Keeping “Cool” May Increase Longevity
There is significant evidence that reducing the amount of calories we consume every day brings a host of health benefits. This includes a longer lifespan, reduced risk of developing certain cancers, heart disease, diabetes and conditions such as Alzheimer’s.
Another side effect of restricting our caloric intake is a lower body temperature, which is nature’s way of helping us burn less energy until the amount of food we had been eating becomes available again. This is why, for example, the body temperature of a hibernating animal drops. It is nature’s way of making sure they can sleep through the winter without food.
Recently, however, there is evidence that this lower body temperature may actually contribute to the health benefits of calorie restriction rather than just being a side effect of eating less. In other words, reducing core body temperature can actually increase lifespan on its own without any calorie restriction. In fact, trying to prevent any decrease in body temperature caused by calorie restriction may cancel out some of its positive benefits. All this seems to support the idea that having a slightly lower body temperature brings its own benefits.
How a lower body temperature increases lifespan is still being studied, and debate continues about it in the scientific community.
One theory is that a lower body temperature reduces our bodies’ metabolic rate which, in turn, literally slows down how quickly we age. It’s interesting to also note that we are not talking about dramatic decreases in body temperature. As humans, our body temperature needs to stay within a very narrow range (between 97 and 99 degrees Fahrenheit or 36.1 and 37.2 degrees Centigrade). Going out of this range results in hypothermia or hyperthermia, both of which are dangerous. In one study on the impact of caloric restriction and lower body temperature, the average decrease was minimal, to an average body temperature of 97.95 F or 36.64 C, well within the healthy range.
In addition to calorie restriction, it turns out that certain foods and practices also help lower body temperature or keep it from elevating. Foods include cucumbers (which are also great for staying hydrated), tomatoes, cherries, grapes, mangoes and chile peppers. Peppermint and coconut water have also been shown to have a cooling effect as does applying aloe vera to your skin or mixing it with water to make a refreshing drink. (Consult a competent healthcare professional before consuming aloe vera as a beverage or food).
Independent of the health benefits of having a lower core body temperature, caloric restriction itself may bring a variety of health benefits even to people who are at a healthy weight. Before talking more about them, it’s important to keep in mind that calorie restriction is not the same as intermittent fasting. While the latter may result in some calorie restriction, this is not its goal. Calorie restriction, on the other hand, limits the number of calories you eat in any given day but does not dictate when you consume them.
What both do have in common, however, is a focus on the importance of eating nutrient-dense, plant-based foods and eliminating minimal or no-nutritional-value foods from your diet. The latter includes highly processed foods, simple carbohydrates, energy drinks and sodas.
While this type of eating plan may sound difficult, you don’t need to reduce your calorie intake much to reap the benefits. In fact, one study conducted in cooperation with the National Institutes of Health suggested that by cutting around 300 calories a day from your diet (the equivalent of about four medium chocolate chip cookies or a large glazed donut), participants experienced improved blood pressure, levels of “good” cholesterol and blood sugar. For most people, by just eliminating a few snacks, especially after-dinner snacks while watching television, these 300 calories can be eliminated without even noticing it!
In this particular study, daily calorie intake was reduced by 25 percent. After two years, even though participants averaged an overall calorie reduction of only around 12 percent, they still saw benefits. These included a 10 percent reduction in body weight, with almost three-quarters of the weight loss being body fat. They also had less chronic inflammation, which has been linked to an increased risk for a variety of diseases. Other studies also showed improved insulin resistance and glucose control.Is Calorie Restriction For You?
If you’re considering a calorie-restricted diet or other changes to your current eating plan, be sure to first talk with your doctor or other competent healthcare provider. And keep in mind that any eating plan needs to be balanced and based primarily on nutrient-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables, which are jam packed with nutrients. You want to make the most of every calorie! Also be sure to drink enough water and include exercise in your lifestyle plan.
Enjoy your healthy life!
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice. Please consult with your doctor or another competent healthcare practitioner to get specific medical advice for your situation.
The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.