Better Food, Better Sex, Better Life
Over the last four decades, a wealth of scientific evidence has found that eating a lower-calorie diet will help us lose weight and reduce health risks like high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. Several years ago in this newsletter, we also reported on animal and human studies indicating that calorie restriction might also give us longer lives.
But people often ask: “Sure, I might live longer, but wouldn’t I be struggling with constant hunger and, as a result, feel grouchy and crummy most of the time?”
Another common question is: “I might avoid a heart attack or stroke if I curbed my calorie intake, but wouldn’t it cost me my vitality? My enthusiasm for life?”
Good questions. Many people reasonably assume that if we burn calories as the source of our energy, then reducing calories would lower the energy we bring to our lives.
But some really good news from recently published research1 counters all these concerns. Scientists from Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana divided 218 men and women into two groups. The first group followed an eating plan that reduced calories by 25%. The second, the control group, continued eating whatever they wanted. All the subjects were either normal weight or overweight, but not obese.
After two years, the people in the calorie-restricted group reported a much better quality of life compared to the control group.
While earlier studies2,3,4 have shown similar improvements in quality of life for people who were obese, this new study demonstrates that reducing calories and trimming body fat can be psychologically beneficial for all of us, overweight or normal weight.
Better Sleep, Better Sex, and More
The calorie cutters in the new study from Pennington were rewarded with:
Feelings of anger and confusion were reduced over the course of the study. Levels of energy and vigor rose.
The authors wrote that the calorie-restricted group had “significant improvement in mood and tension from baseline to month 24.” By contrast, the control group “had worsening depression.”
Improved sexual drive
Noted the authors: “Sexual behavior and experience was significantly and favorably correlated with percent calorie restriction and weight loss.” In other words, the more calories cut and weight lost, the better sexual experiences were in terms of sexual drive, behavior, and satisfaction.
Bolstered among the calorie cutters were both their subjective evaluations of sleep quality and sleep duration.
Improved overall well-being
Compared with the control group, the calorie restriction group experienced major improvements in vitality, mental health, bodily pain, and general health.
The calorie-cutters shed on average about 17 pounds compared to essentially no weight loss in the control group.
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Secrets To Success
The secrets to the success of the calorie restriction group in the new study from Pennington Biomedical Research Center is likely due to two key factors:
The type of food eaten
The participants learned low-calorie meal plans that “enhanced satiety and reduced hunger,” wrote the authors, which is what the Pritikin Longevity Center has taught for four decades. The study’s participants were encouraged to incorporate concepts such as volumetrics (known at Pritikin as calorie density). The focus is an abundance of high-volume, fiber-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans. These foods provide big, filling meals, but on a minimum of calories, or as guests at Pritikin often remark, “I never knew I could eat so much and lose weight at the same time.”
The men and women in the calorie-restriction group were given a lot more than a diet pamphlet. For the first month of the study, they received individual dietary counseling weekly. For the next 11 months, they continued with individual counseling twice monthly as well as twice-monthly group sessions. Topics included “Hunger and Satiety,” “Eating Away From Home,” “Urge Management of Food Cravings,” “Maintaining Motivation,” and “Mastering Positive Thinking” – again, very similar to the education curriculum at the Pritikin Longevity Center.
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Bottom Line | Better Food, Better Sex, Better Life
Critics have long argued that calorie-restricted diets don’t necessarily help you live longer; you may simply feel you’re living longer because you’re hungry and cranky all the time.
The new research from Pennington Biomedical Research Center affirms that you can in fact cut calories, feel full, and enjoy a better quality of life, including a better sex life, if you cut calories the right way.
The right way is following a plan that focuses not on cutting calories, per se, but on eating food that is not only low in calories but also high in stomach-filling volume, what is known in classes at the Pritikin Longevity Center as the “Calorie Density Solution.”
Like the dietary principles taught in the Pennington study, the Pritikin Eating Plan shows you how to restrict calories without feeling restricted. In fact, in doing so, life opens up. Life gets better.