." But they also get delighted by the occasional publicity that seems to roll around CR. They really thought it cool I was on "Oprah" with Dr. Oz.
Do you eat meat?
At present I don’t -- and again, this is not a core tenet of CR, I want to make that clear. But I kind of prefer it. I think a plant-based diet is much healthier.
Do you take vitamins?
Off and on – I’m not a big believer in vitamins. I think it’s much too complicated, that what we need from fruits and vegetables is more like a symphony of nutrients, some of which we’ve identified and many of which we haven’t. I think that explains the ambiguous results they get from science that regularly whipsaw us with reports saying taking vitamins is good or saying not only is it not helpful but also harmful.
What percentage of your calories are you restricting?
I'm doing about 25% or 30%, closer to 30% probably. The way you do it is whenever you start doing CR, first you go through a week or so just monitoring what you eat. You eat what you want, being careful not to deliberately gorge or diet. You track that. And that represents your baseline for determining CR.
That’s your set point: Everyone’s set point is different, as you know. Some have very fast metabolisms and some don’t.
That brings me down to 1,900 calories a day. That’s an average. At times I eat less and at times I eat more.
What do you hope to get out of this?
First and foremost, I would like to live to the outer limits of what human beings normally live. [But] I would be delighted to take 90 to 95 years without cancer, without heart disease, without diabetes or other chronic illnesses. To me, that would have warranted this.
My brother and I are about the same age, 14 months apart. He's about an inch shorter than I am and weighs 120 pounds more than I do. His approach to life in many ways is the opposite of mine -- he enjoys eating what he wants when he wants it. He’ll often joke with me around the Thanksgiving table that wouldn’t it be funny if he lives longer than I do. All this suffering would be for nothing. He gets a kick out of that.
But people do lots of things that are strenuous but very enjoyable: They climb mountains and run marathons. And I can tell you without batting an eye that my life has been richer, fuller, more enjoyable with calorie restriction than it would have been without it even if I were run over by a truck today.
I wouldn’t change the way I’ve lived my life because it’s a challenge, but it’s the type of challenge that makes life fun.
Are you disappointed by the results of the new monkey study?
I'm mildly disappointed, but still excited about CR. I was aware there were ambivalent results from the rhesus monkeys at Universities of Maryland and Wisconsin and NIH.
The study has some substantial flaws, among them the fact that the control group did not eat ad libitum. Even the results are suspiciously inconsistent internally. But either way, as we discussed, I'm not especially invested in the extreme longevity piece of the program.
My brother will have fun with this study.
Follow me on twitter: @LATimesRosie
Copyright © 2012, Los Angeles Times
From The Telegraph
EDWARDSVILLE - Members of the British Broadcasting Corp. spent time this week on the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville campus.
Researchers in the SIUE Department of Kinesiology and Health Education conducted various laboratory tests Tuesday for a BBC Horizon documentary series on diet and calorie restriction.
Curt Lox, professor and chairman of the Department of Kinesiology and Health Education, said the BBC crew became interested in using SIUE as a testing site because of its equipment and testing capabilities.
BBC Director Kate Dart was drawn to a specific piece of equipment, the BodPod, which assesses an individual's composition of lean and fat body mass. Dart researched the BodPod website and discovered that SIUE owned the device. Already scheduled for a stop in St. Louis, she decided to schedule some testing at SIUE.
"The BBC's decision to utilize our lab reflects positively on the emerging reputation of both our department and the university as a whole," said Lox, who said he believes the collaborative effort is a tremendous boon for SIUE. "We certainly couldn't ask for better international publicity than this, given the BBC's reach and reputation."
The still-to-be-titled episodes explore calorie restriction in one's diet in an effort to stay younger and extend an individual life.
The production team, led by Dart and researcher Roshan Samarasinghe, began taping in London and will visit Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Chicago and Baltimore during the next two weeks. The crew expects to complete the project by the end of August, with an autumn release date on the BBC. Whether the show will air on BBC America is not yet known.
Dr. Bryan Smith, an assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Education, led two participants through two different body composition assessments utilizing the BodPod as the iDXA scanning unit. The participants were Joe Cordell, a St. Louisan, and Michael Mosley, a presenter and executive producer of a variety of exercise and health programming for the BBC. Both men are over 50 years old.
"It was an enjoyable experience," Smith said. "The crew and participants were a pleasure to work with, and the final product will be great exposure for the department and the university."