I was commuting today and the woman across from me was reading the NYT-- and what article was facing me? A report on how CR improves memory in older people (50-70). I have not read the scientific paper yet- but as the article mentions-- the pilot study CALERIE participants had not shown an improvement in memory but the scientific variables are different: CALERIE participants were younger and memory is not tested specifically.
I remember that I did some cognitive testing that did involve some short-term recall both at baseline and at the 6mo time point- and the only thing that I remember was that at my 6mo visit I felt a bit distracted(aka hungry) and I thought it did not go that well... We will see how I fare at my one-year physical.
Also- I came into work yesterday and my lab mate told me she watched a nightly-news-special (maybe this one?) about calorie restriction. She was upset because (my interpretation of her comment) she thought it portrayed CR as a starvation lifestyle that seemed less than attractive. After reading the show transcript I can agree that I would have had the same reaction. Here is an excerpt that I found to be the most disturbing:
But our record as humans staying on diets is pretty miserable and worsening. So it's a fat chance that we'll all be giving up our passion for greasy junk. We consume tons more calories than we need, but believe it or not there are some Americans who just revel in their hunger.
Meet the members of CRS - the Calorie Restriction Society - a group that has been severely restricting their calories for years now. They are also part of a Washington University study to see if humans "mimic" the monkeys. Does this kind of self-denial makes them live longer, healthier lives?
60 Minutes joined them for what they call "happy hour," consisting of a cocktail of low-calorie soup for starters, and walnuts, and baby food - green bean puree on flour-free bread to top off this feast fit for a flea.
So far the participants have lowered their blood pressure, reduced body fat, and lessened risk factors for heart disease, diabetes and even cancer. And what's more, to one husband anyway, starvation has its sexy side. "To be honest, if you saw her without any clothes, you'd see she looks pretty darn good, like a woman like of many, many years younger," the man told 60 Minutes.
Where do I begin? I will start with the first paragraph. Yes- it is difficult to give up foods you love. No, you can not eat as many greasy foods as you may want. But if you look at my records, I eat hamburgers, french fries, I drink beer and wine, I even eat doughnuts! It is all about figuring out what food is worth the calories- and if you want it- eat it. Just not every day. And I am rarely hungry. I eat foods that fill me up so that I never feel hungry. I eat junk food when I want it. I would not be able to diet if I felt hungry or deprived. I am a wimp. Also I am not perfect. I think it is unreasonable to expect to be- this is a lifestyle not a diet. If you have a bad day (or weekend, or holiday season) fine, pick back up, go food shopping for the stand-by "favorite" meals, and refocus.
Next let's look at their "happy hour." It seems like a small appetizer for me. I love low-cal vegetable soup as much as the next person- but I use it as a prelude to my meal. Why not serve a virgin bloody mary or a fruit juice spritzer? Walnuts- OK. I prefer almonds, but fine. Green bean puree on top of flour-free bread. UGH! Maybe the green bean puree is tasty (if I can imagine that it was made with some roasted garlic, lemon, and hot peppers- yum!) but flour-free bread? Why bother? Just eat some low-cal crackers... Or use veggies for dipping... Or make your own tortilla chips (corn tortillas (60cal ea) sprayed with cooking spray/oil spray, salted and baked until crispy!). All those seem like better choices to serve a reporter...
We recently had a CALERIE party and the foods there would have been perfect for a reporter to witness. Let's test my memory now of how many good foods they served (feel free to fill in anything that I left out)! I remember an eggplant red pepper dip, turkey meatballs, warm lentil stew, veggies, pita chips, chocolate fiber-one treats (rice-krispie treats made with fiber-one instead), seltzer, coffee, and tea. The best part was that the serving utensils were measuring cups/spoons so you knew how much you were taking, AND the calorie information was printed on the table right next to the foods. Maybe with the study's permission I will share the recipes :)
Finally, yes, these CR practitioners are more healthy than the average American, but at what apparent cost- a life of baby food and low-cal soups? That is why I write this blog- to show people out there (generally my family and the few friends that read my blog) that I am eating "normally" (I would say well!), participating in my typical activities and CR is not as terrible as you might think. It can be done, and it does not relegate you to a life of boring, agonizingly dull food.
My last comment of CR in the press actually comes from a fellow CALERIE participant! I have not met him, but I agree with his commentary. The dietitians/counselors in the study alerted me to this article- and I love there are more participants out there documenting their experiences :)
Phew! This post took me 2 days to write... so much for my free time now that teaching has started up again...